ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 146

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Saudis said to tell US they are halting normalization talks with Israel

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Friday Oct. 13, 2023, and is greeted by MFA Undersecretary for Protocol Affairs Abdulmajeed Alsmari after stops in Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain in the same day. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrives in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Friday Oct. 13, 2023, and is greeted by MFA Undersecretary for Protocol Affairs Abdulmajeed Alsmari after stops in Jordan, Qatar, and Bahrain in the same day. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin, Pool)

Saudi Arabia has suspended talks on potentially normalizing ties with Israel, a source tells AFP, amid the war raging between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas.

Hamas launched a large-scale onslaught on Israel on October 7 that killed more than 1,300 people, most of them civilians, sparking a fierce Israeli response ahead of a potential Israeli ground invasion of the territory.

“Saudi Arabia has decided to pause discussion on possible normalization and has informed US officials,” a source familiar with the discussions tells AFP.

The report comes as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is visiting Riyadh on his Middle East shuttle diplomacy tour.

Saudi Arabia in the weeks before the attacks had spoken of progress in US-led diplomacy to normalize relations with Israel — which would be a landmark step for the conservative kingdom that is guardian of Islam’s two holiest sites.

But Riyadh has voiced increasing disquiet about the fate of Palestinians in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, where Israel has launched thousands of strikes and ordered the evacuation of the territory’s north, prompting thousands to flee.

Hamas officials say at least 1,900 Palestinians have been killed in the Gaza Strip.

On Friday, Saudi Arabia denounced the displacement of Palestinians within Gaza and attacks on “defenseless civilians,” its strongest language criticizing Israel since the war broke out.

Riyadh “affirms its categorical rejection of calls for the forced displacement of the Palestinian people from Gaza, and its condemnation of the continued targeting of defenseless civilians there,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

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