China continues to strive to increase its influence in the Middle East through diplomacy. After getting Saudi Arabia and Iran to re-establish ties after years of estrangement, Beijing continues to profile itself as a mediator in the region's conflicts.
In the past, the Asian giant has already expressed its willingness to mediate in the long-running Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Now, with the war between Israel and Hamas, China is seeking to reaffirm its role as an intermediary. To this end, the Chinese authorities have invited ministers from Arab and Muslim countries to a summit in Beijing aimed at "putting an end to the war in Gaza", as announced by the head of Saudi diplomacy, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, before travelling to China.
Since the war began following Hamas's unprecedented attack on southern Israel that left thousands dead, wounded and more than 200 kidnapped by the terrorist group, regional and Western countries have been trying to find a solution to the conflict through summits and meetings.
Despite diplomatic efforts, the war is entering its 45th day with no end in sight. Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is worsening in Gaza, with Hamas-controlled authorities claiming more than 13,000 dead in the Palestinian enclave. On the other hand, the terrorist organisation continues to launch, almost daily, missiles into Israeli territory, which has led to the evacuation of numerous communities in the south.
"We have to work to end this crisis and the war in Gaza as soon as possible," stressed the Saudi foreign minister, who also said that the first stop will be China and then they will move on to other capitals "to send a clear message that a ceasefire must be announced immediately and allow aid to enter".
Foreign Minister HH Prince @FaisalbinFarhan announces the start of the work of the ministerial committee in charge of the Arab-Islamic summit concerned with formulating an international action to stop the war on Gaza and the first stop is China. pic.twitter.com/Wn9rxZNsUE— Foreign Ministry 🇸🇦 (@KSAmofaEN) November 18, 2023
Since 21 October, when Israel allowed humanitarian aid into Gaza from the Rafah crossing with Egypt, more than 1,000 trucks carrying food, medicine, water, blankets and tents have entered the enclave. Also, last week, the Israeli authorities allowed trucks with fuel to enter the enclave.
On the other hand, in order to reach the ceasefire so longed for by the international community, the Israeli authorities have stressed the need for Hamas to first release the more than 200 hostages, including babies, children and the elderly. Jerusalem has also called for the Islamist organisation's total surrender.
Both issues - often ignored or not mentioned when addressing the war from the Arab and Muslim perspective - are fundamental to Israel's acceptance of a ceasefire. Nevertheless, media outlets such as The Washington Post speak of an alleged deal that would allow the release of at least 50 hostages in exchange for five days without fighting.
"Let us work together to quickly calm the situation in Gaza and restore peace in the Middle East as soon as possible," urged Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi during his opening speech at the summit.
According to Wang, "a humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza" and "the international community must act urgently and take effective measures to prevent the spread of this tragedy". During the inauguration, the Chinese minister also reminded the audience that Beijing is "a good friend and brother to Arab and Islamic countries".
Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry expressed his hope that "great powers such as China will play a stronger role in stopping the attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip". Despite the crisis in Gaza, Cairo has refused to accept Gazan refugees because, according to Shoukry, "the displacement of Palestinians from the Gaza Strip threatens peace, security and stability in the region and the world".
Hamas used Al-Shifa "as a terrorist infrastructure", denounces Israel
As the summit in Beijing unfolds, thousands of miles away in Gaza, Israeli troops continue their ground operation aimed at finding hostages and eliminating Hamas. The number of soldiers killed during the incursion now stands at 66, according to the latest figures from the Israel Defence Forces (IDF).
Israeli army operations are focused on the north of the enclave, as well as on Gaza's main hospital, Al Shifa, where Israel and the US claim Hamas has its headquarters.
Israel publicó imágenes del interior de un túnel de Hamas construido bajo el hospital de Shifa— Nacho Montes de Oca (@nachomdeo) November 19, 2023
Tiene una longitud de 55 m, está a 10 m de profundidad y cuenta con mecanismos para entorpecer el asalto desde el exterior
Es la evidencia tangible del uso militar de las instalaciones… pic.twitter.com/GcUycpXBox
In recent hours, the IDF has released footage from a surveillance camera at the health centre showing Hamas terrorists carrying a Nepalese and Thai citizen who were kidnapped in Israel to the medical centre. They also accused the terrorist organisation of murdering 19-year-old soldier Noa Marciano in Al-Shifa.
Hamas brought hostages into Al Shifa hospital in Gaza. pic.twitter.com/N4G0FubwAM— Yoni Michanie (@YoniMichanie) November 19, 2023
"These findings prove that the Hamas terrorist organisation used Al-Shifa Hospital on the day of the massacre as a terrorist infrastructure," an army statement said. In addition, CCTV footage shows terrorists inside the hospital and outside hostage rooms, as well as stolen IDF vehicles in the medical centre.
They have also shared new images of the underground network of tunnels under the hospital complex in an attempt to show evidence of Hamas' misuse of the hospital.