From right: His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates, King Hamad bin Eisa Al Khalifa of Bahrain, Prince Mohammed bin Salman bin Abdul Aziz, Crown Prince, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defence of Saudi Arabia, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, Sayyed Fahd bin Mahmoud Al Said, Deputy Prime Minister for Cabinet Affairs of Oman, Salem Abdullah Al Jaber Al Sabah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Kuwait and Jasem Mohammed Al Budaiwi, Secretary General of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), during the 44th session of the Supreme Council of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) in Doha on Decmber 5, 2023.. Image Credit: WAM

DOHA: Dubai: Leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) on Tuesday reiterated their unwavering support for Palestinians and underlined an urgent need for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip.

In a final communique issued at the conclusion of the 44th GCC Summit in Doha, the leaders of the six-nation bloc cautioned about the severe repercussions should the Israeli aggression persist. Their collective stance remains steadfast in advocating for the cessation of the Israeli occupation and upholding the imperative of a two-state solution.

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The statement issued a warning against the perilous escalation of hostilities in Gaza, highlighting the potential expansion of the conflict’s impact if the war remains unchecked.

The leaders also urged the international community to interfere and secure an immediate ceasefire and ensure the protection of Palestinians.

President His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan led the UAE delegation to summit.

Need to end occupation

In his remarks, Sheikh Mohamed said: ''In light of ongoing tensions in the region and the increasing intensity of the war in Gaza, the UAE has worked with its partners to reach an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and provide protection for civilians, avoid the expansion of the conflict that threatens regional stability and security, and identify a political horizon for a comprehensive peace."

He appreciated the efforts by Qatar, alongside Egypt and the US, to reach a temporary truce, leading to the release of detainees, and increase the delivery of humanitarian aid to Gaza Strip.

Sheikh Mohamed said: “While we regret that the truce has not continued, we urge further efforts to achieve a ceasefire. We also stress that the top priority remains providing humanitarian support and ensuring safe, sustained, and safe humanitarian corridors to respond to the increasing needs of civilians in the Gaza Strip.”

Sheikh Mohamed said the history of the conflict has proven that repeated escalation and confrontation cannot be stopped without a political and a just, lasting, and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian issue. He emphasised that the UAE stresses the need to end Israeli occupation of all Palestinian lands and establish an independent Palestinian state.

Erdogan with GCC leaders. Image Credit: WAM

The summit was also attended by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Upon his arrival at Hamad International Airport, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Emir of Qatar, received Sheikh Mohamed and the accompanying delegation. During a brief meeting in the VIP Hall, both leaders engaged in a cordial exchange of discussions.

Earlier opening the summit, Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani called on the UN Security Council to force Israel to return to the negotiating table over the war in Gaza, saying the inaction by the international community in halting the conflict was “shameful.”

It's shameful

“It is shameful for the international community to allow this heinous crime to continue for nearly two months, during which the systematic and deliberate killing of innocent civilians continues, including women and children,” Sheikh Tamim said in a speech at the summit.

He said Qatar is pressing for a comprehensive end to the war in Gaza and is working to repair a collapsed truce agreement between Israel and Hamas.

“We are constantly working to renew (the truce) and to alleviate the burden of our people in the Gaza Strip, but truces are not an alternative for a comprehensive ceasefire,” Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani said in his speech to Gulf leaders.

Qatar, where several political leaders of Hamas are based, has been leading negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian militant group.

Those talks led to a truce that ultimately lasted for seven days before hostilities resumed on Friday. During the truce, Hamas released dozens of hostages held in Gaza in exchange for hundreds of Palestinian prisoners, and Israel allowed humanitarian aid to flow into the coastal enclave.

Israel battles Hamas

In southern Gaza, Israeli troops battled Hamas militants after expanding their offensive deeper into the besieged territory, with warnings that an "even more hellish scenario" was unfolding for trapped civilians.

Israel had initially focused its offensive on the north of the territory, but the army is now also dropping leaflets on parts of the south, telling Palestinian civilians there to flee to other areas.

Israeli tanks, armoured personnel carriers and bulldozers were seen on Monday near the southern Gaza city of Khan Yunis, which is packed with civilians who fled their homes further north in the territory earlier in the war, witnesses told AFP.

Rocket salvos were again fired from Gaza towards Israeli territory.

As the war spreads, international aid organisations have warned that civilians in the densely populated territory are running out of places to flee to.

"Nowhere is safe in Gaza and there is nowhere left to go," said Lynn Hastings, UN humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories.

"If possible, an even more hellish scenario is about to unfold, one in which humanitarian operations may not be able to respond," Hastings said in a statement.

'Like an earthquake' 

In the city of Rafah near the Egyptian border, resident Abu Jahar al-Hajj said an air strike near his home felt "like an earthquake".

"Pieces of concrete started falling on us," he said.

In Deir Al Balah further to the north, Walaa Abu Libda found shelter at a hospital, but said her four-year-old daughter remained trapped under rubble.

"I don't know if she is dead or alive," said Libda, one of an estimated 1.8 million people displaced in Gaza - roughly three-quarters of the population, according to UN figures.

The Israeli army on Tuesday denied telling the World Health Organization to empty an aid warehouse in southern Gaza within 24 hours before ground operations in the area render it unusable.

On Monday, WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus wrote on X that his organisation had received a notification from the military "that we should remove our supplies from our medical warehouse in southern Gaza within 24 hours".

Key ally the United States has cautioned Israel to do more to avert civilian casualties as operations shift to the south.

Israel on Monday said it was not seeking to force Palestinian civilians to permanently leave their homes, but that it was instead seeking support from aid groups to improve infrastructure in a tiny coastal area of Gaza named Al Mawasi.

"We have asked civilians to evacuate the battlefield and we have provided a designated humanitarian zone inside the Gaza Strip," Israeli military spokesman Jonathan Conricus said.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, senior Israeli military officials admitted that around two civilians have been killed for every dead Hamas fighter in the Gaza Strip.

"Hopefully it (the ratio) will be much lower" in the coming phase of the war, one of the officials added. -- inputs from WAM, Reuters & AFP