Thursday, November 30, 2023

Gulf-ASEAN summit denounces attacks on Gaza civilians

Gulf-ASEAN summit denounces attacks on Gaza civilians
October 20, 2023 Web Desk

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AFP) - Gulf and Southeast Asian leaders on Friday condemned attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip and called for a permanent ceasefire, according to a statement published after a summit meeting.

The six-member Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also called for the release of some 200 hostages held by Hamas militants, as well as the restoration of basic services for Palestinians and the delivery of humanitarian aid, the statement said.

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas after the Islamist militant group launched an unprecedented raid from the Gaza Strip into southern Israel on October 7, killing at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burned to death, according to Israeli officials.

Hamas gunmen also kidnapped nearly 200 hostages including foreigners from around two dozen countries ranging from Paraguay to Tanzania. The Israeli army said Friday that most of those being held "are alive".

In response, Israeli war planes have levelled entire city blocks in Gaza in preparation for a ground invasion. More than 3,785 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have died in the bombing, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

"As we gather, we are saddened by the escalating violence that Gaza is witnessing today, the price of which is being paid by innocent civilians," Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said as he opened the summit in the Saudi capital Riyadh.

"We affirm our categorical rejection of targeting civilians in any way and under any pretext, and the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law and the necessity of stopping military operations against civilians and infrastructure that affect their daily lives."

Saudi Arabia, custodians of the holiest sites in Islam, has never recognized Israel and has paused discussions about taking that step in response to the Israel-Hamas war.

Two other GCC members, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain, established ties with Israel as part of the Abraham Accords of 2020, but have issued statements criticizing Israel in recent days.

ASEAN is currently headed by Indonesia which also does not have ties with Israel. "The violence must stop, humanity must be the priority in this moment, and we must prevent things from getting worse," Indonesian President Joko Widodo said in Riyadh.

"We must not forget that the root cause of the problem is the occupation of the Palestinian territories by Israel, and this is what must be resolved based on the agreed international parameters."

Friday's summit came on the heels of solidarity visits to Israel by Western leaders including US President Joe Biden and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Nasser Al-Masri, a Kuwaiti analyst who attended the summit, said those stops risked fuelling more violence by emboldening Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden and Sunak "added more flames, they did not come with solutions", Masri said. "Those guys can bring a solution, they can stop Israel ... They can add protection to the Palestinians."