News / Middle East

Saudi Arabia Labels Israel's Gaza Offensive a 'War Crime'

FILE - Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.
FILE - Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz al-Saud.

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel's offensive and describing this as a war crime and "state-sponsored terrorism''.

Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.

"We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,'' Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.|

"This [international] community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification.''

His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from Islamist militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh's quiet response to the Gaza crisis.

Political complications

The kingdom's policy towards Gaza is complicated by its mistrust of the territory's ruling Hamas, an Islamist movement with close ideological and political links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh regards as a terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia believes the Brotherhood has a region-wide agenda to seize power from established government leaders, including the kingdom's al-Saud dynasty, and has quarreled with Qatar over its support for the group.

Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said the speech was a bid to rebut accusations that Saudi Arabia - along with allies Egypt and the UAE - was happy to see Hamas weakened by Israel's offensive, which was prompted in part by increasing Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel.

"People want to see a stronger position from these three countries and it is not coming over very strongly,'' he said.

 The kingdom's muted response to the crisis so far has been echoed across a region already absorbed by a series of civil wars, insurgencies and internal political strife that have erupted in the aftermath of the 2011 Arab uprisings.

Since the Israeli air and ground onslaught began, Saudi Arabia's public expressions of condemnation over the violence have been mostly limited to statements following the weekly cabinet meetings, and to pledges of humanitarian aid.

 Newspaper coverage, which often follows the official line in Saudi Arabia, has often relegated the conflict to inside pages in sharp contrast to previous Israeli incursions into Gaza.

Some editorials have taken the rare step of blaming Hamas
 for the bloodshed, in which 1,509 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed, rather than Israel. There have been 66 Israeli deaths, 63 of them soldiers.

Riyadh took a far more prominent role at past junctures of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It sponsored the 2002 Arab peace initiative offering the Jewish state an end to conflict with all Arab states in return for the creation of a Palestinian state and return of Palestinian refugees. Israel rejected it.

 Since the offensive began, however, King Abdullah has met Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Qatar's Emir Sheik Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and U.N. Secretary General Ban ki-Moon to discuss the crisis.

Cease-fire collapse

The conflict in Gaza has coincided with Saudi attempts to navigate multiple regional crises, including political chaos in Egypt, two separate insurgencies in its neighbor Yemen and wars in Iraq and Syria.

This regional turmoil is set against Saudi Arabia's bitter rivalry with Shi'ite power Iran and its fears of rising influence exerted by Sunni militant groups the Islamic State and Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, which seek to topple the al-Saud dynasty.

In his speech, Abdullah condemned militants who he said were killing innocent people and mutilating their bodies in contravention of Islamic teachings.

He also called on the region's leaders and religious scholars to prevent Islam from being hijacked by militants.

He further said he was disappointed by the lack of any follow-up from other countries to his proposal two years ago to establish an international center to combat terrorism.

 Israel declared a Gaza ceasefire over on Friday only hours after it was announced, saying Hamas militants violated the pact 90 minutes after it took effect and apparently captured an Israeli officer while killing two other soldiers.

The truce was the most ambitious attempt yet to end the fighting and followed increasing international alarm over the soaring Palestinian civilian death toll. 

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Comment Sorting
by: concern citizen from: USA
August 04, 2014 11:23 AM
These spineless corrupt leaders should not be given a platform to discuss the palestinian problem or comments on it. The palestinians are civilized community under occupation and these thugs collaborate with Israel in exchange of few prostitutes. Shame

by: Bola Saka from: ilorin,nigeria
August 02, 2014 4:53 AM
many comentators are ignorant.No body is asking israel to open her border with Gaza bt the international water of cannot compare rafah border with the inermational border that close by israel
In Response

by: Xaaji Dhagax from: Somalia
August 03, 2014 2:39 AM
Godwin, your comparison of Boko Haram to Hamas is not sincere.
Boko Haram is a Nigerian terrorist organisation, while Hamas is not Israeli terrorist inc. But Hamas was created, funded and constructed by the government of Israel. The conscious world should blame Israel for that. Whoever creates terrorist organisation should be labelled as a terrorist state.
Israeli's right of self defense does not give Israel the right to kill civilians and children.
In Response

by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 02, 2014 1:05 PM
Bola, will you open up the borders of the international waters to boko haram even though you're a muslim? Just imagine the menace boko haram is in Nigeria and compare it with what Hamas means to Israel out there. That's how it is. Please be sensible for once and be sincere; it's Israel's right to exist, which Hamas denies them, and which is the obstacle to the Middle East peace. But God blesses Israel to be stronger than its enemies, thus it seizes its enemy's international borders until it learns to embrace peace. I am of the opinion, and you agree with me, that unless Hamas seeks peace with Israel, it is bound for destruction, even self destruction.

by: Faiyaz Ahmed S M from: India
August 02, 2014 12:16 AM
If Saudi Arabia wishes the war to end and killings to stop, the first and foremost thing it has to do is to tell its closest ally and protégé to open the Rafah border and lift the illegal siege on Gaza. Why blame Israel alone when Egypt and The Kingdom are in cahoots with that country in denying Palestinians their rights and a chance to live with dignity?

by: jose d. martinez from: hawaii
August 02, 2014 12:01 AM
let's see in your country king common women are given the same human right's as common men ,right ? then your custom of female genital mutilation,that they can not enjoy being what God made them,women.those are a few thing's you should think about.sweep your floor first,the terrorist's are at your border's and in your cities.

by: Amin from: Texas
August 01, 2014 5:05 PM
The Gaza blockade at Rafah wouldn't exist were it not for Saudi backed Sisi!

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