The Arab League called for a United Nations peacekeeping force in the Palestinian territories at a summit dominated by the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza strip.

The “Manama Declaration” issued by the 22-member bloc called for “international protection and peacekeeping forces of the United Nations in the occupied Palestinian territories” until a two-state solution is implemented.Bahrain also called for a Middle East peace conference at the start of an Arab League summit it was hosting.

King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa was addressing fellow heads of state and government at the 22-strong grouping in Manama, more than seven months into a conflict that has convulsed the region.

“(We) call for an international conference for peace in the Middle East, in addition to supporting full recognition of the State of Palestine and accepting its membership in the United Nations,” said the King.

It is the first time the bloc has come together since an extraordinary summit in Riyadh, capital of neighboring Saudi Arabia, in November that also involved leaders from the 57-member Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, based in the Saudi city of Jeddah.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas told the summit his political rivals in Hamas gave Israel an excuse to wage war on Gaza with its October 7 attack from the Palestinian territory.

“The military operation carried out by Hamas by a unilateral decision on that day, October 7, provided Israel with more pretexts and justifications to attack the Gaza Strip,” he said.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres described the war in Gaza as “an open wound that threatens to infect the entire region,” calling for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

Guterres, who was speaking at the Arab League summit, said “the only permanent way to end the cycle of violence and instability is through a two-state solution.”


Ali Choukeir, with AFP