A joint Arab-Islamic summit hosted by Saudi Arabia has issued a strong condemnation of Israeli actions in the Gaza Strip. The summit, held in Riyadh, called for an immediate end to the war in Gaza and rejected any justification of Israel’s actions as self-defense.
The final communique of the summit denounced the “Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, war crimes, and barbaric and inhumane massacres by the occupation government.” The leaders, representing a coalition of Arab League and Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) countries, expressed concern over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
The summit’s key demands included an end to the siege on Gaza, the facilitation of humanitarian aid into the enclave, and a halt to arms exports to Israel. The leaders called on the United Nations Security Council to adopt a “decisive and binding resolution” to stop what they termed as Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza.
Initially, the summit was expected to include only the 22 members of the Arab League, but it was later expanded to involve the OIC, a broader association of 57 mostly Muslim-majority states.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) opened the summit with a call for an immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza and the release of captives and prisoners.
MBS called the situation a “humanitarian catastrophe” and criticized the international community’s failure to address Israel’s alleged violations of international humanitarian laws.
MBS 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 in 1967, with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan renewed his call for an immediate ceasefire, accusing Israel of taking revenge on Gazan civilians, including babies, children, and women.
“What is urgent in Gaza is not pauses for a few hours, rather we need a permanent ceasefire,” he said, adding, “We cannot put Hamas resisters defending their homeland in the same category as the occupiers.”
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas decried Israeli forces’ escalating raids in the occupied West Bank and urged the United States to intervene against “Israel’s aggression, the occupation, violation, and desecration of our holy sites.”
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani questioned the international community’s stance on Israel’s actions and expressed disbelief at the shelling of hospitals in the 21st century.
“The international world remains immune in front of all these scenes. Who could have imagined that hospitals could be publicly shelled in the 21st century?” he asked.
The summit also saw the attendance of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who emphasized the unacceptability of the policy of “collective punishment” by Israel.
Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi attended, marking the first visit by an Iranian president in 11 years, warning against the scope of war expanding if Israel continues its attacks.
Raisi called for an end to the “blind bombardment against Gaza” and urged Islamic governments to designate the Israeli army as a terrorist organization.
“Blind bombardment against Gaza must stop,” Raisi said, adding that “Islamic governments should designate the army of the occupying and aggressor regime [Israel] as a terrorist organisation”.
He criticized the United States for supporting Israel in the UN and vetoing resolutions preventing the killing of Palestinians.
“It has paved the way for Israel to kill more, to bombard more and to shell more.”
Despite mounting international calls for a ceasefire, Israel persists in its relentless attacks on Gaza, following a Hamas assault on October 7 that claimed 1,200 Israeli lives. The ongoing airstrikes and ground assaults have resulted in over 11,000 Palestinian casualties, with a majority being civilians.
Israel’s recent intensified targeting of hospitals has raised concerns, and the UN warns that the lives of one million children in Gaza are in peril.