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Palestinian Authority leader Mahmoud Abbas said Hamas gave Israel "pretexts and justifications" for war in Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo

Arab League calls for UN peacekeeping force in Palestine as Abbas throws barb at Hamas

The Arab League also condemned the attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Houthis in Yemen.

THE ARAB LEAGUE has called for a UN peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories as well as an international peace conference at a summit in Bahrain that was dominated by the ongoing Israeli war on Gaza. It also called for all Palestinian factions to come together under the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO) banner.

In a concluding statement following a meeting in Manama, the 22-member grouping called for “international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories” until a two-state solution is implemented.

It also adopted calls by host Bahrain’s King Hamad and Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas to “convene an international conference under the auspices of the United Nations, to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution”.

The meeting of Arab heads of state and government convened in Bahrain more than seven months into the conflict in Gaza that has shaken the wider region and threatened to spread. 

Having made headway towards establishing ties with Arab states in the last number of years, Israel has become increasingly isolated in recent months due to the level of death and destruction it has wrought in Gaza, and especially over its plans to invade the southern city of Rafah, where about 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

In a significant move earlier this week, Arab League member and Hamas-Israel negotiations mediator Egypt said it would formally intervene on the side of South Africa in its genocide case against Israel at the International Court of Justice.

Today in the Hague, Netherlands, South Africa urged the court to order Israel to halt its campaign and withdraw its forces from Gaza.

The hearings at the top UN court, which will resume tomorrow with the Israeli team’s arguments, came about due to a request by South Africa that the court take action before the Israeli military launches a ground operation in Rafah.

‘Open wound’

The league also separately, called for an “immediate” ceasefire in Gaza and an end to forced displacement in the Palestinian territory.

Abbas told the summit his rival Hamas gave Israel “pretexts and justifications” to wage war on Gaza with its 7 October attack.

Hamas voiced its “regret over the remarks” asserting the attack had “placed our Palestinian cause at the forefront of priorities, achieving strategic gains”.

It also welcomed the league’s final statement and urged “brotherly Arab states to take the necessary measures to compel the (Israeli) occupation to stop its aggression”.

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the Gaza war as “an open wound that threatens to infect the entire region”, calling for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”.

Guterres said “the only permanent way to end the cycle of violence and instability is through a two-state solution”.

In response to the calls for peacekeepers, a UN spokesman said any creation of a mission would be dependent on “a mandate from the Security Council” and “acceptance by the parties of the UN presence”.

This, the secretary-general’s deputy spokesman said, “is something that would need to be established and those are not things we take for granted”.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally and supplier of arms, would almost certainly use its veto power to prevent such a resolution from passing at the Security Council.

The so-called “Manama Declaration” issued by the Arab nations also urged “all Palestinian factions to join under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization”, which is dominated by Abbas’s ruling Fatah movement.

It added that it considered the PLO “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

 It is the first time the bloc has come together since an extraordinary summit in Riyadh, the capital of neighbouring Saudi Arabia, in November that also involved leaders from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

While in November leaders declined the approval of punitive steps against Israel, Kuwaiti analyst Zafer al-Ajmi told AFP the meeting in Manama differed from recent summits.

Western public opinion has become “more inclined to support the Palestinians and lift the injustice inflicted on them” since Israel’s creation more than 70 years ago, Ajmi said.

Meanwhile, Israel had failed to achieve its war objectives including destroying Hamas and was now mired in fighting, he said.

Red Sea attacks

The Arab League also condemned the attacks on ships in the Red Sea by the Houthis in Yemen. 

In a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza, Ansar Allah (the Houthis) have launched attacks on vital shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November. 

The summit in Bahrain “strongly condemned the attacks on commercial ships”, saying they “threaten freedom of navigation, international trade, and the interests of countries and peoples of the world”.

The declaration added the Arab nations’ commitment to “ensuring freedom of navigation in the Red Sea” and surrounding areas.

The Arab League was founded in 1945 and aims to improve regional cooperation. 

With reporting from AFP.

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