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Israel-Gaza war: Arab leaders gather for Riyadh summit

Live updates: Follow the latest news on Israel-Gaza

Leaders of the Arab and Islamic world will gather in Riyadh on Saturday for a combined summit of the Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation with one issue on the agenda: Israel’s war on Gaza.

Overnight, leaders including Syria’s Bashar Al Assad, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad arrived in Riyadh, where they met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman before Saturday’s emergency summit.

Prince Mohammed condemned Israeli “aggression” in Gaza in opening remarks at the Saudi-African Summit in Riyadh on Friday.

Foreign ministers met separately to set out a version of the draft resolution that will be read out in the early afternoon, following speeches from the leaders.

Hossam Zaki, assistant secretary general of the Arab League, confirmed that the emergency summit will address many issues, including an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, rejection of the idea of displacing Palestinians from Gaza, and the entry of humanitarian aid, as well as the wider Israel-Palestine conflict.

“There is a consensus among the members of the Arab League in their complete rejection of the idea of displacing the Palestinians. There are high-level political decisions that will be taken by members of the Arab League, and the secretary general of the league must take over the implementation mechanism after that,” Mr Zaki said on Saturday.

While he did not specify what the political decisions would entail, the final communique of Saturday’s summit is expected to spell out short-term measures for the conflict that would address humanitarian issues, rather than political solutions, diplomatic sources told The National in Riyadh.

Diplomatic sources who spoke to The National confirmed that a draft resolution worked on overnight on the Gaza crisis did not yet have a majority consensus.

Member states disagreed on several clauses that the presidency, Saudi Arabia, insisted be included during intensive talks from the Arab League’s 22 members. Eleven members voted for that resolution while four voted against while the rest abstained.

Saudi Foreign Ministry sources said one combined resolution and final communique will be announced at the end of the summit tonight, mainly focused on short-term goals while the main clause will focus on the creation of a multi-lateral Arab committee that will be lead by Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit.

He will have the responsibility of representing the Arab world’s collective position in talks with the US and the western world in the coming weeks.

More leaders are expected to arrive in Saudi Arabia on Saturday, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.

On October 7, Hamas gunmen stormed across the heavily militarised border from the Gaza Strip to kill more than 1,200 people in southern Israel and take around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.

Israel, vowing to destroy Hamas, retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip said has killed more than 11,000 people, nearly half of them children.

The National reports from Riyadh as emergency meetings take place on Gaza

Saudi Arabia, which coincidentally holds the presidency this year of both the Arab League and the OIC, has been aiming to organise emergency meetings over the weekend to exert some influence on the US, Israel’s close ally.

The US in the months before the October 7 attacks had been working towards mediating a deal between Saudi Arabia and Israel.

“The Saudi ruling elite and officials always say that they’re not against normalisation but many people are misreading. What they’re actually saying is they’re entertaining the process of normalisation and the Saudis like to stay in this preferred zone. Usually, when the Saudis talk about normalisation with Israel, it is often predicated on some concessions on the Palestinian issue along with what the US is going to offer,” Aziz Alghashian, a Saudi analyst who researches his country’s foreign policy regarding Israel, told The National.

In opening the Saudi-African summit on Friday, Prince Mohammed denounced the conduct of Israeli forces fighting Hamas in Gaza, in his first publicly televised comments on the Israel-Gaza war.

“We condemn the military aggression witnessed in the Gaza Strip, the targeting of civilians, and the continued violations of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation forces,” he said.

The summit in Riyadh marks the 51st such event in 77 years. Since the Arab League’s inception, 32 regular summits have been held while 15 were emergency summits, including Saturday’s meeting.

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