Arab ministerial delegation in China urges end to war in Gaza

Ministers are piling pressure on the West to reject Israel's justification of its actions against Palestinians as self-defence

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi attends a group photo session with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Jordanian Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki and Organisation of Islamic Co-operation Secretary General Hissein Brahim Taha, at the Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing. Reuters
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Arab and Muslim ministers called on Monday for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as their delegation visited Beijing on the first leg of a tour to push for an end to hostilities and to allow humanitarian aid into the territory.

The officials meeting with China's top diplomat Wang Yi on Monday are from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Indonesia, Palestine and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, among others.

"We are here to send a clear signal: that is we must immediately stop the fighting and the killings, we must immediately deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza," Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Al Shoukry landed in Beijing on Monday morning, Cairo's foreign ministry announced, saying he was joined by members of the "Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee entitled to internationally support the efforts aimed at ending the war in Gaza".

The delegation, which is set to meet officials representing the permanent members of the UN Security Council, is also piling pressure on the West to reject Israel's justification of its actions against Palestinians as self-defence.

About 13,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel's massive aerial bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza since Hamas militants attacked Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200.

Several hundred tonnes of aid have been reaching the besieged enclave through Rafah on the Egypt-Gaza border since October 21.

However, thousands of tonnes are required per week for the enclave's 2.3 million residents. Aid is currently held up by Israeli demands to inspect lorries entering the strip, as well as their demand that aid transfers must be met with the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Earlier this morning, heavy fighting erupted around the Indonesian Hospital in northern Gaza where thousands of patients and displaced people have been sheltering for weeks.

A shell struck the second floor of the hospital, killing at least 12 people, according to the Health Ministry in Hamas-ruled Gaza and a medical worker inside the facility.

There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.

Indonesia's Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi condemned Israel's "attack" on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza.

"The attack is a clear violation of international humanitarian laws. All countries, especially those that have close relations with Israel, must use all their influence and capabilities to urge Israel to stop its atrocities," she said in a statement.

Mr Shoukry called on China to use its leverage to reduce the violence.

"We look forward to a stronger role on the part of great powers such as China in order to stop the attacks against the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. Unfortunately, there are major countries that give cover to the current Israeli attacks," he said.

China's Mr Wang said Beijing was a "good friend and brother of Arab and Muslim countries," adding it has "always firmly supported the just cause of the Palestinian people to restore their legitimate national rights and interests."

Since the start of hostilities, China's foreign ministry has repeatedly stopped short of condemning Hamas, instead calling for de-escalation and for Israel and Palestine to pursue a "two-state solution" for an independent Palestine.

On Monday, Mr Wang added China will work to "quell the fighting in Gaza as soon as possible, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and promote an early, comprehensive, just and lasting settlement of the Palestinian issue."

The extraordinary joint Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh this month also urged the International Criminal Court to investigate "war crimes and crimes against humanity that Israel is committing" in the Palestinian territories.

Saudi Arabia has sought to press the United States and Israel for an end to hostilities in Gaza, and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman gathered Arab and Muslim leaders to reinforce that message.

The summit also demanded an end to the siege of Gaza, access for humanitarian aid, and a halt to the sale of arms to Israel.

Updated: November 20, 2023, 11:33 AM