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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Arabs condemn Israeli 'massacre' of Palestinians

At least 58 Palestinians killed and 2,000 wounded in Gaza during protests coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem

Arab countries on Monday strongly condemned Israel the day after its forces killed at least 58 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,000 in Gaza during protests coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas condemned the Israeli “massacres”, saying the US was no longer a mediator in the Middle East and the new embassy was equivalent to “a new American settler outpost”.

The UK, France and Russia had already sharply criticised President Donald Trump’s decision to move the US embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city, decades of US policy. Meanwhile, 128 countries backed a United Nations resolution condemning Washington’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

Both the UAE and Saudi Arabia condemned Israeli aggression along the Gaza border.

''The UAE absolutely rejects the use of force to confront peaceful demonstrations, which mark the 70th anniversary of Nakba, and demand their just rights,'' said a statement released by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The Nakba, or catastrophe, in 1948 marks the exodus of 700,000 Palestinians who were expelled from their land or forced to flee.

The UAE pledged $5 million (Dh18.4m) to provide urgent medicine for Palestinians injured in the protests.

Saudi Arabia’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement: “The kingdom strongly condemned the Israeli occupation forces’ gunfire against unarmed Palestinian civilians that has left dozens of dead and wounded.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said those killed by Israel were “martyrs”, warning against “this serious escalation”.

Ahmed Al Tayeb, the grand Imam of Al Azhar - Egypt's highest institution of Sunni Islam - urged "Arabs and Muslims and all fair and reasonable people in the world to stand by the defenceless Palestinian people".

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Read more

Surreal scenes as US opens Jerusalem embassy

Israel kills dozens in Gaza as US moves embassy to Jerusalem

Comment: Palestinian children are bearing the brunt of Israeli violence

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The Arab League will hold emergency talks on Wednesday to discuss Washington’s “illegal” move.

The meeting in Cairo will focus on "ways of countering the illegal decision by the United States to move the embassy to Jerusalem", the organisation's deputy secretary-general for Palestinian affairs, Saeed Abu Ali, said.

Ahead of the meeting, Mustafa Kamal from Cairo's Al Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies told The National that he thought the body needed to pursue a unified stance on Palestine. “The Arab League must eliminate all the differences between member states [to find] solutions for Palestine without relying on the United States of America.”

He said that the Palestinian leadership should also consider escalating steps. “It makes sense now for the Palestine Liberation Organisation to announce the withdrawal from the Oslo Accords, withdraw their recognition of Israel and reject any American mediation in order to resume negotiations in search of a solution,” he said.

Islam Alhalwany, a student leader in Egyptian Social Democratic Party, also condemned the killings and said that the embassy move undermined the US's relations in the region.

“The massacre at the border and the embassy move ruin all democratic arguments about the possibility of co-operation, peace and integration in order to benefit from Israel,” Mr Alhalwany said.

“The US and Israel are insisting on embarrassing their regional partners … while Arab states are forced to keep up co-operation for the sake of the recent rising conflict between KSA and Iran and fighting terrorism.”

Meanwhile, late on Monday Kuwait requested a meeting of the UN Security Council, which diplomats later said America had blocked.

"We condemned what has happened," Kuwaiti Ambassador to the UN, Mansour Al Otaibi, said.

Lebanese Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil said that Mr Trump’s decision to relocate the US embassy would lead to more tension and extremism in the region.

The embassy in Jerusalem would undermine the Middle East peace process, he told Reuters from Brussels.

Saad Hariri, Lebanon’s prime minister, said in a statement that the provocative move would “put all peace paths in the region in front of a dead end".

"We affirm our complete solidarity with the Palestinian brothers in their legitimate struggle," he said.