Arab-Islamic summit rejects justifying Gaza war as Israeli self-defence

Saudi Arabia and Muslim countries called on Saturday for an immediate end to military operations in Gaza at a joint Islamic-Arab summit in Riyadh, rejecting the justification of the war as Israeli self-defense.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, gathered Arab and Muslim leaders for the summit as the kingdom has sought to exert its influence to press the United States and Israel for an end to hostilities in Gaza.

Prince Mohammed affirmed the kingdom’s absolute rejection of what he described as a “barbaric war against our brothers in Palestine.”

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Palestinians are facing a “genocidal war” and called on the United States to end Israeli “aggression.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called for an international peace conference to find a permanent solution to the conflict between Israel and Palestinians.

“Israel is trying to exact revenge for the Oct.7 attacks, which perhaps many of us do not approve of, by killing innocents and children and women,” Erdogan said.

“We consider the international peace conference an important groundwork. Efforts must be taken to preserve the peace. We are ready to make the necessary efforts, including the proposal of acting as Palestine’s guarantor,” he said.

Qatar’s Emir said his country, where several Hamas leaders are based, is seeking to mediate the release of Israeli hostages and hopes a humanitarian truce would be reached soon.

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi hailed the Palestinian group Hamas for its war against Israel and urged Islamic countries to impose oil and goods sanctions on Israel.

“The cutting of any sort of political and economic relations with the Zionist regime by Islamic countries. In this context, a trade boycott against the Zionist regime, especially in the energy field, should be prioritized. We should also support national movements to boycott Israeli goods,” Raisi said.

“We should kiss the hands and arms of Hamas for its resistance,” he added.

The war in Gaza has upended traditional Middle East alliances as Riyadh has engaged more closely with Iran, pushed back against U.S. pressure to condemn Hamas and put on hold its plans to normalise ties with Israel.

Raisi’s trip to Saudi Arabia is the first by an Iranian head of state in more than a decade. Tehran and Riyadh ended years of hostility under a Chinese-brokered deal in March.

The kingdom had been scheduled to host two extraordinary summits, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and the Arab League, on Saturday and Sunday. The joint summit will replace the two gatherings in light of the “extraordinary” Gaza situation, the Saudi Foreign ministry said.

Hamas had called on the summit to take “a historic and decisive decision and move to stop the Zionist aggression immediately.”