Arab League calls for peacekeepers in occupied Palestinian territories

The meeting convened in Bahrain more than seven months into the war on Gaza [Getty]

The Arab League on Thursday called for a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories at a summit dominated by Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip.

The meeting of Arab heads of state and government convened in Bahrain more than seven months into the war on Gaza that has convulsed the wider region.

The “Manama Declaration” issued by the 22-member bloc called for “international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories” until a two-state solution is implemented.

The declaration also called on “all Palestinian factions to join under the umbrella of the Palestine Liberation Organization,” which is dominated by Hamas’ political rivals, the ruling Fatah movement.

The Arab League added that it considered the PLO “the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people”.

The Gaza war broke out after Hamas led an attack on southern Israel which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures. About 250 others were also taken hostages, 128 of whom Israel estimates remain in Gaza, including 36 the military says are dead.

Hamas says the attack came in response to Israel’s decades-long occupation of Palestine and continued aggression against the Palestinian people, including the Gaza blockade in place since 2007.

Israel relentless air and ground campaign has since killed at least 35,272 people, mostly civilians, according to Gaza’s health ministry, and an Israeli siege has brought dire food shortages and the threat of famine.

In a campaign they say is in solidarity with Palestinians, Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have launched a flurry of attacks on vital shipping lanes in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden since November, warning they will attack any ships heading to Israel.

The summit in Bahrain “strongly condemned the attacks on commercial ships”, saying they “threaten freedom of navigation, international trade, and the interests of countries and peoples of the world”.

The declaration added the Arab nations’ commitment to “ensuring freedom of navigation in the Red Sea” and surrounding areas.

An Arab-Israeli war in 1967 saw Israel seize the Palestinian territories of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

Israel had annexed East Jerusalem, and successive Israeli governments have encouraged Jewish settlements in the Palestinian territories.

Under international law, the Palestinian territories remain occupied, and Israeli settlements in East Jerusalem and the West Bank are considered illegal.

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