Saudi leader tells British PM attacks on Gaza ‘heinous’

Saudi leader tells British PM attacks on Gaza ‘heinous’

RIYADH (AFP): Saudi Arabia’s crown prince said on Thursday that attacks on civilians in Gaza were “heinous” and warned of “dangerous repercussions” should the war between Israel and Hamas expand, state media reported.

Mohammed bin Salman, the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler, made his comments during a meeting with British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, who before visiting Riyadh met with Israeli leaders and pressed them to let more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Prince Mohammed “affirmed that the kingdom considers targeting civilians in Gaza a heinous crime and a brutal attack, stressing the necessity of working to provide protection for them,” the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

He also “stressed the need to make all possible efforts to reduce the pace of escalation and ensure that the violence does not expand in order to avoid its dangerous repercussions on security and peace in the region and the world.”

Hamas militants stormed into Israel from the Gaza Strip on October 7 and killed at least 1,400 people, mostly civilians who were shot, mutilated or burnt to death, according to Israeli officials.

Israel says around 1,500 Hamas fighters were killed in clashes before its troops regained control.

More than 3,700 Palestinians, mainly civilians, have been killed across the Gaza Strip in retaliatory Israeli bombardments, according to figures from its Hamas-run health ministry.

Sunak and Prince Mohammed “agreed that the loss of innocent lives in Israel and Gaza over the last two weeks has been horrific,” according to a readout from Sunak’s office.

They also “agreed on the pressing need for humanitarian access into Gaza to provide vital water, food and medicine,” it said.

Sunak “encouraged the crown prince to use Saudi’s leadership in the region to support stability, both now and in the long term,” it added.

Prince Mohammed also spoke by telephone on Thursday with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, SPA reported.

In that conversation he advocated for “strengthening international and regional efforts to stop military operations” and urged the UN to provide “safe humanitarian corridors” to get food and medical care into Gaza.

Since the war broke out, Saudi Arabia has issued a series of statements denouncing the displacement of Palestinians from their homes and attacks on “defenceless civilians” while affirming its support for the Palestinian cause.

The violence has dealt a blow to efforts by US President Joe Biden’s administration to broker a deal that would see Saudi Arabia, guardian of Islam’s holiest sites, recognise Israel.

Last week, a source familiar with that process told AFP that Riyadh had decided to “pause discussion on possible normalisation”.