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Our Correspondent

The Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) on May 17 called for an immediate halt to what it termed Israel’s “barbaric” attacks on Gaza and blamed “systematic crimes” against the Palestinians for hostilities now.

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud opened the OIC meeting by urging the global community to end the escalation in violence and revive peace negotiations based on a two-state solution.

Saudi Arabia condemned the violation of the sanctity of Muslim holy sites and evictions of Palestinians from their homes in East Jerusalem.

The 57-member body accused the United Nations Security Council of inertia in the virtual meeting. Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the UAE called for a ceasefire.

“De-escalation and the highest degree of restraint are important to avoid dragging the region to new levels of instability,” said UAE Minister of State for International Cooperation Reem Al Hashimy.

Pre-dawn Israeli strikes in Gaza City brought the death toll in Gaza to 181, including 47 children, according to health officials. Israel reported 10 dead, including two children.

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Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu called for an international protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians. He told the OIC that Israel should be held accountable for war crimes and that the International Criminal Court could play a role.

Iranian foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif urged the international community to start a “political and legislative” campaign against Israel, said Iranian state media.

Jordan’s King Abdullah said his kingdom is engaged in intensive diplomacy to halt the Israeli military escalation.

UN Security Council meeting ends without concrete action

Members of the United Nations Security Council met virtually on May 16 to deliberate on the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Council meeting was attended by several Foreign Ministers and ambassadors.

Describing the hostilities as “utterly appalling”, UN Secretary-General Antonio Gutteres said fighting must stop and appealed to all parties to heed the call.

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“The fighting risks dragging Israelis and Palestinians into a spiral of violence with devastating consequences for both communities and for the entire region,” he said. “It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole, potentially creating a new locus of dangerous instability.”

The UN chief stressed that the only way forward is to return to negotiations towards a two-State solution, but the fighting is making this goal even more challenging.

At the meeting, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations TS Tirumurti asked the two countries to immediately resume direct dialogue and said that New Delhi supports the two-state solution.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour wondered how many Palestinian lives it would take for the international community to intervene. The conflict, he said, isn’t between quarrelling neighbours but is about colonialism.

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China, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said the United States had blocked its efforts for “strong action” — and invited Israelis and Palestinians to come to the negotiating table.

“Regrettably, simply because of the obstruction of one country, the Security Council hasn’t been able to speak with one voice,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

The Biden administration has insisted that it is working behind the scenes, including through a visit to the region by an envoy, and that a UN statement could backfire.