Arab leaders and Iran’s president met in Saudi Arabia on Saturday and roundly denounced Israel’s conduct in its Gaza campaign against Hamas, as worries increase that the conflict may pull in additional countries, news agency AFP reported. The Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) emergency conference follows Hamas terrorists’ horrific October 7 assault, which Israeli police believe killed around 1,200 people, largely civilians, and took 239 hostages.
Saudi Arabia, the summit’s host, “confirms that it holds the occupation (Israeli) authorities responsible for the crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” said Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, as the conference opened on Saturday. “We are certain that the only way to guarantee security, peace and stability in the region is to end the occupation, siege and the settlements,” he was quoted by AFP in its report.
On his first visit to Saudi Arabia since the two nations normalised relations in March, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Islamic countries should label the Israeli army a “terrorist organisation” for its actions in Gaza.
Speaking with Al Jazeera, the head of Dar al-Shifa hospital Mohammad abu Salmiya stated: “We are totally cut off from the whole world, we are minutes away from imminent death.”
The hospital is the largest in the Gaza Strip and the backbone of the besieged territory’s medical system, as well as a refuge for an estimated 15,000 people.
Tens of thousands more Palestinians escaped the compound overnight, some walking miles to the south of Gaza, as an Israeli air assault got closer to the massive complex west of Gaza City, encircling it with tanks and snipers.
“The hospital compound is cordoned off and the buildings of the hospital are targeted. Any moving person within the compound is targeted,” said Abu Salmiya.
According to him, Israeli troops stayed just outside the compound, preventing anyone inside from leaving.
Officials at the hospital stated they no longer had access to water, power, or medical supplies, leaving the institution unable to maintain crucial life support systems. According to remarks from the Palestinian health ministry spokesperson, Ashraf al-Qidra, one infant died within the critical care unit at al-Shifa hospital owing to a lack of oxygen supply, with 39 more at risk of death inside incubators.
Qidra and other members of the health ministry were besieged inside al-Shifa, along with medics and patients. He said that Israeli soldiers were “firing on people moving inside the complex, limiting our ability to move from one department to another.”
Speaking with Reuters, he stated: “The situation is worse than anyone can imagine. We are besieged inside the al-Shifa medical complex, and the occupation has targeted most of the buildings inside.”
In a news conference on Friday, Israel Defence soldiers spokesperson Lt Col Richard Hecht denied that Israeli soldiers had targeted the hospital. Israeli officials have claimed that Hamas operates from bunkers beneath al-Shifa, which hospital personnel and Hamas militants strongly dispute.
Israeli officials lowered the dead toll from the 7 October attack by Hamas terrorists on Israeli cities and kibbutzim along the Gaza border from 1,400 to 1,200 on Friday. Since then, an estimated 240 persons have been kept captive in the Gaza Strip.
According to Palestinian officials, Israeli airstrikes on Gaza have killed over 11,000 Palestinians and injured at least 25,000 more. The highest-ranking US State Department official for the Middle East, Barbara Leaf, told Congress last week that the real death toll was likely “higher than is being cited.”
(With Inputs From Agencies)