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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Arab League demands international probe into Israeli crimes

Ministers meet in Cairo over use of deadly force against Gaza protesters

Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit talks to Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir during an emergency Arab League meeting at the bloc's headquarters in Cairo on May 17, 2018 to discuss Israel's use of deadly force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Amr Nabil / AP Photo
Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit talks to Saudi Arabia's Foreign Minister Adel Al Jubeir during an emergency Arab League meeting at the bloc's headquarters in Cairo on May 17, 2018 to discuss Israel's use of deadly force against Palestinian protesters in Gaza. Amr Nabil / AP Photo

The Arab League on Thursday called for an international investigation into Israel's killing of dozens of protesters on the Gaza border as its foreign ministers met in Cairo to discuss their response.

"We call for a credible international investigation into the crimes committed by the occupation," Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said at an extraordinary meeting of the bloc to discuss the violence, called at the request of Saudi Arabia.

Nearly 60 Palestinians were shot dead on Monday during protests coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. It was the deadliest single day of Israeli-Palestinian violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.

"We are facing a state of blatant aggression against international law and legitimacy which was embodied by the US embassy's transfer in the occupying state to Jerusalem," Mr Abul Gheit said.

Altogether Israeli forces have killed some 116 Palestinians since protests along Gaza's border with Israel began six weeks ago. One Israeli soldier was reported wounded. Tens of thousands have taken part in the protests calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to homes now inside Israel.

The Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al Maliki called for Arab countries to recall their ambassadors to the United States in response to Washington moving its embassy to Jerusalem.

"There is no harm in Arab states collectively recalling their ambassadors in Washington to their capitals for consultations," Mr Al Maliki said in Cairo.

He also suggested that members of the Arab League summon US ambassadors "to remind them of the Arab rejection" of the US move, which was made despite near universal consensus that the final status of the city should be decided in a final peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.

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Palestinians are seeking East Jerusalem, which Israel captured in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war and later annexed in a move not recognised by the international community, as the capital of their future state.

Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Friday host an emergency summit in Istanbul of the world's main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), which he said would send a "strong message to the world".

Mr Erdogan, who also announced plans for a pro-Palestinian rally, has exchanged bitter accusations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Israel an "apartheid state" and ordering the country's ambassador to Turkey to leave.

The protests along the Gaza-Israel border began on March 30 and were supposed to end on May 15, but Hamas officials have said they want them to continue.

Israel hit a Hamas base in an air raid Thursday, saying gunfire from Gaza had targeted its soldiers and damaged a house. No injuries was reported on either side.

The Israeli army said it struck "targets belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist infrastructure and weapons-making facilities".

Palestinian security sources told Agence France-Presse the target was a Hamas base.

The Arab foreign ministers' meeting in Cairo came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Wednesday said his government was communicating with both sides "so that this bloodshed would stop".

Israel has rejected criticism over Monday's violence, with the United States strongly backing its ally and blaming Hamas for the deaths.

Calls for an independent probe into the deaths have come from many sides, including Britain, Germany, Canada and Switzerland.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the European Union have also called for an independent investigation.

Israel accuses Hamas, with whom it has fought three wars since 2008, of seeking to use the demonstrations as cover for violence.

It says those approaching the fence have used explosive devices and firebombs, while soldiers have been shot at.

Palestinians and rights groups say protesters are being shot despite posing no threat to Israeli soldiers on the other side of the heavily guarded fence.

Hamas denies Israeli accusations of orchestrating the demonstrations, saying it supports them but that they were organised independently.

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Read more: Wherever we go, whatever we have achieved, Palestinians can never forget our homeland

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