Saudi prince, Iran president hold call on Israel-Hamas war

Publish: 5:22 PM, October 12, 2023 | Update: 5:22 PM, October 12, 2023

Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler and Iran’s president spoke by phone about the war between Israel and Hamas, Saudi state media said early Thursday, their first call since a surprise rapprochement in March.

Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman received a call on Wednesday from the Iranian leader, Ebrahim Raisi, during which they discussed “the current military situation in Gaza and its environs”, the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

Prince Mohammed told Raisi that Riyadh is “communicating with all international and regional parties to stop the ongoing escalation”, SPA said.

He also stressed “the kingdom’s firm position towards supporting the Palestinian cause”, it said.

Iranian state news agency IRNA also reported on the call, saying the two men discussed the “need to end war crimes against Palestine”.

Hamas launched a surprise attack on Israel on Saturday that Israeli forces say killed 1,200 people, most of them civilians.

In Gaza, officials have reported more than 1,000 people killed in Israel’s retaliatory campaign of air and artillery strikes.

As war rages on, fears have mounted over the fate of at least 150 hostages — mostly Israelis but also including foreign and dual nationals — held in Gaza by Hamas.

Analysts say the war has dealt a heavy blow to a possible landmark normalisation deal between Saudi Arabia, home to the holiest sites in Islam, and Israel.

That process has been driven by US President Joe Biden’s administration, with Riyadh bargaining hard for benefits from Washington including security guarantees and help developing a civilian nuclear programme.

Iran has long financially and militarily backed Hamas but insists it had no involvement in Saturday’s assault.

Saudi Arabia and Iran announced in March they had agreed to restore ties, ending a seven-year rupture in a deal brokered by China.

Prince Mohammed also spoke by phone on Wednesday with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during which the 38-year-old Saudi leader said he was “exerting unremitting efforts through regional and international communication to achieve coordination that pushes for a halt of the current escalation”.