Leaders of several Islamic and Arab nations met at a summit in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to condemn Israel’s continued military operation in Gaza, calling for an immediate end to hostilities in the Palestinian enclave.
The extraordinary joint summit, hosted by Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, brought together the 22 members of the Arab League and the 57 members of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Riyadh.
The summit issued a final communique that denounced “Israeli aggression on the Gaza Strip, war crimes and barbaric and inhumane massacres by the occupation government”. It also rejected Israel’s justification of its actions against Palestinians as self-defense.
The leaders demanded that the UN Security Council adopt “a decisive and binding resolution” to halt Israel’s “aggression” in Gaza and ensure the protection of civilians. They also called for an end to the siege on Gaza, allowing humanitarian aid into the enclave and halting arms exports to Israel.
The summit urged the International Criminal Court to investigate “war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing” in the Palestinian territories. It also expressed support for the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state with East Jerusalem as its capital.
In his opening remarks, Prince Mohammed bin Salman said that the war in Gaza was “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 called for an immediate cessation of military operations in Gaza and the release of all captives and prisoners. He said that the only cause for peace was “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”.
A Humanitarian Crisis
The summit came amid a worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where Israeli forces have killed more than 12,000 Palestinians, including thousands of children, and injured more than 20,000 others since October 7, when Hamas launched a series of attacks on Israeli communities and gatherings near the border.
Israel says it is acting in self-defense and targeting Hamas militants and infrastructure, but human rights groups and witnesses say it is using disproportionate and indiscriminate force and endangering civilians and medical facilities.
On Friday, Israeli tanks surrounded a Gaza hospital, trapping thousands of patients and staff, while strikes reportedly hit the area of other healthcare facilities in the Strip. The Palestine Red Crescent Society warned that Gaza City’s Al-Quds Hospital could shut down in the coming hours, threatening the lives of patients and babies.
The summit was seen as an attempt by Saudi Arabia to assert its leadership role in the region and to unify the Arab and Muslim world on the issue of Palestine, amid divisions and rivalries among some of the key players.
However, some analysts questioned the effectiveness and impact of the summit, noting that it did not approve any concrete measures or sanctions against Israel, and that it faced resistance from some countries that have normalized relations with Israel or have strategic ties with the US.
The summit also coincided with ongoing negotiations to secure the release of hostages that Hamas is holding in Gaza, in exchange for a large group of Palestinians being freed from Israeli prisons. The US, Israel and Hamas, with Qatar playing a significant mediating role, have been engaged in talks for weeks, but no deal has been reached yet.