Arab League calls for UN peacekeepers in occupied Palestinian territory

Arab leaders accuse Israel of obstructing Gaza ceasefire efforts and demand an end to its war on Palestinian territory.

Arab League
Bahrain's Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani speaks as Secretary-General of the Arab League Ahmed Aboul Gheit looks on during a news conference after the 33rd Arab Summit, in Manama, Bahrain [Hamad Mohammed/Reuters]

The Arab League has called for a United Nations peacekeeping force in the occupied Palestinian territory at a summit dominated by Israel’s continuing deadly assault of the Gaza Strip.

The meeting of Arab heads of state and government convened in Bahrain on Tuesday more than seven months into Israel’s offensive in Gaza that has convulsed the wider region.

The “Manama Declaration” issued by the 22-member bloc called for “international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories” until a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict is implemented.

It called for an immediate end to fighting in the Gaza Strip and blamed Israeli “obstruction” for failed negotiations for a ceasefire.

“We stress the need to stop the Israeli aggression against the Gaza Strip immediately, withdraw the Israeli occupation forces from all areas of the Strip [and] lift the siege imposed on it,” the statement said.

The statement blamed Israel for the war continuing.

“We strongly condemn Israel’s obstruction of cease-fire efforts in the Gaza Strip and its continued military escalation by expanding its aggression against the Palestinian city of Rafah, despite international warnings of the disastrous humanitarian consequences,” it said.

President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt, mediating between Hamas and Israel along with Qatar and the United States, also said Israel was evading efforts to reach a ceasefire.

“Those who think that security and military solutions are able to secure interests or achieve security [are] delusional,” el-Sisi told the summit before its conclusion.

In Gaza’s southern city of Rafah, a widely criticised Israeli ground operation is under way. More than a million displaced Palestinians had sought shelter in the area, after they were forced to flee their homes in other parts of Gaza that had come under intense Israeli bombardment since October. Approximately 600,000 people have fled the area since Israel launched its assault earlier this month, according to the UN.

The Arab League statement also reiterated a longstanding call for a two-state solution along Israel’s borders before the 1967 war, with East Jerusalem as the Palestinian capital.

The declaration called on “all Palestinian factions to join under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO),” which is dominated by Hamas’s political rivals, Fatah.

The Arab League said it considered the PLO “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

Israel’s assault has killed at least 35,272 people, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry, and severe Israeli restrictions on food, water, fuel and humanitarian supplies has caused dire food shortages and the threat of famine to spread from the north to the south.

 

The Arab League also “strongly condemned the attacks on commercial ships”, referring to dozens of attacks on vital shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden launched by Yemen’s Houthi rebels.

The Iran-aligned Houthis say they are attacking ships linked to Israel in solidarity with Palestinians in Gaza. The Arab League said the attacks “threaten freedom of navigation, international trade, and the interests of countries and peoples of the world”.

The declaration added the Arab nations’ commitment to “ensuring freedom of navigation in the Red Sea” and surrounding areas.

The Arab League was founded in 1945 to promote regional cooperation and resolve disputes. However, it is widely seen as toothless and has long struggled to help solve conflicts in the region.

An Arab-Israeli war in 1967 saw Israel seize the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel had annexed East Jerusalem, and successive Israeli governments have encouraged the construction of settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Under international law, the Palestinian territories remain occupied, and Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are considered illegal.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies