October 21, 2023
. Egypt and Jordan leaders denounced ‘global silence’ on Israel’s attacks on Gaza
. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians would not be displaced or driven off their land
. Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister rejected “attempts at forced displacement” of the people of Gaza by Israel
Seen on a large screen the Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is greeted by the Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi (R) prior to the start of the International ‘Summit for Peace’ hosted by the Egyptian president in Cairo on October 21, 2023. Photo: AFP
CAIRO – Arab leaders condemned Israel’s two-week-old bombardment of Gaza on Saturday and demanded renewed efforts to reach a Middle East peace settlement to end a decades-long cycle of violence between Israelis and Palestinians.
However, the absence of Israel and senior US officials at the meeting undermined any prospect for halting an escalating war.
Speaking at a hastily convened gathering dubbed the Cairo Peace Summit, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan said he rejected “attempts at forced displacement” of the people of Gaza by Israel.
He added that the Kingdom calls on the international community to oblige Israel to abide by international law.
“We categorically reject violations of international humanitarian law by any party amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza,” Prince Faisal said.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi and Jordan’s King Abdullah denounced what they termed global silence about Israel’s attacks on the enclave and urged an even-handed approach to the Israeli-Palestinian dispute.
“The message the Arab world is hearing is that Palestinian lives matter less than Israeli ones,” said King Abdullah, adding he was outraged and grieved by acts of violence waged against innocent civilians in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel.
King Abdullah said in his opening speech that the forced or internal displacement of Palestinians would be a war crime.
“The Israeli leadership must realize once and for all that a state can never thrive if it is built on a foundation of injustice … Our message to the Israelis should be that we want a future of peace and security for you and the Palestinians.”
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians would not be displaced or driven off their land. “We won’t leave, we won’t leave,” he told the summit.
In a post on X, UAE President Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed said his country “stands unwavering in its calls for the utmost protection of civilian lives, unimpeded access for humanitarian aid, and an immediate end to hostilities in the Gaza Strip.”
He urged the international community to work together to de-escalate the situation in Gaza and prevent wider instability in the region. “Dialogue, cooperation, and coexistence remain the only viable pathways to peace,” he said.
Israel has vowed to wipe the Gaza-based Hamas militant group “off the face of the earth” over an assault on southern Israel that killed 1,400 people on Oct. 7, the deadliest Palestinian militant attack in Israeli history.
It has said it told Palestinians to move south within Gaza for their own safety.
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told the summit a humanitarian corridor was needed to deliver aid to civilians, which she said could lead to a cease-fire.
Germany said Israel’s fight against Hamas must be carried out with due concern for the humanitarian situation in Gaza and Britain urged the Israeli military to respect international law and show restraint.
The Cairo gathering was trying to find ways to head off a wider regional war, although the assembled Middle Eastern and European leaders are expected to struggle to agree a common position on the conflict between Israel and Hamas militants.
The absence of a top official from Israel’s main ally the United States and some other major Western leaders has cooled expectations for what the event can achieve.
The US, which has no ambassador currently assigned to Egypt, is represented by its embassy Charge d’Affaires. German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and French President Emmanuel Macron did not attend.
The summit meets as Israel prepares a ground assault on Gaza. More than 4,100 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s counteroffensive, amid a growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
Arab countries have voiced anger at Israel’s unprecedented bombardment and siege of Gaza, home to 2.3 million people.
Egyptian President said Saturday he invited leaders to the Cairo Peace Summit to come to agreement for a roadmap to end humanitarian disaster in Gaza and revive path to peace.
The roadmap’s goals included the delivery of aid to Gaza and agreeing a ceasefire, followed by negotiations leading to a two state solution, El-Sisi said.
El-Sisi said his country opposed what he called the displacement of Palestinians into Egypt’s Sinai region.
“Egypt says the solution to the Palestinian issue is not displacement, its only solution is justice and the Palestinians’ access to legitimate rights and living in an independent state.”
Egypt is wary of insecurity near the border with Gaza in northeastern Sinai, where it faced an Islamist insurgency that peaked after 2013 and has now largely been suppressed.
Egypt’s position reflects Arab fears that Palestinians could again flee or be forced from their homes en masse, as they were during the war surrounding Israel’s creation in 1948.
Shortly before the summit opening, trucks loaded with humanitarian aid began entering the Rafah crossing into Gaza, footage from Egyptian state TV showed. Egypt has been trying for days to channel humanitarian relief to Gaza through the crossing, the one access point not controlled by Israel.
Egypt has said little about the aims of the gathering, beyond its presidency’s Oct. 15 statement that the summit would cover recent developments involving the crisis in Gaza and the future of the Palestinian issue.
A senior EU official said on Friday there had been discussions about a common summit declaration but there were still “differences” so it was not clear if there would be a text in the end. European countries have struggled to settle on a united approach to the crisis, beyond condemning Hamas’s attack, after days of confusion and mixed messaging.