Arab, Muslim leaders denounce Israel war on Gaza at Riyadh summit

Arab, Muslim leaders denounce Israel war on Gaza at Riyadh summit
3 min read
11 November, 2023
The summit comes as international pressure on Israel to announce a ceasefire increases, with French President Emmanuel Macron being the latest Western leader to urge such a ceasefire.
57 representatives from the two blocs took part in the joint emergency session, hosted in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia [Photo by Mustafa Kamaci/Anadolu via Getty Images]

Arab leaders and Iran's president meeting in the Saudi capital Saturday roundly condemned Israel's actions in its war on Gaza as fears mount that the conflict could draw in other regional countries.

The emergency meeting of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) came amid Israel's devastating bombardment of the Gaza Strip, which has killed over 11,078 people, including 4,506 children and over 3,000 women.

Host Saudi Arabia "confirms that it holds the occupation [Israeli] authorities responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people", Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Gulf kingdom's de facto ruler, said as Saturday's summit began.

"We are certain that the only way to guarantee security, peace and stability in the region is to end the occupation, siege and the settlements," he said of Israel's war on Gaza and the occupied West Bank.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi, on his first trip to Saudi Arabia since the two countries mended ties in March, said Islamic countries should designate the Israeli army a "terrorist organisation" for its conduct in Gaza.

Israel says it is out to destroy Hamas and blames the Palestinian armed group for the high death toll, accusing it of using civilians as "human shields," a charge Hamas denies.


Regional divisions

The Arab League and the OIC, a 57-member bloc that includes Iran, were originally meant to meet in separate summits.

Reports emerged that the decision to merge the meetings came after Arab League delegations failed to reach an agreement on a final statement.

Some countries proposed responding to the devastation in Gaza by threatening to disrupt oil supplies to Israel and its allies as well as severing the economic and diplomatic ties that some Arab League nations have with Israel, according to a report.

However, at least four countries - including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Morocco, who normalised ties with Israel in 2020 - rejected the proposal.

Israel and its main backer the United States have so far rebuffed demands for a ceasefire, a position that drew heavy criticism on Saturday.

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"The US has prevented the ceasefire in Gaza and is expanding the scope of the war," Raisi said before departing from Tehran.

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said at the summit that "it is a shame that Western countries, which always talk about human rights and freedoms, remain silent in the face of the ongoing massacres in Palestine."

Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas said Washington had "the greatest influence on Israel" and "bears responsibility for the absence of a political solution" to the conflict.

Iran president in Riyadh

The roster of attendees on Saturday also included Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi and Qatar's Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, who called for "deterrent steps to stop the ongoing war crime" in Gaza, without going into detail.

Raisi is the first Iranian president to visit Saudi Arabia since Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended an OIC meeting in the kingdom in 2012.

In addition to addressing the summit, he held a face-to-face meeting with Prince Mohammed, Saudi state media said on X, formerly Twitter.

Iran backs Hamas as well as Lebanon's Hezbollah and Yemen's Houthi rebels, placing it at the centre of concerns the war could expand.

The conflict has already fuelled cross-border exchanges between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, and the Houthis have claimed responsibility for "ballistic missiles" the rebels said targeted southern Israel.