Arab League demands world investigates Israeli crimes
The Arab League on Thursday called for an international investigation into Israel’s killing of dozens of protesters on the Gaza border as its foreign ministers met in Cairo to discuss their response.
“We call for a credible international investigation into the crimes committed by the occupation,” Arab League chief Ahmed Abul Gheit said at an extraordinary meeting of the bloc to discuss the violence, which was called at the request of Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 60 Palestinians were shot dead on Monday during protests coinciding with the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. It was the deadliest single day of Israeli-Palestinian violence since the 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, the group that rules Gaza.
“We are facing a state of blatant aggression against international law and legitimacy which was embodied by the US embassy’s transfer in the occupying state to Jerusalem,” Mr Abul Gheit said.
Altogether Israeli forces have killed about 116 Palestinians since protests along Gaza’s border with Israel began six weeks ago. One Israeli soldier was reported wounded. Tens of thousands have taken part in the protests calling for Palestinian refugees to be able to return to homes now in Israel.
The Palestinian Foreign Minister, Riyad Al Maliki, called for Arab countries to recall their ambassadors to the United States in response to Washington moving its embassy to Jerusalem.
“There is no harm in Arab states collectively recalling their ambassadors in Washington to their capitals for consultations,” Mr Al Maliki said in Cairo.
He also suggested that members of the Arab League summon US ambassadors “to remind them of the Arab rejection” of the US move, which was made despite near-universal
consensus that the final status of the city should be decided in a peace settlement between the Palestinians and Israel.
Meanwhile, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will on Friday host an emergency summit in Istanbul of the world’s main pan-Islamic body, the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, which he said would send a “strong message to the world”.
Mr Erdogan, who also announced plans for a pro-Palestinian rally, has exchanged bitter accusations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, calling Israel an “apartheid state” and ordering the country’s ambassador to Turkey to leave.
The protests have dwindled since Monday, and the start of the Islamic holy month on Thursday may further dampen interest. Friday – the day protests usually peak – will be a test of whether this round of unrest will continue.
The demonstrations were meant to end on May 15, but Hamas officials have said they want them to continue.
Israel hit a Hamas base in an air raid on Thursday, saying gunfire from Gaza had targeted its soldiers and damaged a house. “The Israeli army struck targets belonging to Hamas in the northern Gaza Strip, including terrorist infrastructure and weapons-making facilities,” the military said.
Palestinian security sources said the target was a Hamas base. Hamas in a statement on Thursday signalled it could resort to its weapons in response to this week’s violence, but many analysts see that as unlikely for now.
“We stress to the Zionist enemy and its leaders that the resistance movements whose people are participating in this peaceful movement with all awareness and concern for our people can respond with all force,” it said.
The Arab foreign ministers’ meeting in Cairo came after Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El Sisi on Wednesday said his government was communicating with both sides “so that this bloodshed would stop”.
Israel has rejected criticism over Monday’s violence, with the United States strongly backing its ally and blaming Hamas for the deaths.
Hamas officials did not confirm the number of its members killed, but said any taking part were demonstrating peacefully.
Calls for an independent investigation into the deaths have come from many sides, including Britain, Germany, Canada and Switzerland.
UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres and the EU have also called for an independent investigation.