Islamic nations open emergency summit on Gaza conflict

16 May 2021, 13:34

Bombed buildings
Palestinians Israel. Picture: PA

Some members of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation have recently agreed recognition deals with Israel.

The 57-nation Organisation of Islamic Co-operation (OIC) has opened an emergency meeting to discuss the heavy fighting between Israel and the Gaza Strip’s militant Hamas rulers, the first major move among Middle East nations grappling with how to address the conflict.

While the Arab League and organisations like the Saudi-based OIC have maintained their view that the Palestinians should have their own independent state, Israel has recently reached recognition deals with several of its members.

This, combined with some nations’ concerns over Hamas, has contributed to a rather muted response to the attacks compared to the full-throated reaction of past decades.

“The plight of the Palestinian people is the bleeding wound of the Islamic world today,” Afghan foreign minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar said.

Rubble on streets
A man walks amid the rubble from buildings that were hit in Israeli air strikes on Sunday (Adel Hana/AP)

Meanwhile, Palestinian foreign minister Riad Malki of the Palestinian Authority, which administers autonomous enclaves in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, decried what he called Israel’s “cowardly attacks” at the start of the meeting.

He added: “We are facing a long-term occupation, that’s the base of the problem. Crimes are committed against the Palestinians without consequences.”

Mr Malki’s Palestinian Authority has no control over Hamas and the Gaza Strip, where the militants seized power in 2007.

Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu took a similarly hard line.

“Israel alone is responsible for the recent escalation in East Jerusalem, the West Bank and Gaza,” he said. “Our warnings to Israel last week went unheeded.”

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif accused Israel of “genocide and crimes against humanity”.

“Make no mistake: Israel only understand the language of resistance and the people of Palestine are fully entitled to their right to defend themselves,” Mr Zarif said.

Rescuers search rubble
Palestinian rescuers look for survivors under the rubble of a destroyed building following deadly Israeli air strikes in Gaza City (Khalil Hamra/AP)

Across the Arabian Peninsula and Persian Gulf states, reactions to the fighting has been mixed.

In Qatar, home to the Al-Jazeera satellite network, hundreds turned out late on Saturday night to listen to a speech by Hamas’s top leader Ismail Haniyeh. He now splits his time between Turkey and Qatar, both of which back Hamas, as does Iran.

Mr Haniyeh vowed, as bodyguards stood behind him: “The resistance will not give in.”

He added that “resistance is the shortest road to Jerusalem” and that Palestinians will not accept anything less than a Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital.

Mr Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, criticised OIC members who recently reached recognition deals with Israel.

“There are a few who have lost their moral compass and voiced support for Israel,” he said.

“If there are half-hearted statements within our own family, how could we criticise others who (don’t) take our words seriously?”

By Press Association