Arab leaders have urged for a ceasefire to halt fighting between Israel and Hamas
Saudi Arabia has voiced grave concerns to US officials over Israel’s impending ground assault on the Gaza Strip, saying the incursion could be “catastrophic” for the Middle East, according to the New York Times.
During a meeting with US lawmakers in Riyadh last week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman warned an Israeli invasion of Gaza would be “extremely harmful” for the broader region, Democratic Senator Richard Blumenthal told the NYT.
“The Saudi leadership was hopeful that a ground operation could be avoided for reasons of stability as well as the loss of life,” he said.
Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, who was part of the US delegation, added that the crown prince sought to prevent “a longer and deeper conflict” in the Middle East.
Bin Salman voiced similar fears directly to US President Joe Biden when the two leaders spoke on Wednesday, stressing the need to avoid “a situation that affects the security and stability of the region.” He went on to call for a “fair and comprehensive peace” that secures the “legitimate rights” of Palestinians, and urged Israel to lift its “siege” on Gaza.
The White House has signaled strong support for Israel since a deadly Hamas attack earlier this month, and responded to the heightened tensions with military deployments across the Middle East. US officials say the moves were meant to deter outside actors from taking part in the Gaza war, frequently pointing to Iran and affiliated militia groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
During his call with Bin Salman, President Biden also spoke of the need to “prevent the conflict from expanding,” suggesting that “state and non-state actors” would seek to get involved.
Other Arab leaders have echoed Bin Salman’s concerns in recent days. At the Cairo Summit for Peace in Egypt last weekend, Jordan’s King Abdullah said the world must “work urgently” for a ceasefire, warning of a “humanitarian disaster pushing our entire region into the abyss.”
Though the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have so far delayed a full-scale ground attack on Gaza, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has outlined a three-stage plan to eliminate Hamas and establish a new “security regime” in the Palestinian territory, beginning with airstrikes and followed by “maneuvers” on the ground.
The IDF has mobilized some 360,000 reservists in preparation for the assault, and has pounded Gaza with daily air raids for nearly three weeks. More than 1,400 Israelis have been killed in the latest bout of violence, in addition to over 7,000 Palestinians, according to local officials.