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Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman condemned Israel's “violations” in Gaza as diplomats met in Riyadh for a second day of diplomacy focused on forming a collective response to the war.
“We condemn the violations witnessed in the Gaza Strip by the Israeli occupation authorities and reiterate our position that the forced displacement of Palestinians from Gaza must be stopped,” Prince Mohammed said on Friday as he opened the Saudi-African Summit in Riyadh.
"We condemn what the Gaza Strip is facing from military assault, targeting of civilians, the violations of international law by the Israeli occupation authorities," he said.
The summit is one of several taking place in Saudi Arabia this weekend. Foreign ministers from the 22 members of the Arab League arrived in Riyadh on Thursday for two days of closed meetings.
Sources said their meetings would continue at the Intercontinental Hotel in Riyadh at 4pm local time on Friday. They added that delegates from the wider Islamic world, including Iran, would be attending.
Iran's President Ebrahim Raisi is expected to attend Saturday’s combined Arab League and Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emergency summits. His visit to Saudi Arabia would be the first of an Iranian head of state since the two rivals restored ties this year.
Sources from several Gulf countries told The National on the sidelines of the foreign ministers meeting that consensus has been broadly reached on several points, but that Arab League member states want a “strong and unified” final communique that “could have some influence on the US and Western partners” in stopping Israel’s war.
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas spoke for the first time on the possibility of the Palestinian Authority taking over administration of the Gaza Strip in a post-war scenario.
Mr Abbas said the PA is only prepared to assume responsibility for the Gaza Strip if it is agreed fully within the framework of a comprehensive political solution.
“We affirm that the Gaza Strip is an integral part of the State of Palestine, and we will bear our full responsibilities within the framework of a comprehensive political solution for both the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip,” Mr Abbas said.
A day earlier, Mr Abbas insisted his Fatah party, which is the dominant faction within the PA and a rival of the Hamas group that controls Gaza, would not enter the enclave “on the back of an Israeli tank”.
Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005. Bloodshed in 2006-07 between Hamas and Fatah resulted in Hamas taking over Gaza.
The wave of diplomacy comes as Israel showed no sign of halting its military offensive in Gaza, despite reports it would start daily four-hour “pauses” in fighting in areas of northern Gaza on Thursday.
Israel launched air strikes on or near at least three hospitals on Friday, further stressing the Palestinian enclave's precarious health system as it struggles to cope with thousands of injured or displaced people.
Israeli troops continue to fight against Hamas militants in and around Gaza city, which is the focus of its campaign to crush Hamas following the Palestinian group's deadly October 7 incursion into southern Israel.
The number of Palestinians killed in the resulting war has risen to over 10,800, including more than 4,400 children, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.
Officials in Gaza are seeking protection for children's hospitals that they say are being repeatedly targeted by Israeli forces.
Arab countries have condemned Israel's ground operation and called for a ceasefire. Israel has refused.
Hossam Zaki, Assistant Secretary General of the Arab League, told reporters that the US and other western countries have tried to influence Arab countries to propose a solution of a multinational force that would include Arab and western forces to administer Gaza in order to appease Israel.
“All ideas proposed by Israel or by other countries for the sake of separating Gaza from the West Bank are rejected, and the Arab position has been very clear from the beginning of the war,” Mr Zaki said after the foreign ministerial meetings.
“We demand a complete ceasefire, not so-called humanitarian truces, and that the political solution is the implementation of the Arab Peace Initiative,” he said.
Mr Zaki said that the preparatory meeting of Arab foreign ministers on Thursday had approved an initial version of a draft resolution that would be read out during Saturday’s session.
Following Thursday’s meeting, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan confirmed that Arab ministers would use the summit to call for international action to “stop Israel’s dangerous actions”.
“We call on the international community including the UN Security Council, to stand up and assume its responsibilities, and issue a decision to immediately stop military operations, provide civil protection, release hostages and prisoners, and stop the forced displacement of the Palestinian people, in compliance with international norms and laws and our common humanitarian principles,” Prince Faisal said.
Diplomatic efforts have intensified over the past day, with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim visiting Abu Dhabi where he met with President Sheikh Mohamed before heading to Egypt where he met with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
Qatar is an ally of the Hamas group and hosts their political office in Doha, but is also an ally of the US, which backs Israel.
Hamas’ top leaders Ismail Haniyeh, Khaled Meshal and Khalil Al Hayya also visited Cairo where they met with Egyptian leadership.
While observers have criticised the timing for the Arab League to host an emergency session on Gaza, analysts have said that Arab leaders are attempting to galvanise a unified voice to come out with tangible actions, not just statements.
“The main priority is to galvanise the position of all Arab and Muslim countries behind a consolidated position on the imperative of a sustainable peace deal that prevents these atrocities from happening again,” Mohammed Baharoon, Director General of the Dubai Public Policy Research Centre, told The National.
“This will require galvanising positions across all Arab and Muslim countries including Iran on the prospects of peace,” he said.