An extraordinary summit of Arab and Islamic countries on the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Israel is carrying out military operations in response to an attack by the Palestinian radical movement Hamas in early October, began in Saudi Arabia today. According to Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman, Israel is responsible for “crimes” committed against the Palestinian people, Reuters reported. Turkey called for an international peace conference, while Iran called for all-Muslim sanctions against Israel. According to a CNN report on Friday, the White House has been confidentially warned by US diplomats about growing fury in the Arab world against the US.
Salman is hosting a joint meeting of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which Riyadh says aims to “unify efforts and take a unified common position” on the war in Gaza. Originally, the meetings of the two organizations were to be held separately over the weekend. The meetings are attended by dozens of leaders, including the presidents of Turkey, Iran and Syria – Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ebrahim Raisi and Bashar Assad.
The summit condemns “Israeli aggression in Gaza, war crimes and barbaric, inhumane massacres by the occupying government,” the joint communiqué reads. Muslim countries also reject the justification of Israeli military actions in the Gaza Strip by Israel’s right to self-defense, the communique added.
Countries at an extraordinary summit called for an immediate end to military operations in the Gaza Strip, which Israel is conducting in response to an attack by the Palestinian radical movement Hamas in early October. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi has called on Muslim nations to impose oil, trade and political sanctions on Israel and designate the Israeli military as a terrorist organization.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at a summit in the Saudi Arabian capital that an international peace conference should be convened to find a permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians. “We don’t need a few-hour pause in the fighting in Gaza, but a permanent ceasefire,” Erdogan said.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said his nation was facing an “unprecedented genocidal war” and appealed to the United States to put pressure on Israel to halt its offensive in Gaza. According to Abbas, Palestinians need international protection from Israeli attacks.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Sisi stressed the need for an immediate declaration of a sustainable ceasefire in the Gaza Strip “without limitations or conditions”. “The policy of collective punishment of the people of Gaza… is unacceptable and cannot be justified by (Israel’s) right to self-defense or any other claims,” Sisi said.
Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Sani informed the participants of the Riyadh summit that his country is trying to negotiate the release of Israeli hostages held by radicals in the Gaza Strip and hopes for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared soon. Sani also criticized the international community, which he said had failed. “How much longer will the international community deal with Israel as if it were above international law?” he asked.
In his speech in Riyadh, Iranian President Raisi praised the activities of Hamas directed against Israel. “There is no other way but to resist Israel, and we kiss the hands of Hamas for its resistance to Israel,” he said.
Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman has called for an end to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip and to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid to the densely populated territory. He also pointed out that Israel is responsible for “crimes” committed against the Palestinian people. Salman is hosting a joint meeting of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which Riyadh says aims to “unify efforts and take a unified common position” on the war in Gaza. Originally, the meetings of the two organizations were to be held separately over the weekend.
Israel launched a bombardment of the Gaza Strip and a subsequent ground operation following an attack by the Islamist Hamas movement on southern Israel that killed more than 1,200 people, mostly civilians, according to Israeli authorities, on October 7. Authorities in the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip say that over 11,000 Palestinians have since been killed in retaliatory Israeli attacks.
Before leaving for the summit, the Iranian president said that the situation in Gaza calls for actions, not just words. He also called for the unity of Islamic countries against Israel.
The war in Gaza changed traditional alliances in the Middle East, as Riyadh established closer relations with Iran, Israel’s arch-enemy, following its outbreak. Saudi Arabia also rejected pressure from the United States to condemn Hamas and put on hold its plans to normalize relations with Israel. Raisi’s trip to Saudi Arabia is the first visit by an Iranian head of state since Tehran and Riyadh ended years of hostilities under a deal brokered by China.
There was disagreement among the foreign ministers of Arab countries, who met on Thursday in an emergency meeting to prepare for the summit, about the future approach to Israel. Some states, led by Algeria, have called for the suspension of all diplomatic relations with Israel, two unnamed officials told Reuters. A group of Arab countries with diplomatic ties to Israel said they opposed the plan, stressing the need to keep channels open with the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
The Biden administration has now received stark warnings from US diplomats in the Arab world that its strong support for Israel’s destructive and deadly military campaign in Gaza is causing us to “lose the Arab public for a generation,” according to a diplomatic cable obtained by CNN.
The cable underscores deep concern among U.S. officials about the growing anger toward the United States that erupted soon after Israel launched operations against Hamas following the Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel that left more than 1,400 Israelis dead.
“We are losing badly in the battleground media space,” said a Wednesday cable from the U.S. Embassy in Oman, citing interviews with “a wide range of trusted and sober-minded contacts.”