How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 

How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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Saudi Arabia and the UAE have pledged assistance to Gaza, but aid agencies have struggled to gain access via the Rafah border crossing. (Getty Images/AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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A picture taken on October 10, 2023, shows the closed gates of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt. (AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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Palestinians, some with foreign passports hoping to cross into Egypt and others waiting for aid wait at the Rafah crossing in the southern Gaza strip, on October 16, 2023. (AFP)
How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
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A convoy of trucks carrying aid supplies for Gaza from Egypt waits on the main Ismailia desert road on the way to the Rafah crossing on October 16, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 20 October 2023
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How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 

How Arab states are aiding Palestinians amid Gaza’s deepening humanitarian emergency 
  • Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Qatar have pledged millions of dollars to assist Palestinians under Israeli bombardment 
  • Gaza has been under strict Israeli embargo since Hamas launched its cross-border attack on Israel on October 7

RIYADH: As the humanitarian crisis in Gaza worsens in tandem with Israel’s expanding war with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, the Arab Gulf states have been pledging aid and support to assist civilians living under siege and daily bombardment.

Since Hamas launched its unprecedented cross-border attack on Israel on Oct. 7, Gaza has been under strict Israeli embargo, depriving its 2.2 million-strong population of food, water, medicine, and electricity.

Gaza’s only power plant quickly shut down owing to a lack of fuel. According to the UN, hospitals in the Gaza Strip, where thousands of civilians have taken shelter, are expected to run out of generator fuel within days, putting the lives of patients at risk.

The siege, combined with the closure of the Rafah crossing between Gaza and Egypt, meant that humanitarian aid agencies found it impossible to deliver assistance. More than 200 trucks and some 3,000 tons of aid are reported to be positioned at or near the Rafah crossing, Gaza’s only connection to Egypt.

UNICEF, the UN children’s agency, has said that unless water and fuel are sent “immediately,” Gaza inhabitants are in “imminent danger” of epidemics and death.

 

 

On Wednesday, Israel said it would allow Egypt to deliver limited humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip. The announcement to allow water, food, and other supplies came as anger over the blast at Gaza City’s Al-Ahli Hospital spread across the Middle East, and as US President Joe Biden visited Israel in hopes of preventing a wider conflict in the region.

Biden said Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi agreed to open the crossing and to let in an initial group of 20 trucks with humanitarian aid. The convoy would start moving on Friday at the earliest, White House officials said.




Medics and a convoy of trucks loaded with aid supplies for Gaza provided by Egyptian NGOs waits for an agreement to cross through the Egypt-Gaza border in Arish City in Egypt’s north Sinai Peninsula on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

The office of the Israeli prime minister said Israel “will not thwart” deliveries of food, water, or medicine from Egypt, as long as they are limited to civilians in the south of Gaza and do not go to Hamas militants.

Supplies would go in under the supervision of the UN, Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry told Al-Arabiya TV.

The Egyptian side of the Rafah crossing has been bombed multiple times since Israel launched its war on Hamas. Egypt will have to repair the road across the border that was cratered by Israeli airstrikes.




Medics and a convoy of trucks loaded with aid supplies for Gaza provided by Egyptian NGOs waits for an agreement to cross through the Egypt-Gaza border in Arish City in Egypt’s north Sinai Peninsula on October 15, 2023. (AFP)

“At this stage, we can’t bring aid into Gaza,” Christoph Hangar, a spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Geneva, told Arab News before the Israeli announcement was made.

“We are pre-positioning staff and relief items as we speak so we’re ready when access to Gaza is granted, which it must urgently be.”

In response to the deepening humanitarian emergency, Arab Gulf states have renewed their commitment to the resolution of the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict and pledged millions of dollars in aid to the relief effort.




Volunteers and NGO workers stand near tents that they set up along the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing on October 19, 2023, demanding clearance for an aid convoy to enter the Gaza Strip. (AFP)

Israel has ordered residents of north Gaza to leave for the south, hoping perhaps to clear the area of civilians in preparation for a ground invasion, which would likely involve brutal urban combat.

The Oct. 7 attack killed at least 1,400 people, most of them Israeli civilians, and resulted in the capture of more than 200 people, who are now being held hostage in Gaza by Hamas and other “resistance factions.”

The presence of the hostages in the enclave has complicated Israel’s plans for a ground invasion.

INNUMBERS

2.4 million Population of the Gaza Strip.

1 million People displaced by the Israeli bombardment.

3,000 Palestinians killed across the Gaza Strip since Oct. 7.

$2 million Money donated to UNRWA by Saudi Arabia.

$6 billion Funding provided to Palestinians by KSrelief since 2000.

Antonio Guterres, the UN secretary-general, was due to meet El-Sisi in Egypt on Thursday to discuss how to get humanitarian aid into Gaza.

Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN chief, said in a statement: “Obviously, in order to move humanitarian aid through Gaza, we need safe passage. We can’t move humanitarian trucks and convoys while active bombardment is ongoing.

“There are intense discussions going on in which we’re involved with a number of parties in order to try to get the most basic humanitarian aid in as quickly as possible and that’s food, water, medicine. Those things are urgently needed.”




Boxes of humanitarian aid and supplies from the Jordan Hashemite Charity Organization are loaded aboard cargo planes in Amman, Jordan, for Gaza on Oct. 12, 2023. (REUTERS)

“Since the creation of Israel, the Saudi population and government have always been very sympathetic to the Palestinian cause,” Khaled Al-Maeena, a Saudi political commentator, told Arab News.

“It was done out of genuine goodwill for the Palestinian people who were oppressed and whose lands were occupied. What we are witnessing now is a Palestinian holocaust.”

Since 2000, the Saudi aid agency KSrelief has provided more than $6 billion in aid to the Palestinian people across multiple sectors, including food security, health, education, water, sanitation, and shelter.

In 2022 alone, Saudi Arabia contributed $27 million to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees. On Monday, Saudi Arabia announced it would be donating a further $2 million to UNRWA.




Saudi humanitarian aid group KSrelief has a continuing food basket distribution project in the West Bank and Gaza Strip. (KSrelief photo)

The money was presented to Philippe Lazzarini, the UNRWA commissioner general, by Naif Al-Sudairi, the Saudi ambassador to Jordan, at the Saudi Embassy in Amman on Sunday.

Saudi Arabia’s private sector has also been making pledges. McDonald’s KSA has publicly announced it will be donating $533,000 to Gaza relief efforts, stating it was “proud of its Saudi identity” and support for humanitarian issues.

“As a purely Saudi company, we have been proud, since our inception, of our Saudi identity, and our continuous contribution to supporting our economy and national community and adopting social and humanitarian matters that our community is concerned with,” the restaurant chain said in an online statement.

“We are delighted to announce that McDonald’s KSA will be donating SR2 million ($533,201) to support the relief efforts for the citizens of Gaza, may God help them. This contribution follows coordination with the relevant official authorities.”

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Prior to the conflict, US-brokered talks had been underway concerning the potential normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Israel pending clear signs of progress on the status of the Palestinians.

In August, while these talks were ongoing, the Kingdom also offered to resume financial support for the Palestinian Authority.

How the present crisis will impact the normalization talks remains to be seen, but the Kingdom’s stance on the need to resolve the Palestinian question remains unchanged.

In a statement following the Hamas attack, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said it was “renewing its call on the international community to assume its responsibilities and activate a credible peace process that leads to a two-state solution in a way that achieves security and peace in the region and protects civilians.”




Staff members unload aid for the Palestinian Gaza Strip from an Emirates cargo plane on the tarmac of Egypt's el-Arish airport in the north Sinai Peninsula on October 19, 2023. (AFP)

In 2020, the UAE became the first Arab Gulf state to normalize relations with Israel under the US-brokered Abraham Accords.

A Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement between the two countries came into effect in March this year, signifying Israel’s first free trade agreement with an Arab state. Bahrain and Morocco followed suit.

In response to the crisis now unfolding in Gaza, the UAE has launched a campaign dubbed Tarahum — or “compassion” in Arabic — to help vulnerable civilians, particularly the 1 million children who make up nearly half of Gaza’s population.

Overseen by the Emirates Red Crescent, the UAE has called for donations and volunteers, with its first relief center established at the Abu Dhabi Cruise Terminal.




UAE's Sheikh Theyab bin Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, accompanied by other top officials, visits the Tarahum - for Gaza campaign center in Abu Dhabi, which opened on October 15. Other aid collection centers will also be opened across the ‎UAE at later dates. (WAM photo)

A plane carrying medical supplies has already been sent to the Egyptian city of El-Arish before onward transit to the Rafah border crossing, according to the Emirati state news agency WAM.

On Tuesday, Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, prime minister of the UAE, directed the provision of $20 million in humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people.

Qatar has likewise established its own aid effort, deploying a plane bound for El-Arish on Monday carrying 37 tons of food and medical aid, provided by the Qatar Fund for Development under the direction of Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani.

“This aid is part of the State of Qatar’s full support for the fraternal Palestinian people amid the difficult humanitarian conditions due to the Israeli bombardment on the Gaza Strip,” Qatar’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement.




Qatari Air Force crew load food and medical aid to a cargo plane on October 16, 2023, at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha. The humanitarian aid from the Qatar Fund for Development is headed to Egypt for Gaza refugees. (Qatar News Agency/Handout via REUTERS)

Palestinians have been massing at the sealed Rafah border crossing since the crisis began, in the hope of leaving Gaza before the much talked about ground offensive begins. On the other side of the border fence, aid agencies are powerless to intervene.

“We are exploring all avenues to bring life-saving aid into Gaza,” said Hangar of the ICRC. “This initial goods convoy includes medicine and thousands of household kits for families which include hygiene items and chlorine tablets for drinking water.”

He added: “We are also urgently deploying staff to relieve colleagues in Gaza whenever we are able to move in. This includes a mobile surgical team and other health staff, a weapons contamination expert, and relief coordinators specialized in water and habitat and food security.”

 


Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7

Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7
Updated 23 May 2024
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Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7

Families forum release video of Israeli women troops being seized on Oct 7
  • The three-minute clip showed the women sitting on the ground, some with blood on their faces, with their hands tied
  • The footage was taken from a two-hour video filmed on a body camera by Hamas militants

JERUSALEM: An Israeli campaign group on Wednesday released footage of five Israeli female soldiers being captured by Palestinian militants from a military base during Hamas’s October 7 attack, after their families gave permission.

The three-minute clip showed the women sitting on the ground, some with blood on their faces, with their hands tied following their capture from the Nahal Oz base in southern Israel.

The footage was taken from a two-hour video filmed on a body camera by Hamas militants during the attack, the campaign group the Hostage and Missing Families Forum said in a statement.

“The footage reveals the violent, humiliating, and traumatising treatment the girls endured on the day of their abduction, their eyes filled with raw terror,” the forum said as it released the footage to the media for publication.

Towards the end of the clip, the women are seen being taken away by militants in a military jeep amid screams.

“It’s time to act, otherwise the blood of my sister and other hostages will be on the hands” of the Israeli authorities, Sasha Ariev, sister of one of the seized soldiers, told AFP.

“Everyone has now seen these young girls taken captive in their pyjamas... the only victory is to bring them back quickly and alive.”

After the base was stormed by Hamas militants on October 7, more than 50 Israeli soldiers were killed in the attack, 15 of whom were women.

Seven female soldiers were taken hostage and one has since been freed in an Israeli military operation, while the body of another was found and brought to Israel.

Hamas said the video footage was “manipulated” with a selection of images aimed at supporting “false allegations” to “tarnish the image of the resistance.”

Some of the soldiers were bleeding or sustained minor injuries, “but there was no physical aggression against any of them,” the Palestinian Islamist movement said in a statement.

Hamas’s unprecedented attack on October 7 resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also took 252 hostages, 124 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the army says are dead.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has come under intense pressure from the families of the hostages to negotiate the return of their loved ones from Gaza.

Netanyahu vowed in a statement on Wednesday to continue fighting Hamas to “ensure what we have seen tonight never happens again.”

Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,709 people in Gaza, most of them civilians, according to the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.

The Israeli military says 287 soldiers have been killed in Gaza since the start of the ground offensive on October 27.


Bomb kills five civilians from same family in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, two security sources say

Bomb kills five civilians from same family in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, two security sources say
Updated 24 min 56 sec ago
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Bomb kills five civilians from same family in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, two security sources say

Bomb kills five civilians from same family in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, two security sources say

A roadside bomb killed five civilians from the same family in Iraq’s Salahuddin province after detonating on a vehicle transporting them, two security sources said on Wednesday.

 


How armed groups are using fire to displace communities in Sudan’s troubled Darfur 

How armed groups are using fire to displace communities in Sudan’s troubled Darfur 
Updated 23 May 2024
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How armed groups are using fire to displace communities in Sudan’s troubled Darfur 

How armed groups are using fire to displace communities in Sudan’s troubled Darfur 
  • Satellite images show fires have ravaged settlements surrounding the westen city of Al-Fashir in recent weeks 
  • UN officials have accused combatants of setting fires to sow fear and ethnically cleanse tribal communities 

LONDON: Fires in western Sudan, reportedly set by militiamen, have torn through hundreds of settlements in recent months, forcing thousands of civilians to flee their homes, while those who remain live in constant fear of attack.

A recent report by the Sudan Witness project of the UK-based Centre for Information Resilience found that a total of 201 villages and settlements in western Sudan had suffered fire damage since the start of the war.

April was the worst month on record, with 72 communities impacted by fires set deliberately or as a byproduct of the fighting that has raged between the Sudanese Armed Forces and the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces since April 2023.

The report, published on May 12, highlighted a surge in the number of fires to the north and west of the city of Al-Fashir in North Darfur State, which has seen escalating violence.

Analysts believe the fires are being set deliberately to displace the population of these areas.

“When we see reports of fighting or airstrikes coinciding with clusters of fires, it indicates that fire is being used indiscriminately as a weapon of war,” Anouk Theunissen, project director at Sudan Witness, stated in the report.

He warned that “the trend is worsening and continues to lead to the mass displacement of Sudanese people.”

Sudan Witness investigators pieced together open-source NASA satellite imagery and social media content to map the pattern of fires since the onset of the Sudanese conflict more than a year ago. They primarily focused on Kordofan and the troubled Darfur region.

Until the end of April 2024, at least 311 individual fires broke out in the two provinces. The assessment also revealed that 51 settlements of various sizes have suffered multiple fires since the war began.

Investigators have pieced together open-source satellite imagery, left, and social media content to map the pattern of fires in Kordofan and Darfur since the onset of the Sudanese conflict more than a year ago. (AFP file)

Expressing horror at the violence unfolding in Al-Fashir, UN human rights chief Volker Turk described the situation in the city as “hell on Earth” and renewed calls for the warring parties to end the hostilities.

Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said at least 58 civilians had been reported killed and 213 others injured in Al-Fashir “since fighting dramatically escalated.”

INNUMBERS

• 201 Villages and settlements in western Sudan which have suffered fire damage since April last year.

• 311 Individual fires that had broken out until the end of April 2024 in Kordofan and Darfur.

During a press briefing in Geneva on May 17, she said “these figures are certainly an underestimate,” warning that the fighting between the two parties and their allied armed militias was taking “a deeply devastating toll on civilians.”

She said Turk had held phone conversations with both sides to urge them to cease hostilities, to ensure the protection of civilians, and to warn them that fighting in Al-Fashir “would have a catastrophic impact on civilians and deepen intercommunal conflict with disastrous humanitarian consequences.”

Al-Fashir, the capital of North Darfur, has been under siege by the RSF for several months, trapping an estimated 1.8 million residents and internally displaced people, according to UN figures.

This picture taken on June 16, 2023, shows bodies strewn outdoors near houses in the West Darfur state capital El Geneina. (AFP/File photo)

Anticipating the worst, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, warned in late April of a potentially imminent massacre in Al-Fashir. 

“As I’ve said before, history is repeating itself in Darfur in the worst possible way. And an attack on Al-Fashir would be a disaster on top of a disaster,” she said during the UN Security Council Stakeout on the Situation in Sudan.

“It would put 500,000 internally displaced persons at risk, people who traveled from across Darfur to seek refuge. And that’s on top of the 2 million Sudanese who call Al-Fashir home.”

Cut off from the outside world, the people in Al-Fashir are now at imminent risk of famine. Yet the UN says it has received just 12 percent of the $2.7 billion it had requested from donors to head off mass starvation.

Internally displaced women wait in a queue to collect aid from a group at a camp in Gedaref on May 12, 2024. (AFP)

Since the outbreak of conflict in Sudan last year, at least 15,500 people have been killed, more than 33,000 injured, and some 6.8 million displaced inside the country, according to UN figures.

“Half of the population, 25 million people, need humanitarian aid,” Jens Laerke, a spokesperson for the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told AFP news agency.

“Famine is closing in. Diseases are closing in. The fighting is closing in on civilians, especially in Darfur.”

Health infrastructure in Al-Fashir has also not been spared. On May 19, the RSF launched a barrage of artillery at the city’s Women’s, Maternity and Neonatal Hospital, injuring nine people and causing significant damage to the facility, according to the Sudan Tribune.

A recent report by the New York-based monitor Human Rights Watch accused the RSF and its allied militias of committing “crimes against humanity” and “genocide” in West Darfur.

The RSF has said its fighters are not involved in what it describes as ‘a tribal conflict’ in Darfur. (AFP file)

The report, published May 16, emphasized that the hostilities in El-Geneina alone from April to November last year left thousands dead and forcibly displaced hundreds of thousands more.

The RSF has said it is not involved in what it describes as a “tribal conflict” in Darfur. 

Even the use of fire as a weapon of war is nothing new in Sudan. The Sudan Witness project published a map in October last year plotting multiple fire incidents in the country since the start of the conflict.

The map revealed that the highest concentration of fire incidents was in the southwest of the country, with 68 villages in the Masalit-majority Darfur region having been set ablaze by the RSF and its allied militias, according to media reports.

Masalit tribes were among the rebel groups that fought the Sudanese government and the Janjaweed militia — the forerunner of the RSF — during the war in Darfur that started in 2003, leading to reprisals and ethnic cleansing.

Andrew Mitchell, the UK’s minister for development and Africa, warned in December that the latest reported targeting and mass displacement of the Masalit community in Darfur “bears all the hallmarks of ethnic cleansing.”

Alice Nderitu, the UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide, warned on Tuesday that Sudan is exhibiting all the signs that genocide could — and may already — be taking place.

Alice Nderitu, UN special adviser on the prevention of genocide. (Supplied)

“The protection of civilians in Sudan cannot wait,” Nderitu told a meeting of the UN Security Council. “The risk of genocide exists in Sudan. It is real and it is growing, every single day.

“In Darfur and Al-Fashir, civilians are being attacked and killed because of the color of their skin, because of their ethnicity, because of who they are. They are also targeted with hate speech and with direct incitement to violence.”

Nderitu said the burning and destruction of villages and settlements around Al-Fashir is intended to cause displacement and fear, rather than accomplish any specific military objectives.

“It is imperative that all possible actions aimed at the protection of innocent civilian populations, in Al-Fashir as in the entire territory of Sudan, are expedited,” she said. “It is urgent to stop ethnically motivated violence.”
 

 


Arab League welcomes announcement by Spain, Ireland, Norway to recognize Palestine

Arab League welcomes announcement by Spain, Ireland, Norway to recognize Palestine
Updated 22 May 2024
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Arab League welcomes announcement by Spain, Ireland, Norway to recognize Palestine

Arab League welcomes announcement by Spain, Ireland, Norway to recognize Palestine
  • Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Arab League secretary-general, said that this “significant move underscores a genuine commitment to the two-state solution”
  • He urged countries yet to recognize Palestine to reassess their positions and align themselves with the course of history

CAIRO: The Arab League has welcomed the official recognition of the state of Palestine by Spain, Ireland, and Norway.
The prime ministers of the three countries said on Wednesday they were formally going to recognize Palestine as a state as of May 28.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Arab League secretary-general, said that this “significant move underscores a genuine commitment to the two-state solution and reflects the sincere desire of these nations to safeguard it from those seeking to undermine or eradicate it.”
Gamal Roshdy, Aboul Gheit’s spokesman, said that “this important development follows the recent recognitions by Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Bahamas. These additions bring the total number of countries recognizing the Palestinian state to approximately 147, aligning with the overwhelming global consensus.”
Roshdy said such recognition “is a fundamental aspect of the state's standing in international law.
This step “embodies a principled political, moral, and legal stance. It marks a significant milestone toward realizing the Palestinian state based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital,” he quoted Abdul Gheit as saying.
Aboul Gheit said that “recognition conveys a clear message to Palestinians: the world stands resolute in defending their right to self-determination and the establishment of an independent state.”
He stressed that “amid the current hardships, a political pathway leading to the realization of the Palestinian state is inevitable.”
Aboul Gheit urged countries yet to recognize Palestine to reassess their positions and align themselves with the course of history.
He highlighted that recognizing Palestine signifies a genuine commitment to the two-state solution, diverging from violent approaches, and fostering peace and security across the region.


Washington stepping up defense cooperation with GCC states: US official

Washington stepping up defense cooperation with GCC states: US official
Updated 22 May 2024
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Washington stepping up defense cooperation with GCC states: US official

Washington stepping up defense cooperation with GCC states: US official
  • ‘The threats from Iran and its proxies are pervasive,’ Dan Dhapiro tells briefing attended by Arab News
  • ‘The US has an interest in deepening the partnerships we’ve forged with our Gulf partners’

LONDON: The US is stepping up defense cooperation with Gulf Cooperation Council countries in a bid to address one of the region’s “most challenging periods in recent years,” Dan Shapiro, deputy assistant secretary of defense for Middle East policy, told a press briefing attended by Arab News on Wednesday.
Gulf military representatives on Wednesday met senior US officials at the GCC headquarters in Riyadh as part of the partnership’s maritime and missile defense working groups.
It comes a month after Iran launched a massive drone and ballistic missile strike at Israel, and amid simmering regional tensions over the Gaza war.
Conversations between GCC and US officials are “more important than ever,” said Shapiro. “The US-GCC defense working groups are rooted in a strong US partnership with the GCC and our collective commitment to cooperating on regional security issues,” he added.
“For over a decade, we’ve worked together to address pressing threats and crises. The US has an interest in deepening the partnerships we’ve forged with our Gulf partners.”
Shapiro, who previously served as US ambassador to Israel and Abraham Accords envoy, warned that “the threats from Iran and its proxies are pervasive” in the region.
He said Yemen’s Houthi militia is carrying out “utterly illegitimate acts of terrorism” in its Red Sea campaign against civilian shipping.
The working group meetings saw US and Gulf officials explore ways to “bolster information sharing, counter proliferation, and increase the effectiveness of combined interdictions of illegal maritime shipments to the Houthis,” he added.
The April 13 Iranian attack on Israel, which Shapiro said was a “watershed moment in the Middle East,” also loomed large in the meetings.
“In the wake of Iran’s unprecedented attack and our successful defeat of this attack, the US and our Gulf partners agreed that taking steps to deepen the integration of our air and missile defenses across the Middle East is more important than ever,” he added.
“On April 13, we showcased what we’re collectively capable of when we work together on defeating regional security threats.
“It was a proof of concept of integrated air and missile defense, showing that our work to build this architecture isn’t theoretical.
“It has real-world, real-time impact. It saves lives and it keeps conflicts from escalating. And it showed we’re stronger when we act together.
“Ironically, Iran’s attack on April 13 was ultimately successful in sparking deeper cooperation on integrated air and missile defense.”
Shapiro said Washington’s Gulf partners, by increasing integrated air and missile defense in the near term, hope to lay the foundations for a GCC-wide air defense system.
US officials at the working group meetings also proposed joint military training “to ensure that our forces share a common operational language,” he added.
At the press briefing, a senior US defense official said on condition of anonymity that Washington’s Gulf partners are “laser focused” on understanding the nature of the Iranian threat, adding: “Having that conversation with the GCC in May 2024 is completely different from any conversation you could’ve had with any partner in the region before April 13, 2024.”
The Iranian strike produced a “galvanizing effect” across the Gulf, encouraging states to boost their commitment to building shared defense systems, the official said.
On the flare-up in the Red Sea, Washington does not view its campaign against the Houthis as a “purely military challenge,” instead accepting that “military solutions are necessary but not sufficient,” the official added.
“It’s a whole-of-government challenge from the US perspective. And it’s an international challenge from the world perspective.”
The working group meetings in Riyadh also saw discussions on “some of the non-military ways” to target the militia, including “delegitimization, sanctions and condemnation, and designation as a global terrorist organization,” the official said.