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Palestinians seek Arab League unity against Israel over Gaza

Palestinians seek Arab League unity against Israel over Gaza
By Alasdair Sandford with Reuters
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Arab foreign ministers meet in Cairo on Thursday in response to the deadliest violence in Gaza for years.


The Palestinian ambassador to the Arab League has called on member nations to intervene after what he calls this week’s “Israeli massacre” in Gaza.

Foreign ministers from the League meet in the Egyptian capital Cairo on Thursday, with the Palestinians hoping for a united front against Israel and the United States’ decisive shift backing its ally.

The move comes after Israeli forces killed more than 60 Palestinians and wounded over 2,700 in Gaza’s bloodiest day since the 2014 war between Hamas and Israel.

Saudi Arabia called the Arab League meeting. Its government has condemned the US for unilaterally moving its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem, as well as Israel’s response to the Gaza protests.

A resolution is expected to condemn “Israeli aggression”. The Arab League’s human rights committee has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate “the crimes of the Israeli occupation” against Palestinians. Its chairman Amjad Shamout described Israel as “an oppressive and murderous entity”.

A united front?

However, there are questions over the commitment of some key Arab nations in support of the Palestinians.

Despite Saudi Arabia’s condemnation of Israel and the United States, it has backed President Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear accord with Iran.

Egypt’s role has also been called into question, following a visit to Cairo by Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh on Sunday. According to Israel, Egypt warned Hamas to calm the protests in Gaza.

Israel’s Intelligence Minister Israel Katz claimed that Egyptian intelligence had “made unequivocally clear” to Haniyeh that Cairo would not help if Hamas continued to stoke the demonstrations. Hamas dismissed the Israeli claims as false.

Egypt, a longstanding mediator in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, has condemned the deaths of Palestinians but avoided direct criticism of the US over its embassy move.

In his first comments on the issue, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the move would have “negative repercussions”, causing “some instability” in the region. He urged Israelis “to understand that the reactions of Palestinians over this issue are legitimate”.

UN 'collapse'

The role of international institutions in general is in question in the Middle East, as the allegiances and priorities of individual nations shift. Wider factors than the Palestinian issue, namely Iran’s influence in the region and the Trump administration’s stance, have come to the fore.

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Wednesday that the United Nations had “collapsed” in the face of events in Gaza, accusing the international community of failing to react.

Some of the strongest words condemning Israel’s actions this week have come from Turkey’s leader. “If Israel’s bullying is met with more silence, the world will rapidly be dragged into a chaos where thuggery prevails,” Erdogan said.

The Turkish president and Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu exchanged furious tweets, and both countries have expelled each other's diplomats.

The UN’s top human rights organisation is to hold a special session to discuss the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis on Friday.

Palestinians will be looking for more than lip service from international bodies, and especially from Arab nations, to counter the weight of the US which under Trump has now swung firmly behind Israel.

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