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Business News/ News / World/  Gaza carnage spreads anger across Mideast
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Gaza carnage spreads anger across Mideast

A devastating strike on a Gaza hospital killed more than 500 Palestinians

People take part in a pro-Palestinian protest, after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, in Amman, Jordan, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni (REUTERS)Premium
People take part in a pro-Palestinian protest, after hundreds of Palestinians were killed in a blast at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza that Israeli and Palestinian officials blamed on each other, in Amman, Jordan, October 18, 2023. REUTERS/Alaa Al Sukhni (REUTERS)

CAIRO/JERUSALEM : Within hours after a blast was said to have killed hundreds at a Gaza hospital, protesters hurled stones at Palestinian security forces in the occupied West Bank and at riot police in neighbouring Jordan, venting fury at their leaders for failing to stop the carnage.

A significant tragedy unfolded on Tuesday after a devastating strike on a Gaza hospital. Initial death toll estimates exceeded 500. Palestinians and Israelis have blamed each other for the hospital bombing.

President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi of Egypt, King Abdullah II of Jordan and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas—friends of the US who normally relish the chance to meet with American presidents—called off a planned Wednesday summit with Joe Biden, who will now only visit Israel.

Iran, meanwhile, is seeking an oil embargo and other sanctions against Israel over its airstrikes on Gaza. Hossein Amirabdollahian, Iran’s foreign minister, called for “an immediate and complete embargo on the Zionist regime by Islamic countries, an oil embargo against the regime," according to a ministry statement.

Amirabdollahian made the comments in the Saudi city of Jeddah at an urgent meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, called to discuss the escalating Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Iran, a major oil exporter, has no diplomatic relations with Israel.

While other Middle Eastern energy producers, including Saudi Arabia and the UAE, have criticized Israel for its strikes on Gaza, they’ve not talked of halting oil sales to it or any of its allies.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken spent much of the past week meeting with Arab leaders to try to keep tensions in check, but those efforts are now in doubt following the hospital blast. The raw nerve of decades of Palestinian suffering, left exposed by US-brokered normalization agreements between Israel and Arab states, is throbbing once again, threatening broader unrest.

“This war, which has entered a dangerous phase, will plunge the region into an unspeakable disaster," warned Abdullah, who is among the closest Western allies in the Mideast.

Meanwhile, the US vetoed a UN resolution on Wednesday that would have condemned Hamas’ attacks against Israel and all violence against civilians and urged humanitarian aid to Palestinians in Gaza. The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 12 votes in favour, the US against and two abstentions.

Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said an Israeli airstrike caused the hospital blast, while Israel blamed it on a rocket fired by the militant Islamic Jihad group that fell short. Biden echoed the Israeli view after arriving in Tel Aviv, saying the blast appeared to have been caused “by the other team, not you," but that there were “a lot of people out there" who weren’t sure.

There was no doubt among the Arab protesters who gathered in several countries late Tuesday to condemn what they saw as an Israeli atrocity.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, which has been under lockdown since a bloody 7 October rampage by Hamas militants ignited the war, protesters clashed with Palestinian security forces and called for the overthrow of Abbas.

Israel and the West have long viewed Abbas as a partner in reducing tensions, but his Palestinian Authority is widely seen by Palestinians as a corrupt and autocratic accomplice to Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank.

Jordan, long considered a bastion of stability in the region, has seen mass protests in recent days. Late Tuesday, pro-Palestinian protesters tried to storm the Israeli embassy.

“They are all normalizing Arab rulers. None of them are free; the free ones are all dead!" one protester shouted. “Arab countries are unable to do anything!"

Egypt was the first Arab country to make peace with Israel in the late 1970s. Jordan followed in 1994.

Egypt has not seen large protests since the latest Hamas-Israel war started; authorities have waged a heavy crackdown on dissent for over a decade. But fears that Israel could push the Gaza Strip’s 2.3 million residents into Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula and soaring consumer prices amid runaway inflation could prove a volatile combination where a popular uprising toppled a US-backed autocrat in 2011.

A small group of activists protested late Tuesday near the US and UK embassies in central Cairo, calling on Egypt to cut ties with Israel and expel its ambassador. Authorities have beefed up security in Cairo’s Maadi district, where the Israeli embassy is located.

“The US administration is a partner through supporting the crimes committed by the occupation military against the people of Gaza," said Khaled Dawoud, the spokesperson for a coalition of opposition political parties and public figures.

Protests also erupted in Lebanon, where Hezbollah has traded fire with Israeli forces at the border, threatening to enter the war with its massive arsenal of rockets and as far away as Morocco.

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Published: 19 Oct 2023, 12:06 AM IST
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