Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday urged Arab leaders to intervene in conflicts across the Middle East, including on behalf of the Palestinians, just as they had in war-torn Yemen, where Iran-backed Houthi separatists have made great advances and forced the country’s leader, Abdel Rabbo Mansour, to flee the region.
Speaking at an Arab Summit in the Egyptian resort town of Sharm el-Sheikh, Abbas said he hoped “Arab countries would adopt similar policies as they have in Yemen throughout all the Arab countries that suffer from internal conflicts such as Palestine, Syria, Libya and Iraq.”
Abbas said the results of Israel’s March 17 elections, in which Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud emerged victorious, demonstrated that the Palestinians “do not have an Israeli peace partner.”
Ever since Netanyahu came to power, he charged, “Israel has abandoned peace and chosen the path of extremism and racism.” He accused Israel of seeking to turn the conflict from a political dispute into a religious dispute, including by fanning controversy surrounding the Temple Mount in Jerusalem.
Since the Palestinians had proved “unable to prevent Israel’s settlement building,” he said, the Palestinian Authority would continue with its unilateral actions, including taking up membership in the International Criminal Court on April 1. The Palestinians hope to sue Israel for war crimes at the court.
Abbas spoke a day after France’s foreign minister, Laurent Fabius, said his country will move forward on discussions with its partners on a possible UN Security Council resolution that could present a framework for negotiations toward resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu has repeatedly charged Abbas with dooming peace efforts, citing the PA leader’s refusal to recognize Israel as a Jewish state and his incitement of violence against Israel. Having ruled out Palestinian statehood in an interview on the eve of the elections, Netanyahu subsequently backtracked and said he supported a “sustainable, peaceful two-state solution,” but that Abbas’s positions and wider regional instability had changed realities and left Israel facing grave dangers.
Earlier at the summit, Saudi Arabia’s King Salman vowed that the military intervention in Yemen will not stop until the country is stable and safe. The campaign of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition was in response to a power grab in the impoverished nation by Iranian-backed Shiite rebels known as the Houthis.
Iran and the Houthis deny that Tehran arms the rebel movement.
Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed rebel camps in Yemen for a third day straight on Saturday, as US President Barack Obama said the United States shared a “collective goal” with its regional ally to see stability in the war-torn state.
A months-long rebellion by Shiite fighters in Yemen has escalated into a regional conflict that threatens to tear apart the impoverished state at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has vowed to do “whatever it takes” to prevent the fall of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, accusing Shiite Iran of “aggression” and of backing the Houthi rebels’ power grab.
Amid the air raids and scattered fighting, a call for a ceasefire was issued by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, suspected of being allied with the rebels.
At least 39 civilians have been killed in Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Houthis and their allies, officials at the rebel-controlled health ministry in Sanaa said.
Twelve died when residential areas were hit in a raid on a military base north of the capital, the officials told AFP.
Strikes hit the rebel-held presidential compound in south Sanaa, as well as various military sites outside the capital including rocket launchers at the airport, witnesses said.
Warplanes also bombed a Houthi-controlled army brigade in Amran province north of Sanaa, and arms depots in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada, residents said.
And an army unit loyal to Saleh, along with Shiite militiamen, captured two villages in Abyan province, near the main southern city of Aden, where Hadi took refuge after fleeing Sanaa last month, military sources said.
The rebels have also clashed with Sunni tribes as they push south.
At least 21 were killed Friday when tribesmen ambushed their vehicles north of Aden, a local official said.