Arab leaders head to Bahrain for Gaza focused summit

Mohamed Shalaby - | Arab

The Israel-Hamas conflict, which has been raging in the Gaza Strip with little sign of a ceasefire, is the main topic of discussion for Arab leaders assembling in Bahrain on Thursday for a summit.

Wednesday saw the arrival of heads of state and government in Manama, the Gulf nation's capital, where the 22 members of the Arab League's flags were flying.

This marks the first time the bloc has convened since an unprecedented summit in November that took place in Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia's neighbor, and included leaders of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which is headquartered in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia.

Despite growing indignation in the region and broad support for the Palestinian cause, leaders at that summit declined to take punishing economic and political steps against the country, while denouncing the “barbaric” acts of Israeli forces in Gaza.

This time, according to Kuwaiti expert Zafer al-Ajmi, that might change if support for the two-state solution, which has long been supported by Arab nations, grows internationally.

Since Israel's founding more than 70 years ago, Ajmi claimed, public opinion in the West has grown “more inclined to support the Palestinians and lift the injustice inflicted on them”.

He claimed that Israel has been stuck in combat for more than seven months and has not been able to accomplish its war goals, which included eliminating Hamas.

An AFP calculation of Israeli official numbers indicates that more than 1,170 people, largely civilians, were killed in Hamas's October 7 strike on southern Israel, which precipitated the start of the conflict.

About 250 captives were also taken by the terrorists; of these, Israel thinks that 128 are still in Gaza, 36 of whom the IDF claims are dead.

According to the health ministry of Gaza, which is managed by Hamas, Israel's military reaction has killed at least 35,233 people, most of them civilians. Additionally, an Israeli siege has resulted in severe food shortages and the possibility of famine.

Nearly 500,000 people have been evacuated from the southern Gaza city of Rafah, according to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is determined to pursue the last few Hamas battalions there in spite of US President Joe Biden's reservations.

Additionally, he refuted assertions that Israeli actions in that region would result in a “humanitarian catastrophe,” despite the fact that the majority of the world community is still adamantly against an invasion of Rafah.

Ajmi stated that "the tone of Arab countries has changed" in light of this and the mediator Qatar's description of negotiations on a truce and hostage release agreement as approaching a deadlock. This suggests that the summit's final statement may contain "binding" measures.

Following a conference in Bahrain, one of two Gulf nations, along with the United Arab Emirates, to normalize ties with Israel in 2020 under the US-brokered Abraham Accords, the message would be particularly potent.

Arab leaders are anticipated to talk about wars in Sudan, Libya, Yemen, and Syria, where President Bashar al-Assad is scheduled to participate after rejoining the Arab community last year. These discussions will extend beyond the Israel-Hamas conflict.

As a show of support for Palestinians, the Houthis of Yemen have attacked ships in the Red Sea, and Mahmeed al-Mahmeed, a journalist and analyst from Bahrain, stated that this might also be on the agenda.

Bahrain joined a Washington-organized marine coalition to fend off the assaults.

According to Mahmeed, "the importance of these crucial sea lanes extends beyond the countries in the region to the global economy."

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Mohamed Shalaby
Mohamed Shalaby
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