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Middle East leaders hold emergency meeting in Saudi, condemn Israel’s attack on Gaza

Arab leaders and Iran’s president met in Saudi Arabia on Saturday to condemn Israel’s conduct in the Gaza campaign against Hamas, news agency AFP reported, as concerns grew that additional countries could get involved in the conflict. The emergency summit of the Arab League and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) took place after a horrific attack by Hamas militants on October 7, which Israeli police believe killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and took 239 hostages. .

Summit host Saudi Arabia “reaffirms that it holds the occupying (Israeli) authorities responsible for crimes committed against the Palestinian people,” the Gulf kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman said at the start of the summit on Saturday. But said. “We are convinced that the only way to guarantee security, peace and stability in the region is to end the occupation, siege and settlements,” AFP quoted him as saying in its report.

On his first visit to Saudi Arabia since the two countries normalized relations in March, Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi said the Islamic country should label the Israeli military a “terrorist organization” for its actions in Gaza.

Speaking to Al Jazeera, Mohammed Abu Salmiya, head of Dar al-Shifa hospital, said: “We are completely cut off from the rest of the world, we are minutes away from imminent death.”

The hospital is the largest in the Gaza Strip and is the backbone of the besieged area’s medical system, as well as shelter for an estimated 15,000 people.

Thousands of Palestinians fled the compound overnight on foot a few miles south of Gaza, as an Israeli air strike got closer to the vast compound west of Gaza City, encircling it with tanks and snipers.

“The hospital premises have been cordoned off and hospital buildings have been targeted. Anyone roaming within the compound is targeted,” Abu Salmiya said.

According to him, Israeli soldiers stood just outside the compound and prevented anyone inside from leaving.

Hospital officials said they no longer had access to water, electricity or medical supplies, leaving the institution unable to maintain critical life support systems. One infant died due to lack of oxygen supply inside the critical care unit at al-Shifa hospital, while 39 others inside incubators are at risk of death, according to comments by Ashraf al-Qidra, spokesman for the Palestinian Health Ministry. .

Qidra and other members of the Ministry of Health were surrounded inside Al-Shifa along with physicians and patients. He said Israeli soldiers were “firing at people going inside the compound, limiting our ability to move from one department to another.”

Speaking to Reuters, he said: “The situation is worse than anyone could have imagined. “We are surrounded inside the Al-Shifa Medical Complex and the occupation has targeted most of the buildings inside.”

At a news conference on Friday, Israel Defense Forces spokesman Lt. Col. Richard Hecht denied that Israeli troops had targeted the hospital. Israeli officials have claimed that Hamas operates from bunkers beneath al-Shifa, which hospital workers and Hamas militants strongly dispute.

Israeli officials on Friday reduced the death toll from the October 7 attacks by Hamas militants on Israeli towns and kibbutzim on the Gaza border from 1,400 to 1,200. Since then, an estimated 240 individuals have been held captive in the Gaza Strip.

According to Palestinian officials, Israeli air strikes on Gaza have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians and injured at least 25,000 more. Barbara Leaf, the US State Department’s highest-ranking official for the Middle East, told Congress last week that the actual death toll was likely “higher than is being reported.”

(with inputs from agencies)

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