Arab and Muslim leaders in Riyadh to demand an end to violence in Gaza

Arab leaders and Iran’s president are meeting in Saudi Arabia on Saturday for a joint summit that is expected to highlight the urgency of ending Israel’s attacks on Gaza before the conflict engulfs the region

The emergency meetings of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) are being held in Riyadh five weeks after the start of the war triggered by the bloody attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas on Israeli soil on 7 October

Around 1,200 people were killed on the Israeli side, most of them civilians, on the day of the Hamas attack, according to a new official figure revised downwards by authorities on Friday. And 239 people were kidnapped and taken to the Gaza Strip, according to the same source.

Since then, Israel has relentlessly bombarded Hamas-controlled Palestinian territory, killing more than 11,000 people, including at least 4,500 children, according to the Hamas government’s Health Ministry.

The Arab League and OIC were initially scheduled to hold their meetings separately, but the Saudi Foreign Ministry announced early Saturday that the summits of the two organizations would be held jointly.

This decision highlights the need to reach “a unified collective position that expresses the common Arab and Muslim will regarding the dangerous and unprecedented events observed in Gaza and the Palestinian territories,” the Saudi Press Agency said.

The Arab League will address “the way forward on the international stage to end the aggression, support Palestine and its people, condemn the Israeli occupation and hold it accountable for its crimes,” the deputy secretary general said on Thursday general of the Arab League. Arab League, Hossam Zaki.

Without hope

Islamic Jihad, Hamas’ ally in Gaza, however, said it expected “nothing” from the meeting. “We don’t put our hopes in such meetings” that have never yielded results, Mohammad al-Hindi, the group’s deputy secretary-general, told a news conference in Beirut on Friday.

“The fact that this conference is being held after 35 days (of war)” is a clear indication, he added.

Israel and its main ally, the United States, have so far rejected demands for a ceasefire, a stance expected to meet with harsh criticism at Saturday’s meetings.

According to Saudi analyst Aziz Alghashian, fingers should not only be pointed at Israel, but also at those who “facilitate it (…), that is, essentially the United States and the West.”

The differences in position were clearly on display during US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s latest visit to the region, and British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s visit to Riyadh on Thursday, where he met with some of his counterparts Arabs

“What we have said is that it is understandable to call for a ceasefire, but we also recognize that Israel is taking steps to ensure its own stability and security,” Cleverly said.

Iranian-Saudi relationship

Iranian President Ebrahim Raïssi’s expected participation on Saturday will also mark his first visit to Saudi Arabia since the surprise announcement in March of the restoration of diplomatic relations between the two Middle Eastern heavyweights, after seven years apart.

Iran supports Palestinian Hamas, but also Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthi rebels, who fear a prolongation of the conflict.

Fire exchanges between Israel and Hezbollah occur daily on the Israeli-Lebanese border, while Yemeni rebels have claimed several drone and missile attacks on southern Israel.

The Saudi monarchy, which maintains close ties with the United States and which before the war considered normalizing relations with Israel, has fears, analysts say.

On Friday, the kingdom’s crown prince and de facto ruler, Mohammed bin Salman, denounced “the continued violations of international humanitarian law by Israeli occupation forces” in his first public statement on the war.

“The Saudis hope that the fact that they have not yet normalized their relations and have a channel (of communication) with the Iranians will give them some protection,” said Kim Ghattas, author of a book on the Iranian rivalry. table organized by the Institute of Arab Gulf States in Washington.

“And I think the Iranians hope that the fact that they are in contact with the Saudis (…) also offers them some protection,” he added.