Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

Saudi king criticises world’s silence over Gaza ‘war crimes’

King Abdullah speaks out over suffering caused by Israeli assault, as well as damage extremist militants are causing to the image of Islam.

RIYADH // Saudi King Abdullah said yesterday that world silence over Israeli “war crimes” in the Gaza Strip was inexcusable and would only breed more violence in the future.

“We see the blood of out brothers in Palestine being shed in collective massacres that have spared nobody, and in war crimes against humanity,” the king said.

The war in Gaza was “all taking place under the eyes and ears of the international community ... that has stood indifferently watching events in the whole region”.

“This silence is inexcusable” and will “result in a generation that rejects peace and believes only in violence.”

King Abdullah’s statement was lauded by the UAE, which it said came “at a delicate juncture while we are witnesses [to] the continuous brutal Israeli aggression against the innocent civilians in Gaza” and “clearly reflects stances of the UAE and its people”.

In a statement carried by the state news agency, Wam, the UAE also said it “highly appreciates the firm, transparent stances of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and his central role in supporting the Palestinian cause”.

The conflict that broke out on July 8 has killed nearly 1,500 Palestinians, mostly civilians, and 63 Israeli soldiers and three Israeli civilians.

King Abdullah also lashed out at religious extremism, urging “Muslim leaders and scholars to ... stand up to those trying to hijack Islam and portray it as a religion of hatred, extremism, and terrorism.”

“It is a shame and a disgrace that these terrorists kill, mutilate [dead bodies[, and proudly spread [pictures] in the name of religion.”

King Abdullah’s comments on extremism “addressed the trial (discord) that threatens the Arab and Islamic nations and its danger of terrorism and terrorists on the Arab and Islamic scene and how it distorts the image of the tolerant Islam and its fine values and principles”, the UAE said.

The Saudi king’s remarks were an apparent reference to the Islamic State fighters operating in Iraq and Syria.

The Islamic State has declared a “caliphate” in areas it controls, with their lightning advance in Iraq in June seen as also posing a threat to Saudi Arabia and Jordan.

Saudi Arabia shares an 814-kilometre border with Iraq.

Unlike past Gaza wars, including the devastating 2008-9 offensive, the Saudi monarch did not condemn Israel outright for the conflict.

Instead he appeared to suggest that both Israel and Hamas were responsible, saying that the violence in Gaza has led to “various forms” of terrorism whether from groups, organisations or states.

“All of this is happening while the international community is watching silently with all its institutions and organisations, including human rights organisations,” he said on state television. “This silence has no justification.”

But the king did not call for any specific action to be taken against Israel.

The monarch’s apparent balancing act was indicative of the recent shift in regional politics, where Egypt’s leadership and other states opposed to Islamist parties have cracked down on groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, which spawned Hamas.

The shift in Riyadh’s stance, particularly toward Israel, is rooted in the turmoil that swept through Egypt and saw the ousting of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi from power last year and the branding of the Muslim Brotherhood as a terrorist group in Egypt and Saudi Arabia.

Regional divisions run deep.

Many countries in the region see the Brotherhood and its affiliated Islamist movements like Hamas as a direct threat.

The two countries that had good ties with the Brotherhood, Qatar and Turkey, have strained ties with Egypt and Gulf states. Egypt has in the past blamed Hamas for supporting the Brotherhood and of trying to destabilise the country when the group was ousted from power by the military.

Egypt’s recent ceasefire initiative was accepted by Israel, and supported by Saudi Arabia and other states – but rejected outright by Hamas.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, tried to bring in Qatar and Turkey, but that effort made little headway with most of the Middle East, and Israel, still solidly behind the Egyptian plan.

King Abdullah has been deeply involved in attempted ceasefire talks, siding with Egypt and other Gulf countries opposed to Hamas rule in Gaza. He has held meetings with Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas and Qatar’s emir, who is acting as a conduit for Hamas demands that Egypt and Israel lift a more than seven-year-old siege on the Gaza Strip.

Saudi Arabia has pledged US$80 million (Dh293.6m) in aid for the Palestinian people since the latest Gaza war began on July 8.

King Abdullah warned that the fighting in Gaza would lead to a generation of Palestinian children who grow up knowing nothing but the language of violence.

“We all see the blood of our brothers in Palestine bleeding out in collective massacres that do not spare anyone, and war crimes against humanity without humane or moral reservations.”

* Agence France-Presse with additional reporting by Associated Press

Updated: August 2, 2014 04:00 AM

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