Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler on Friday denounced the conduct of Israeli forces fighting Hamas in Gaza, ahead of weekend summits that will focus on the unfolding violence in the Palestinian territory.
“We condemn the military aggression witnessed in the Gaza Strip, the targeting of civilians, and the continued violations of international humanitarian law by the Israeli occupation forces,” Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman told a summit with African leaders, his first public comments on the Israel-Hamas war.
“We stress the necessity of stopping this war and forced displacement and creating conditions for the return of stability and achieving peace.”
On October 7, Hamas gunmen stormed across the heavily militarised border from the Gaza Strip to kill more than 1,400 people in southern Israel and take around 240 hostages, according to Israeli officials.
Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel retaliated with an aerial bombing and ground offensive that the health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip says has killed more than 11,000 people, nearly half of them children.
The war has derailed progress towards a normalisation deal between Israel and Saudi Arabia, which Prince Mohammed said in September was drawing “closer” every day.
Riyadh has repeatedly criticised attacks on civilians in statements, though Prince Mohammed had not publicly addressed them before Friday.
His comments at the Saudi-Africa summit came one day before the Gulf kingdom hosts two emergency meetings on the fighting in Gaza — of the Arab League and the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation.
Moussa Faki Mahamat, chairman of the African Union Commission, on Friday also condemned the “obscene violence” afflicting Palestinians.
“We call for a real and practical leap to stop the immediate destruction of Gaza and the killing of thousands of its people in order to give a strong impetus to a political solution by adopting the two-state solution,” he said. The Saudi-Africa summit’s final declaration voiced “deep concern” about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, called for an end to military operations and urged the international community to apply pressure “to stop Israeli attacks and the forced displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip”. Prince Mohammed also told the summit that Saudi Arabia would make $25 billion in investments in Africa by 2030, nearly doubling the amount invested in the last decade, according to the official Saudi Press Agency. SPA adds from Paris: Prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan, the Saudi minister of culture, denounced the ongoing “unjustifiable” attacks on civilians and public facilities in Gaza at the 42nd session of UNESCO’s General Conference in Paris.
“We strongly condemn the continuous attacks on civilians and the destruction of schools, hospitals, and cultural properties in the Gaza Strip and the occupied Palestinian territories,” the minister said at the conference on Friday.
He described these actions as “unjustifiable violations that are contrary to international norms and laws.”
The minister said the Kingdom’s condemnation of these practices is based on “UNESCO’s founding charter, which promotes international understanding as a prerequisite for preventing the recurrence of crimes, genocides, racism, and wars.”
He added: “Hence, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia calls for intensified international efforts to protect the rights of civilians in a way that contributes to the achievement of global peace and stability.”
Prince Badr, also chairman of the Saudi National Commission for Education, Culture and Science, expressed the Kingdom’s pride in its achievements over the past two years, which he attributed to the contributions of UNESCO and its member states in fostering international cooperation.
He also credited the Saudi leadership for its efforts to promote education, culture, and science, adding that Saudi Arabia has mobilized all its capabilities to achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
The minister highlighted Saudi Arabia’s eagerness to actively participate in the various executive councils of UNESCO’s programs.
He spoke on the fruitful partnership between Saudi Arabia and UNESCO and the launch of six pioneering projects through the Cultural Development Fund to positively impact cultural heritage around the world.
This fruitful cooperation resulted in Saudi Arabia’s hosting of the 45th session of the World Heritage Committee, during which 42 new world heritage sites were inscribed, he said.
He further highlighted Saudi efforts in the cultural sector, including the launch of the Islamic World Cultural Index Project in cooperation with the Islamic World Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The minister also spoke about the Kingdom’s achievements in digital competitiveness and artificial intelligence.
“We are proud to establish the Riyadh-based UNESCO’s International Center of AI Research and Ethics to improve capacity and the legislative data which reflects the Kingdom’s pioneering role in the field,” he said.
He expressed appreciation for UNESCO’s efforts in promoting world peace, building bridges for intercultural dialogue, and launching development, cultural and scientific initiatives to achieve the SDGs.
Source: Saudi Press Agency