China’s Xi Urges Release of Civilians in Israel-Hamas War

(Bloomberg) -- Chinese President Xi Jinping called for the release of all civilians detained during the Israel-Hamas war and reiterated his call for an immediate cease-fire at a summit organized by BRICS nations.

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“China believes that the following is urgent and imperative: first, all the parties to the conflict must end hostilities and achieve a cease-fire immediately,” Xi said, addressing leaders from countries including Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa and Iran by video. “All the parties must stop all violence and attacks against civilians, release civilians held captive, and act to prevent loss of more lives and spare people from more miseries.”

“More humanitarian assistance should be provided to the population in Gaza,” the Chinese leader added. “China will provide more supplies and assistance according to need of people in Gaza,” he said, while calling for a halt to forced relocations and a halt to water, electricity and oil supplies that “targets people in Gaza as a collective punishment.”

The BRICS nations — Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — didn’t agree on a joint declaration, and it remains unclear what concrete action the bloc intends taking to ending the war. But the summit was part of a broader push by the group to offer a counterweight to what they see as US dominance.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi skipped the event, sending External Affairs Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar instead, signaling some division within BRICS over the Gaza crisis. Modi also said shortly after Hamas’s attack on Oct. 7 that his nation stood with Israel.

Xi first called for an immediate cease-fire in the war in October. His call for a de-escalation in the conflict was echoed by others who addressed the meeting.

“We all agreed that this crisis has gone on for far too long and now needs to be resolved,” South African President Cyril Ramaphosa said in his closing remarks. “We have called for an immediate and durable and sustained truce.”

See: Xi Calls for Gaza Ceasefire in First Public Comment Since Crisis

In his comments at the summit, Ramaphosa did condemn Hamas, which is designated a terrorist group by the US and the European Union, for the attack that ignited the war. South Africa last week joined five other developing nations in referring Israel to the International Criminal Court for war crimes over its conflict with Hamas.

China seperately hosted senior foreign policy officials from Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, the Palestinian Authority and others for “in-depth” talks on easing hostilities in the Gaza crisis, the latest move by Beijing to try and bolster its credentials as a global peacemaker. Those discussions were about “immediately stopping the military escalation” and “delivering the necessary humanitarian aid,” Saudi state media has said.

Also: China’s Stance on Hamas Key Point of Division, US Envoy Says

Nicholas Burns, the US’s top diplomat in China, last month urged Beijing to denounce terrorism by Hamas, and cited its stance toward the group as yet another challenge in ties between the world’s biggest economies. The US and European Union have designated Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Jordan and other Arab states have grown increasingly critical of Israel as it escalated war against Hamas in Gaza. The militant group killing about 1,200 people in its attack. Israel has since bombarded the Palestinian territory and launched a ground offensive, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has claimed more than 13,000 lives.

In his speech Tuesday, Xi urged the international community to take concrete measures to prevent the escalation of the conflicts and the impact on the stability of the entire Middle East. He also called for a prompt convening of an international peace conference to build consensus for peace and work toward an early comprehensive, just and sustainable solution.

Leaders and officials from Saudi Arabia, Iran, Egypt, Ethiopia, Argentina and the United Arab Emirates, who’ve been invited to join BRICS from next year, also participated in the online summit.

More: Xi’s Reply to Hamas Attack Shows China’s Limit as Peacemaker

--With assistance from Philip Glamann.

(Updates with details on Narendra Modi skipping the summit.)

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