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Saudi Arabia hosts Arab-Islamic summit to ‘unify efforts’ on Gaza

Saudi Arabia is hosting an extraordinary summit on Saturday, bringing together countries from the Islamic and Arab worlds to discuss the worsening situation in Gaza.

Delivering the opening remarks, Saudi crown prince Mohammed Bin Salman called for an immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza and the release of all captives and prisoners.

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“This is a humanitarian catastrophe that has proved the failure of the international community and the UN Security Council to put an end to Israel’s gross violations of international humanitarian laws, and prove the dual standards adopted by the world,” he said.

“We are certain the only cause for peace is the end of the Israeli occupation and illegal settlements, and restoration of the established rights of the Palestinian people and the establishment of the state on 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” the Saudi crown prince added.

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas highlighted that besides Gaza, Israeli forces’ raids in the occupied West Bank have also escalated and called on the US administration to put an end to “Israel’s aggression, the occupation, violation and desecration of our holy sites.”

“No military and security solutions are acceptable as they have all failed. We categorically reject any efforts to displace our people from Gaza or the West Bank,” President Abbas added.

Saudi Arabia’s foreign ministry announced the news about the Summit late on Friday, saying the country was initially scheduled to host two summits, one of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and one of the Arab League, on Saturday. The joint summit emerged as a replacement after Saudi consulted with members of both large organisations.

According to the ministry, the joint meeting is being held “in response to the exceptional circumstances taking place in the Palestinian Gaza Strip as countries feel the need to unify efforts and come out with a unified collective position”.

The OIC includes member states from across the Islamic world, including the Palestinian territories’ neighbours Egypt and Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey and Iraq.

Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, the President of Egypt emphasised that the policy of “collective punishment” by killing, siege and forcible transfer are unacceptable.

“This cannot be interpreted as self defence and must be stopped immediately,” he said and called for “an immediate sustainable ceasefire in Gaza.”

With Iran repeatedly warning that the scope of war will expand if Israel does not stop its attacks, President Ebrahim Raisi also attended the meeting in Riyadh, marking a first visit by an Iranian president in 11 years.

“Gaza is not an arena for words. It should be for action,” Raisi said before departing for Riyadh on Saturday, adding that the Palestinian issue has become the main issue not only for the Muslim world but the whole world.

“The atrocities that are now being committed by the Zionist regime in Gaza are clear examples of war crimes and crimes against humanity,” he said.

“The Americans say in their remarks and messages that they do not want the scope of the war to expand, but this claim in no way corresponds to their actions as the fuel for the Israeli war machine is provided by the Americans.”

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Hold Israel ‘accountable’

Israel has not relented in its attacks on the Gaza Strip despite increasing calls for an immediate ceasefire, especially from the Arab and Islamic worlds.

The non-stop air strikes and ground assaults – which came in response to the October 7 attack by Hamas which killed 1,200 Israelis – have killed at least 11,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians.

Israel has significantly ramped up its attacks on hospitals in recent days, and the United Nations has said the lives of one million children in Gaza are “hanging on by a thread”.

The Arab League consists of 22 countries, including Syria, which was earlier this year accepted back after Arab leaders restarted talks with President Bashar al-Assad following a decade of civil war in the country.

The bloc’s assistant secretary-general, Hossam Zaki, said this week the organisation aims to demonstrate “how the Arabs will move on the international scene to stop the aggression, support Palestine and its people, condemn the Israeli occupation, and hold it accountable for its crimes”.

The extraordinary joint summit comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity across the region and beyond. Saudi Arabia had hosted an African-Saudi summit in Riyadh on Friday, where Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman called for an end to the war.

Leaders of Russia, Iran, Turkey and Pakistan convened in Kazakhstan’s capital Astana on Thursday for talks that included the situation in Gaza.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

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