RIYADH – Saudi Arabia was hosting a summit of Arab Gulf leaders Sunday as crises brew over a bitter diplomatic dispute with Qatar, the war in Yemen and the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. Qatari Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani was invited by Riyadh, which severed diplomatic ties with Doha in 2017 along with Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), to the Gulf Cooperation Council talks. In the emir's place, Qatar announced it had sent State Minister for Foreign Affairs Soltan bin Saad al-Muraikhi to the annual event. Saudi Arabia and its allies accuse Qatar of supporting terrorism and fostering close ties with their regional rival, Iran. Doha -- which announced this month it was quitting the Saudi-dominated OPEC oil cartel -- denies the allegations, but the dispute has dragged on.
GAZA/JERUSALEM – Israeli troops shot dead dozens of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza border on Monday when the high-profile opening of the U.S. embassy to Israel in Jerusalem raised tension to boiling point after weeks of demonstrations. In the bloodiest single day for Palestinians since 2014, Palestinian Health Ministry officials said 55 protesters were killed and 2,700 injured either by live gunfire, tear gas or other means. The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from some countries, including France and Britain, and stronger criticism from others, with Turkey calling it "a massacre." The White House declined to join in urging Israel to exercise caution and pinned the blame squarely on Gaza's ruling Hamas group, backing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu who described the Israeli military's actions as self-defence of his country's borders. In siding squarely with Israel, Washington put distance between itself and its European allies for the second time in a week, after angering France, Germany and others last Tuesday by abandoning an international nuclear deal with Iran.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry on Sunday held talks with Saudi Arabia's King Salman about the conflicts in Syria, Libya and Yemen, ahead of international meetings this coming week in Europe on those crises. The visit by Kerry, who also held talks with the crown prince, deputy crown prince and foreign minister, comes at a critical time in efforts to rein in fighting and encourage political dialogue in all three countries, wracked by violence for years. Kerry was traveling later Sunday to Vienna where he planned to host, with Italy's foreign minister, talks on Libya on Monday, and, with his Russian counterpart, meetings on Syria on Tuesday. The 17-member International Syria Support Group includes Turkey, Iran, Saudi Arabia and others.
Laila Anwar al-Ghandour, an eight-month-old baby, has died of tear-gas inhalation at dawn, Gaza's ministry of health says, highlighting international outrage over the killings by Israeli soldiers of 60 Palestinians, who joined in a massive protest against the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem. Laila was the youngest fatality following demonstrations on Monday, leading to the 70th anniversary on Tuesday of Nakba, or Catastrophe, when the state of Israel was established on May 15, 1948, and forced hundreds of thousands of Palestinians from their homes. The 59th victim of Israel's brutal repression against Palestinians in Gaza today was Leila Anwar al-Ghandour. She was 8 months old. According to the Palestine Network for Dialogue, Laila and the al-Ghandour family are residents of al-Shati district, also known as Beach Camp, in western Gaza.