Arab leaders meet highlights urgency in Gaza crisis

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Arab leaders meet highlights urgency in Gaza crisis

Sunday, 19 November 2023 | Makhan Saikia

Arab leaders meet highlights urgency in Gaza crisis

The Islamic-Arab leaders’ summit in Riyadh underscored the dire situation in Gaza, calling for an end to Israel’s actions. Despite initial success, Hamas faces Israeli military superiority. The UNHRC seeks an investigation, while Israel plans long-term security in Gaza. The summit's impact on peace appears uncertain without US intervention.

The Islamic-Arab leaders’ summit in Riyadh last week once again reminded the international community of the grim situation in Gaza. Currently, as the situation unfolds, there is no end in sight for the people of Gaza. By now, more than 11,500 people have lost their lives in Gaza. These include mainly civilians and thousands of children, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in the Gaza Strip.

This crucial summit was convened by the de facto leader of Saudi Arabia, Crown Prince Muhammed bin Salman, popularly known as MBS, the capital city of the country. It was attended by all the high-profile leaders from the Islamic-Arab nations. The attendees included Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas. All of them together rejected Israel’s justifications for its actions against the Palestinians as self-defense.

The summit urged the International Criminal Court (ICC) to investigate the war crimes committed by Israel in the Palestinian territories. Saudi Arabia pressed the US and Israel to bring an end to the war. MBS once again affirmed the kingdom’s condemnation and categorical rejection of this barbaric war against its brothers in Palestine. Mahmoud Abbas said that the Palestinians are facing a “genocidal war” and urged the US to end the Israeli aggression.

The most significant aspect of the meeting was that Raisi hailed Hamas for attacking Israel and asked the Islamic nations to impose oil and goods sanctions on Israel. He also said, “We kiss the hands of Hamas for its resistance against Israel.” Erdogan called for an international peace conference to put a permanent end to the conflict.

However, three important things have come out clear from the summit: first, the Palestinian issue has remained at the centre; second, though the US-led efforts so far have failed to bring between the Israelis and the Palestinians, yet, Washington has remained the sole guarantor of peace and security in the region; and finally, Hamas, though initially successful in launching the attack, could not survive the superior military might of the Israelis as of now.

The worst part of the Israel-Hamas war is that most of the victims are innocent civilians. And they are not a party to this conflict. They are being punished simply because they are living in Gaza. They are caught in the quagmire. They are struggling for basic needs and looking for safety. Only a humanitarian pause will not ensure them respite from this bloody war. It demands a permanent end to this crisis.

Every single day, Israel and its allies are reinforcing and validating their agenda. It redoubles Netanyahu’s aggressive campaign against Hamas. Though the very foundation of “self-defence” against the brutal attack launched by Hamas on October 7 over South Israel has been repeated by Tel Aviv for more than a month now, the international community must estimate the growing humanitarian crisis in North Gaza by now.

What the UN Human Rights Commission is doing so far? UNHRC chief Volker Turk decried all allegations of serious rights violations in the war between Israel and Hamas. He demanded that there should be an international investigation to look into the instances of rights violations. After a visit to West Asia, Turk expressed anguish over the current situation and said that both sides were committing war crimes. He said, “Extremely serious allegations of multiple and profound breaches of international humanitarian law, whoever commits them, demand rigorous investigation and full accountability.”

Further, while briefing UN Member States at Geneva, he said, “Where national authorities prove unwilling or unable to carry out such investigations and where there are contested narratives on particularly significant incidents, international investigation is called for.” But the reality is that it would be an uphill task to carry out an international investigation without the permission of Israel. And for persuading the big powers and to finally make both the parties agree to a set of comprehensive terms and conditions seem to be unattainable at the moment.

He urged for an immediate ceasefire and called on all parties to acknowledge the equal value of all human beings. He is deeply concerned that the conflict is fast expanding beyond Gaza Strip. And as per the latest reports, the Israeli forces have already dropped leaflets warning Palestinians to flee some parts of southern Gaza. If the conflict extends to this part of Gaza wherein thousands coming from North Gaza are living in UN-run shelters, the humanitarian cost of the war might be inconceivable.

The role and responsibility of the UN Security Council (UNSC) are being questioned over the fast-deteriorating situation in Gaza.

The top UN body for security has not been able to halt the crisis after more than six weeks now. As death and despair rain down on Gaza, the UNSC is fighting to hammer out a solution at the earliest. But the deadlock continues among the Big Five, and so far, no consensus is emerging. It is learned that Malta’s Ambassador to the UN Venessa Frazier has already circulated a new resolution among the members of the UNSC. It is hoped that after a series of failed attempts and vetoed resolutions either by one or the other permanent members, this one might make its way to bringing peace in Gaza.

The message emerging from Netanyahu is not very optimistic. He clarified that Israel would be at risk of another major attack if it did not remain engaged in the Palestinian enclave, i.e., the Gaza Strip. That means the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) will not vacate the already occupied stretches of the North Gaza, fearing once vacated, the Hamas might regroup and plan future combat operations against Israel. Now, Netanyahu has made it very clear to the international community that after the war, his country will manage “overall security” in the Gaza Strip simply to avoid any future offensive from Hamas.

Thus, he said, “Israel will, for an indefinite period, have the overall security responsibility because we have seen what happens when we don’t have it. When we don’t have that security responsibility, what we have is the eruption of Hamas terror on a scale that we could not imagine.”

It indicates Israel’s future plans in the clearest terms ever, and once again, the Gaza Strip will witness an uneasy situation after the war. Interestingly, Yair Lapid, the main Opposition leader in Israel, also quickly endorsed the plans unveiled by Netanyahu.

It shows how the major political parties are in support of retaking Gaza but in a new style, in the name of fighting terror and bringing back peace and normalcy for the Palestinians in this enclave. Previously, the Israeli forces occupied Gaza for 38 years and vacated only in 2005 largely because of strong Palestinian resistance. And today, US President Joe Biden is already sending warning signals to Israel that it would be a mistake for them to reoccupy Gaza.

For now, Netanyahu is making it clear that who should govern Gaza in the future is a different question but only that they be “those who do not want to continue the ways of Hamas”. In fact, Lapid also spoke out that the Palestinian Authority, which administers the Israeli-occupied West Bank, could once again govern the Gaza Strip once the war is over. Incidentally, the erstwhile Palestinian National Liberation Movement founded by Yasser Arafat in 1959 to establish Palestine as an independent state, now known as Fatah, headed by Mahmoud Abbas, was dethroned by the Hamas from the Gaza Strip in the general elections of the enclave in 2006. Since 2007, Hamas has been ruling the enclave and running their administration over it. So, now bringing back the Fatah administration over the Gaza Strip could be a new beginning and that too under the strict security surveillance of the IDF.

In this scenario, can we expect that the Islamic-Arab leaders’ crucial meeting will make any headway towards permanent peace or even for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza? To me, it is just not possible because Israel is in no mood to stop its aggression against the Hamas militants.

By now, it has decided to root out the Hamas military machine and it is damaging it on a daily basis. And this time, unlike the previous instances, the IDF may have to fight a combination of three groups-the Hamas, the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ), and Hezbollah. It is a new war game, but the theater is an old one for all the enemies.

Finally, Israelis, the Palestinians, and the rest of the residents of West Asia are no stranger to such conflicts. Since Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in 2005, the Zionist state has waged many battles against Gaza: once in 2008 that lasted for 22 days, in 2012 which was for 8 days, in 2014 for 50 days, and in 2021 for 11 days. But this war against Hamas is significant as it indicated to the international community the complete failure of Israel’s impenetrable security and one of the most advanced intelligence systems since the 19-day Yom Kippur War of 1973, almost 50 years back.

Tel Aviv will learn a lesson from the October 7 Hamas attack and will prepare itself accordingly against all its future enemies. Keeping this scenario in mind, we can say that unless the US and other western nations seriously intervene, the Islamic-Arab efforts and veiled threats to Israel will not end in either negotiating an immediate ceasefire or an abrupt end of the bloody war.

(The writer is currently president of the Global Research Foundation)  

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