RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah broke his silence on Friday over the three-week-old conflict in Gaza, condemning what he saw as international silence over Israel’s offensive and describing this as a war crime and “state-sponsored terrorism”.
Saudi Arabia, which regards itself as a leader of the Sunni Muslim world, has played only a background role in the diplomacy to reinstate calm in Gaza, leaving the main Arab pursuit of a ceasefire to close ally Egypt and fellow Gulf monarchy Qatar.
“We see the blood of our brothers in Palestine shed in collective massacres that did not exclude anyone, and war crimes against humanity without scruples, humanity or morality,” Abdullah said in a brief speech read out on his behalf on state television.
“This (international) community, which has observed silently what is happening in the whole region, has been indifferent to what is happening, as if what is happening is not its concern. Silence that has no justification.”
His speech, which focused mainly on what he described as a Middle East-wide threat from Islamist militancy, followed criticism by some Saudis on social media, including prominent clerics, over Riyadh’s quiet response to the Gaza crisis. The kingdom’s policy towards Gaza is complicated by its mistrust of the territory’s ruling Hamas, an Islamist movement with close ideological and political links to the Muslim Brotherhood, which Riyadh regards as a terrorist organisation.
Saudi Arabia believes the Brotherhood has a region-wide agenda to seize power from established government leaders, including the kingdom’s al-Saud dynasty, and has quarrelled with Qatar over its support for the group.
Abdulkhaleq Abdullah, a political analyst in the United Arab Emirates, said the speech was a bid to rebut accusations that Saudi Arabia - along with allies Egypt and the UAE - was happy to see Hamas weakened by Israel’s offensive, which was prompted in part by increasing Hamas rocket fire from Gaza into Israel. “People want to see a stronger position from these three countries and it is not coming over very strongly,” he said.
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