Arab League de­mands world in­ves­ti­gates Is­raeli crimes

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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.

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