• Abbas says Oct 7 gave Israel an excuse to attack Gaza
• ‘Friendly fire’ kills five Israeli soldiers

MANAMA / RAFAH: The Arab League on Thursday called for a UN peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories, even as Israel vowed to “intensify” its ground offensive in Rafah, in defiance of global warnings.

In its final statement following a meeting in Manama, the 22-member group called for “international protection and peacekeeping for­ces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories” until a two-state solution is implemented.

It also adopted calls by host Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa and Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas to “convene an international conference under the auspices of the UN, to resolve the Palestinian issue on the basis of the two-state solution”.

Speaking at the summit, UN Secretary General Antonio Gut­erres described the war in Gaza as “an open wound that threatens to infect the entire region”, adding that “the only permanent way to end the cycle of violence and instability is through a two-state solution”. It is the first time the bloc has come together since an extraordinary summit in Riyadh, capital of neighbouring Saudi Arabia, in November that also involved leaders from the 57-member OIC, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas told the summit his political rivals in Hamas gave Israel an excuse to wage war on Gaza with its October 7 attack from the Palestinian territory.

“The military operation carried out by Hamas by a unilateral decision on that day, October 7, provided Israel with more pretexts and justifications to attack the Gaza Strip,” he said.

The Palestinian president also complained his government has not received the financial support it had expected from international and regional partners.

‘Friendly fire’

The Israeli army said that five of its soldiers were killed in Jabalia on Wednesday when two Israeli tanks mistakenly shelled the building they were in.

“Five soldiers of the 202nd Paratrooper Battalion were killed last night in a mass casualty incident as a result of fire by our forces,” the military said.

On Thursday, Israel’s tanks pushed into the heart of Jabalia in northern Gaza as the US anchored a temporary floating pier to a beach in Gaza to boost aid deliveries.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2024

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