Muslim, Arab nations urge China to press Security Council on Gaza ceasefire

Pizaro Gozali Idrus
Muslim, Arab nations urge China to press Security Council on Gaza ceasefire Indonesia’s Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi (center front) arrives with foreign ministers from Arab and Muslim-majority nations for a meeting with China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi (not pictured) at the Diaoyutai State Guest House in Beijing, Nov. 20, 2023. [
[Pedro Pardo/AFP]

Top diplomats of Arab and majority-Muslim countries met with their Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Monday to gather support in calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, where more than 13,000 Palestinians have been killed, Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi said. 

Retno also condemned what she said was an Israeli attack on an Indonesian-run hospital in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian enclave that, according to reports, killed at least 12 civilians, after which hospital personnel lost contact with three Indonesian volunteers.

The meeting in Beijing with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, requested by Arab and Muslim-majority nations, was “to ensure a ceasefire can be called immediately and humanitarian assistance can also be dispatched without obstacle,” Retno said in a statement after all the top diplomats met.

The delegates from the Muslim and Arab world were in China’s capital on their first stop in a globe-trotting itinerary during which the ministers planned to visit with officials of all five permanent members of the United Nations Security Council. The United States, Russia, France and Britain are the remaining four nations, which the ministers are looking to persuade to, in turn, coax Israel into ending hostilities in Gaza, the Saudi Arabian foreign ministry said Monday

The U.S., Israel’s closest ally, has led a bloc of Western countries in resisting international and U.N. calls for a ceasefire, with Washington’s envoy to the world body vetoing or voting against official resolutions on this question. 

Israel’s air and ground strikes on densely populated Gaza began in the wake of attacks by Hamas militants in early October that killed about 1,200 people.

Since then, Israel has been bombarding Gaza almost non-stop – Monday was the 45th day – and launched a ground strike into the territory. The Israeli operations have crippled hospitals and destroyed civil infrastructure, leaving Gaza in the midst of a dire humanitarian crisis, U.N. officials have warned.

In addition to Retno, the visiting delegation included the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Saudi Arabia, and the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). 

Retno noted that the People’s Republic of China this month holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council.

After some more time in Beijing on Tuesday, the foreign ministers’ delegation will visit Moscow to raise Russia’s support for a ceasefire in Gaza, Retno said.

Palestinians wounded in Israeli strikes lie on the floor as they are assisted at the Indonesian hospital in the northern Gaza Strip, Nov. 16, 2023. [Anas Al-Shareef/Reuters]

The delegation told China’s Wang that it hoped the international community would address “all the ongoing violations by the Israeli occupation forces and their repeated violations of international law and international humanitarian law,” said a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency.

The ministers said it was important, especially for the Security Council’s permanent members to stop these “violations.”

For his part, Wang said that Beijing had always supported the Palestinian cause.

China “[h]as been working hard to de-escalate the conflict, protect civilians, expand humanitarian aid, and prevent humanitarian disasters, and has been calling for a return to the two-state solution and the early settlement of the Palestinian question,” Wang said, according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement.

“China appreciates Arab and Islamic countries for their active mediation efforts for peace, and stands ready to work with them to make unremitting efforts for an early ceasefire in Gaza, the easing of the humanitarian crisis, the release of the detainees and an early, comprehensive, just and enduring settlement of the Palestinian question.”

All countries should ‘pressure Israel’

Meanwhile, Jakarta received news Monday of a deadly strike on a hospital run by an Indonesian charity in the north of the Gaza Strip, even as it was preparing a second batch of humanitarian aid to ship to the war-torn enclave.

“Indonesia condemns in the strongest terms the Israeli attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza which killed a number of civilians,” Retno said in the same statement in which she spoke about the Beijing meeting.

“The attack was a clear violation of international humanitarian law. All countries, especially those with close ties to Israel should be using all their influence and abilities to pressure Israel to stop its cruelty.”

The health ministry in Gaza said Israel was responsible for the attack on the Indonesian Hospital that killed at least a dozen people, including wounded patients and family members with them, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported, adding that dozens were also wounded.

A medical worker at the hospital told the Associated Press agency that the killings occurred when an Israeli artillery shell struck the second floor of the facility’s building. A Gaza health ministry spokesperson said around 600 patients, 200 health care workers and 2,000 displaced people had been sheltering there.

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, condemned the attack.

“WHO is appalled by an attack on the Indonesian Hospital in Gaza, reportedly resulting in 12 deaths, including patients, and tens of injuries, including critical and life-threatening ones,” he wrote on social media site X. 

“Health workers and civilians should never have to be exposed to such horror, and especially while inside a hospital.”

Israel says that Hamas maintains a network of tunnels and command centers in Gaza, including under hospitals, a claim Hamas has denied. 

Last week, Israeli forces raided al-Shifa hospital, saying it was conducting an “operation against Hamas in a specified area” there. But its military has yet to show any evidence in public to support its claims.

U.S. President Joe Biden meets with Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo for talks in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, Nov. 13, 2023. [Leah Millis/Reuters]

Also on Monday.  Indonesian President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo reiterated Jakarta’s staunch support for the Palestinian people. Indonesia, the world’s largest Muslim-majority nation, doesn’t recognize Israel and has condemned its strikes on Gaza and the heavy human toll they are taking. 

“I would like to once again affirm that Indonesia will always stand by the side of the nation of Palestine in its struggle,” Jokowi said after sending the humanitarian aid for Palestinians from the Halim Perdanakusuma Air Base in Jakarta, state news agency Antara reported.

Jokowi also said that his U.S. counterpart, Joe Biden, did not specifically respond to Indonesia’s call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, when the two met at the White House in Washington last week.

Still, Jokowi said he was optimistic that the U.S. would take the recommendations into account. 

“I believe they will note what we have conveyed,” he said, according to Antara.

Arie Firdaus in Jakarta contributed to this report.


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