Gaza humanitarian summit to raise pressure on Israel amid US ceasefire drive

Jordan will host international conference at venue in Dead Sea area

Smoke rises from Israeli bombing of Rafah, as internally displaced Palestinians prepare to evacuate Al Mawasi in southern Gaza after army vehicles advanced. EPA
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Senior western officials and Arab leaders will meet in Jordan on Tuesday to discuss the continuing war in Gaza at a large gathering supported by the US.

The meeting is designed to increase pressure on Israel as Washington renews months-long efforts for a prolonged ceasefire. Eight months of talks have been largely unsuccessful, despite a week-long pause in fighting in November.

The conference, entitled Call for Action: Urgent Humanitarian Response for Gaza, is being held "in light of the catastrophic humanitarian situation" in the enclave, a press release on Monday said.

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi and UN Secretary General Antonio Gutterres will also be co-hosts.

The summit will be held at a Dead Sea venue a few kilometres from Israel.

"The war in Gaza is now in its eighth month, with massive loss of life among civilians and suffering for the entire population of over 2.3 million Palestinians across the strip," an official press release said.

"Today, famine is imminent in parts of Gaza and people continue fleeing in search of safety.

"Trauma is widespread. Every part of Gaza is in ruins. The situation has been exacerbated by the onset of the Rafah military operations.

"Within two weeks, more than 800,000 people were again forcibly displaced, while no place is safe in Gaza and without any access to food, water, shelter, or medicine," the organisers said.

Other top officials speaking include Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and Martin Griffiths, Undersecretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Co-ordinator.

Egypt, a main player in ceasefire talks, is on guard over concerns the Israeli military will move deeper into the Rafah border area, driving Palestinian refugees into Egyptian territory.

Jordan has warned of a spillover from the war into the neighbouring occupied West Bank.

The kingdom has been acting as a base for western aid drops into Gaza, which has been of limited benefit, with the aerial aid volumes unable to plug daily shortages. Israel stands accused of massively restricting aid through land crossings.

In the past month, Egypt has also allegedly placed its own restrictions on aid convoys, after Israel ignored widespread calls to limit operations in Rafah.

Some diplomats whose presence is expected say Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who is currently on a trip to the region, will represent the US at the gathering.

Mr Blinken is due to meet Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday to advance ceasefire talks, which also involve Qatar.

“Blinken’s presence gives the conference heft but with Israel not attending, it means little," one diplomat said.

Israel has been widely condemned for ignoring international humanitarian law in its invasion of Gaza, a densely populated territory controlled by Hamas, a militant group supported by Iran.

On October 7, Hamas and its militia allies attacked southern Israel, killing about 1,200 people, mostly civilians. More than 37,000 Palestinians, mostly civilians, have been killed in the subsequent Israeli invasion of Gaza, Palestinian health officials say.

It is not known whether there will be any high-level representation from Russian and China, which have been at mostly odds with the US at the UN Security Council on a solution to the war.

European Council President Charles Michel will attend, together with the Spanish and Greek prime ministers, diplomats said.

Senior representatives of international aid organisations will be there, together with the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development.

The two lenders will be involved for a "day after" component of the conference on reconstruction and possible change to the Hamas government of Gaza, the diplomats said.

European Commission Vice President Margaritis Schinas said the conference was in line with the EU's "immediate priority to achieve some sort of stabilisation in Gaza, with an immediate ceasefire, release of all hostages and unimpeded humanitarian access".

"We salute the holding of the humanitarian summit," Mr Schinas said.

"You don't get every day so many top European officials arriving in a third country," he said. "It is just another proof that for us we have a long-standing commitment to this country [Jordan]."

Updated: June 11, 2024, 10:23 AM