Biden says Hamas attack aimed to disrupt Saudi-Israel normalisation

WASHINGTON – Palestinian Islamist group Hamas’ Oct 7 attack on Israel that killed about 1,400 people aimed to disrupt a potential normalisation of ties between Israel and Saudi Arabia, US President Joe Biden said on Friday.

Saudi Arabia, a Middle East powerhouse and home to Islam’s two holiest shrines, gave its blessing to Gulf neighbours United Arab Emirates and Bahrain establishing relations with Israel in 2020 under the previous US administration of Donald Trump.

Riyadh has not followed suit, saying Palestinian statehood goals should be addressed first.

“One of the reasons Hamas moved on Israel… they knew that I was about to sit down with the Saudis,” Mr Biden said at a campaign fundraiser.

The potential normalisation of relations with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states was a top priority for Secretary of State Antony Blinken during his June trip to Riyadh, although he acknowledged no progress should be expected imminently.

Mr Blinken told CNN on Oct 8 that “it wouldn’t be a surprise that part of the motivation (for the attack) may have been to disrupt efforts to bring Saudi Arabia and Israel together”.

Mr Biden told CBS’ 60 Minutes in an interview that aired last Sunday that the prospect of normalisation was “still alive, it’s going to take time”.

Israel responded to the Oct 7 attack by pounding Gaza with air strikes, killing more than 4,000 people, and has said it will act to free hostages taken by Hamas militants while wiping out the group.

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