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Arab League calls for 'immediate' cease-fire in Gaza, establishment of Palestinian state

By Ehren Wynder
Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa makes a speech as he leads the 33rd Arab League Summit in Manama in Bahrain on Thursday. Photo by Bahrain News Agency/UPI
1 of 7 | Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa makes a speech as he leads the 33rd Arab League Summit in Manama in Bahrain on Thursday. Photo by Bahrain News Agency/UPI | License Photo

May 16 (UPI) -- Leaders at the 33rd Arab League summit on Thursday condemned the Israeli offensive in Gaza and called for the "immediate" withdrawal of forces from the region.

Bahrain's King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa presided over this year's summit, which took place in Bahrain's capital of Manama. The meeting covered numerous ongoing conflicts in Libya, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, in addition to the war in Gaza.

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Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who headed last year's summit, gave an opening speech in which he reiterated his country's support for the establishment of a Palestinian state and called on international leaders to halt the "Israeli aggression against Gaza."

The crown prince also noted Houthi rebel attacks on shipping vessels in the Red Sea and said it is essential to protect the area from actions that affect maritime commerce.

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Hamad stressed the need to adopt a unified Arab and international position to end the conflict in the Middle East and for "the full recognition of the State of Palestine and accepting its membership in the United Nations."

This year's Arab League summit comes against the backdrop of the Israeli war against Hamas in Gaza in response to the terror group's Oct. 7 attack, which killed more than 1,170 people in southern Israel.

Gaza's Health Ministry reported Israeli military operations have killed at least 35,272 people and created serious food shortages.

Also in attendance on Thursday were Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, King Abdullah II of Jordan, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar and United Arab Emirates Vice President and ruler of Dubai Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

Al-Sisi accused Israel of avoiding efforts to reach a cease-fire with Hamas and continuing its assault on Rafah along the Gaza-Egypt border.

He also accused Israel of using the Rafah border crossing "to tighten the siege on the Strip."

"[Egypt] renews its rejection of the displacement or forced displacement of Palestinians," he said.

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Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejoined the summit for a second time this year. The Arab League suspended Syria's membership in 2011 over the government's brutal treatment of Arab Spring protesters.

Also present was U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres, who called for an "immediate humanitarian cease-fire and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance throughout Gaza" and an "immediate and unconditional release of all hostages."

"In its speed and scale, it is the deadliest conflict in my time as Secretary-General - for civilians, aid workers, journalists and our own U.N. colleagues," he said of the Gaza war.

Thursday's summit was the second Arab League gathering since the launch of the Israeli campaign into Gaza.

Just a month after the outbreak of the war, Riyadh hosted an emergency summit where leaders rejected Israel's claims that it was acting in self defense and called on the U.N. Security Council to adopt "a decisive and binding resolution" to halt the operation.

The agenda for Thursday's summit also covered joint Arab action in the political, economic, social, cultural, media and security fields.

Participants also adopted the "Bahrain Declaration," a proposal drafted on Tuesday calling for a U.N.-backed international peace conference on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to be held in Manama.

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Attendees also discussed reactivating the Arab Peace Initiative, which Saudi Arabia proposed and was adopted at the 2002 league summit.

The initiative proposes full diplomatic relations with Israel and Arab states in exchange for Israel withdrawing from Palestinian territories occupied in 1967 and the establishment of a Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders.

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