Gulf leaders call for 'immediate cessation of hostilities' in Gaza

Summit in Doha demands end to blockade on Palestinian enclave

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Gulf leaders called for an "immediate cessation of hostilities" and Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip, demanding during the 44th Gulf Co-operation Council summit in Doha an end to the blockade on the Palestinian enclave.

The meeting came as the Israeli military pushed further south into Gaza on Tuesday, driving deep into the southern city of Khan Younis and bringing a new wave of destruction to an area crammed with displaced Palestinians who had fled from the north.

The final statement issued after the summit called for the "immediate cessation of hostilities and Israeli military operations, ensuring the provision of all humanitarian and relief aid, meeting basic needs, resuming the supply of electricity and water, and allowing the entry of fuel, food and medicine to the people of Gaza".

The leaders demanded "an end to the illegal Israeli blockade", condemning the "unlawful prevention of humanitarian aid delivery and the use of starvation of civilians as a prohibited method under international humanitarian law".

At least 16,248 people including 7,112 children and 4,885 women have been killed in Gaza by Israeli military action since October 7. Thousands more are missing and feared buried under rubble, according to the local health authorities.

Gazans say there is no safe place since a seven-day truce ended last week, with remaining towns and shelters already overwhelmed and Israel continuing to bomb the areas where it is telling people to go.

The Gulf leaders commended "the successful efforts of the state of Qatar, in partnership with the Arab Republic of Egypt and the United States of America, in reaching a humanitarian ceasefire agreement to alleviate the tragic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip".

The agreement allowed the release of hostages and detainees from both sides and the entry of more humanitarian convoys and relief aid, including fuel designated for humanitarian needs.

The summit expressed hope that the agreement "would contribute to stopping the escalation, the targeting and forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, leading to a complete cessation of the war on the Gaza Strip, lifting the blockade imposed on the region, and alleviating the suffering of the Palestinian people".

It called for "providing international protection to the Palestinian people and held Israel legally responsible for its ongoing attacks", calling on "all parties to the conflict to protect civilians", and demanding "the release of civilian hostages and detainees, especially women, children, the sick, and the elderly".

During the summit, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim described the situation in Gaza as a "disgrace to the international community."

Sheikh Tamim said self-defence “does not permit the crimes of genocide that Israel is committing".

The talks focused almost entirely on Gaza, with Sheikh Tamim also calling on the UN Security Council to force Israel to return to the negotiating table.

The six countries of the GCC – the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman and Qatar – are united in the call for a ceasefire in Gaza.

"What is happening in the Gaza Strip in terms of the occupation forces’ violation of moral and humanitarian standards is a disgrace to the international community," Sheikh Tamim said. "A temporary truce cannot be an alternative to a ceasefire in Gaza."

"Our summit is being held in light of the continuing serious tragedy to which the Palestinian people are exposed to due to violations committed by the occupation forces."

"It is shameful for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue for nearly two months, during which the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent civilians continues, including women and children. Israel’s occupation forces have violated all political, ethical and humanitarian values."

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was "pushing the entire region into danger" in a bid to protect his political future. Mr Erdogan was in Doha for the Turkey-Qatar Supreme Strategic Committee meeting, which he leads alongside Sheikh Tamim.

"Israel's war crimes – crimes against humanity in Gaza – should not be left unanswered," Mr Erdogan said.

"Turkey's priority is to ensure a permanent ceasefire is implemented in Gaza and humanitarian aid is delivered without any interruption."

President Sheikh Mohamed also attended the summit and was received at Doha's Hamad International Airport by Sheikh Tamim.

Sheikh Mohamed led a UAE delegation that includes Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed, Vice President, Deputy Prime Minister and Chairman of the Presidential Court, Sheikh Tahnoun bin Zayed, National Security Adviser and Deputy Ruler of Abu Dhabi, and Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed, Minister of Foreign Affairs.

"While we regret that the truce has not continued, we urge further efforts to achieve a ceasefire," Sheikh Mohamed said.

"We also stress that the top priority remains providing humanitarian support and ensuring safe, sustained and at-scale humanitarian corridors to respond to the increasing needs of civilians in the Gaza Strip."

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman led the kingdom's delegation to Qatar at Sheikh Tamim's invitation.

On other topics, the Gulf leaders affirmed that the "entire Dorra Field is located within the maritime areas of the State of Kuwait. The ownership of the natural resources in the submerged area adjacent to the Saudi-Kuwaiti divided zone, including the entire Dorra Field, is jointly owned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the State of Kuwait only", rejecting any claims of rights by any other party, including Iran.

They welcomed the agreement reached between Saudi Arabia and Iran in Beijing to resume diplomatic relations.

The GCC's Supreme Council expressed "concern about the developments in the Iranian nuclear file, reaffirming its readiness to cooperate and effectively deal with this issue" and "emphasised the importance of Iran's commitment not to exceed the uranium enrichment levels required for peaceful uses".

It reaffirmed its firm positions and previous decisions regarding the "condemnation of Iran's continued occupation of the three islands (Greater Tunb, Lesser Tunb, and Abu Musa) belonging to the United Arab Emirates".

It also stressed the importance of maintaining maritime security and waterways in the region and "countering activities that threaten the security and stability of the region and the world. This includes targeting commercial vessels, threatening maritime navigation routes and international trade, as well as oil facilities in the member states".

On Syria, the GCC council reaffirmed "its steadfast positions regarding the preservation of the unity of the Syrian Arab Republic's territories, respect for its independence and sovereignty over its lands, rejection of regional interventions in its internal affairs".

The leaders also welcomed the resumption of talks between Sudanese parties and called for a peaceful solution to the Yemeni conflict.

Updated: December 06, 2023, 7:56 AM