RIYADH, Nov 11 (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia and other Muslim countries called on Saturday for an immediate end to military operations in Gaza, rejecting Israel’s self-defense justification against the Palestinians.
An extraordinary Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh urged the International Criminal Court to investigate Israel’s alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Palestinian territories.
Saudi Arabia has sought to pressure the United States and Israel to end hostilities in Gaza, and the kingdom’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, has rallied Arab and Muslim leaders to reinforce that message.
Dozens of leaders attended, including Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who was welcomed back to the Arab League this year.
Prince Mohammed affirmed his “condemnation and categorical rejection of this barbaric war against our brothers in Palestine.”
“We are facing a humanitarian catastrophe that demonstrates the failure of the Security Council and the international community to put an end to blatant Israeli violations of international law,” he told the summit.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians were facing a “genocidal war” and urged the US to end Israel’s “occupation”.
Raisi praised the Palestinian Islamist militant group Hamas for fighting against Israel and urged Islamic countries to impose oil and goods embargoes on Israel.
“We have no choice but to oppose Israel. We kiss the hands of Hamas for its opposition to Israel,” Raisi said in his speech.
The Middle East has been on edge since Hamas militants entered Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people.
Since then, Israel has intensified its assault on Gaza, where 11,078 people have been killed as of Friday, 40% of them children, according to Palestinian officials.
Approaches are different
Fighting intensified overnight into Saturday near Gaza City’s overcrowded hospitals, Palestinian officials said.
A baby died in an incubator at Gaza’s largest hospital after a power cut, and a patient in intensive care was killed by an Israeli shell, the Palestinian health ministry said.
The war has upended traditional Middle Eastern alliances as Riyadh engages more closely with Iran, pushing back against US pressure to condemn Hamas and suspending its plans to normalize ties with Israel.
Raisi’s visit to Saudi Arabia was the first by an Iranian head of state in more than a decade. Tehran and Riyadh formally ended years of hostilities under a China-brokered deal in March.
Erdogan called for an international peace conference to find a permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians.
“What we need in Gaza is not a two-hour pause, but we need a permanent ceasefire,” Erdogan said at the summit.
Qatar’s emir said his country, which is home to many Hamas leaders, was seeking to mediate the release of Israeli hostages and hoped a humanitarian ceasefire would be reached soon.
“How long will the international community treat Israel as if it is outside international law?” he asked.
Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan told reporters he could not talk about Gaza’s future “except to talk about an immediate ceasefire”.
The summit called for an end to the blockade of Gaza, access to humanitarian aid and an end to arms sales to Israel.
The kingdom was scheduled to host two extraordinary summits of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League on Saturday and Sunday, but opted for a joint summit because of the “extraordinary” situation in Gaza, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.
Hamas urged the summit to “take a historic and decisive decision and take steps to immediately end the Zionist occupation”.
Two representatives told Reuters that some Arab countries, led by Algeria, had called for the complete severing of diplomatic ties with Israel.
Other Arab countries that have established diplomatic ties with Israel pushed back, insisting on the need to keep channels open with Netanyahu’s government.
Reporting by Aziz El Yacoubi, Nayera Abdullah in Riyadh, Parisa Hafeezy, Adam Magari, Hadem Maher in Dubai, Moaz Abd-Alajis in Cairo, Hussein Hayatchever in Ankara; By Aziz El Yacoubi; Editing by Sandra Maler, William McLean; Giles Elgood and Kevin Liffey
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.