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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 October 2018

Palestine demands Arab League intervention on Gaza

Saudi Arabia called Donald Trump's embassy move "illegal"

Palestine’s ambassador to the Arab League has called on its member nations to intervene on behalf of the unarmed protesters subjected to an “Israeli massacre” in Gaza, seeking a united Arab front against Israeli violence and unilateral US moves in Jerusalem.

Diyab Al Loub's request came after Israeli forces killed 60 Palestinians and wounded more than 2,700 in the bloodiest day in the region since the 2014 Gaza War between the territory’s rulers Hamas and Israel.

Tens of thousands of Gazans took to the border with Israel to protest the ongoing Israeli blockade of the enclave, and the relocation of the US embassy to Jerusalem.

In the opening session of the Arab League meeting on Wednesday, Osama Nugali, Saudi Arabia’s permanent representative to the organisation, called the move “illegal”.

Saudi Arabia will convene a meeting of the Arab League’s foreign ministers on Thursday, a day after the closed session. The body is comprised of 22 members but Syria remains suspended amid its ongoing civil war. It remains unclear how many member states will attend the extraordinary meeting.

“The meeting will discuss the emergence of a unified Arab stance against the crimes against the Palestinian people, as well as to confront the US decision to transfer its embassy to the city of Jerusalem,” a statement by UAE state news agency quoted Hossam Al Zaki, the Arab League Assistant Secretary-General Ambassador, as saying.

On Wednesday, the Saudi cabinet of ministers, chaired by King Salman bin Abdulaziz, expressed his rejection of the US decision to open its embassy in Jerusalem.

“This step represents a significant bias against the historical and permanent rights of the Palestinian people in Jerusalem,” Saudi state news agency said in a statement.

The Arab League foreign ministers will likely discuss how to proceed on the international stage after US President Donald Trump’s move, which overturned decades of US policy.

The move was sharply criticised by the UK, France, Russia and several international human rights organisations.

Kuwait, a member of the Arab League and non-permanent member of the UN Security Souncil, is expected to raise the Palestinian cause at the body’s next meeting in Geneva. Their call for an emergency meeting was blocked by the US on Tuesday.

The UN’s top human rights body will also hold a special session to discuss the crisis on Friday. The 47-member human rights council said it will discuss “the deteriorating human rights situation in the occupied Palestinian territory”.

The session was organised following a request by Palestine and the United Arab Emirates that was supported by 17 members — one more than required under council rules — including Cuba, Egypt, Iraq, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Turkey convened an extraordinary summit of the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) on Jerusalem for Friday after the embassy move.

Guatemala, the first country to follow Mr Trump’s decision to relocate the embassy, inaugurated its new diplomatic mission at a ceremony on Wednesday.

Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu attended the opening at an office complex in west Jerusalem.

"It's not a coincidence that Guatemala is opening its embassy in Jerusalem right among the first. You were always among the first. You were the second country to recognise Israel," Mr Netanyahu said at the ceremony, referring to its founding in 1948.

Honduras and Paraguay have also signalled their intention to move diplomatic missions to Jerusalem.

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Arabs condemn Israeli 'massacre' of Palestinians

Israel kills dozens in Gaza as US moves embassy to Jerusalem

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The Palestinian Foreign Ministry has recalled its ambassadors to four European countries to protest their participation in a party celebrating the opening of the new US embassy.

The ministry said Wednesday that its ambassadors to Romania, the Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria were being called home for consultations.

The European Union objected to the embassy move. But the four European countries criticized by the Palestinians broke with EU policy to attend the celebration.

“We highly value our relations with all EU member states. Those relations are based on the commitment to international law, U.N. resolutions and human rights. Therefore we consider the participation in this event a contradiction to such values,” said Amal Jadou, a Palestinian Foreign Ministry official.

The Palestinians seek Israeli-annexed East Jerusalem as the capital of any future state, joined with the West Bank and Gaza. But Israel, which captured the territory in the 1967 Arab-Israeli War, says the city is its undivided capital.

Jerusalem is a city revered by Muslims, Jews and Christians, hosting some of the holiest sites for each faith.

Nikki Haley (R-top) leaves the room as Riyad Mansour (L-bottom) prepares to address a UN Security Council meeting. Justin Lane / EPA
Nikki Haley (R-top) leaves the room as Riyad Mansour (L-bottom) prepares to address a UN Security Council meeting. Justin Lane / EPA

In further diplomatic fallout, Israel’s ambassador to Turkey left the country on Wednesday. Israel accused the country of giving Eitan Naeh “harsh” treatment as he left Ankara following the deadly violence in Gaza.

Israel’s foreign ministry said Mr Naeh was subjected to a severe security screening during his departure from the airport in Istanbul that was intentionally captured by Turkish media.

Following unconfirmed reports of indirect contacts between Hamas and Israel, Tuesday proved far calmer on the border – only a few thousand people gathered on the border, with only minor incidents reported.

Hamas has vowed that the protests will continue despite the violence. But Ramadan, the Muslim month of dawn-to-dusk fasting, was also poised to begin on Thursday, likely to keep people away from the protests.