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Qatar, Mauritania freeze Israel ties over Gaza

Qatar, Mauritania freeze Israel ties over Gaza DOHA/DUBAI: Qatar and Mauritania froze ties with Israel on Friday over its three-week-old offensive on Gaza and a meeting of Arab and Muslim leaders in Doha called for a suspension of the Arab peace initiative with the Jewish state.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani said Qatar, the only Gulf Arab state with ties to Israel, would ask the Jewish state to close its trade office in Doha and remove its staff until the situation improved.

In Nouakchott, Mauritania said it had frozen political and economic ties with Israel following the recall of its ambassador for consultations last week in protest at the Gaza offensive, but stopped short of a full severing of diplomatic ties.

The Doha meeting called on Arab countries to review their ties with Israel over the offensive that has killed more than 1,100 Palestinians and to suspend the Arab peace initiative.

The 2002 Arab initiative offered Israel normal relations in return for full withdrawal from all Arab land and a just solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees.

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, whose country has been engaged in indirect peace talks with Israel, said the Arab peace initiative was "dead" and urged Arab states to end all "direct and indirect" ties with the Jewish state.

"I consider the Arab initiative with Israel "dead", he said.

Khaled Meshaal, Hamas's Damascus-based leader, told the opening session of an emergency conference on Gaza his group would not accept Israeli conditions for a truce and would fight on until the offensive ended.

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