A speech made by Prince Turki al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia this week on the current violence in the Middle East is unusually frank for a senior member of the Saudi royal family.

It has been widely acknowledged as the clearest indicator yet of the Saudi leadership’s thinking on the situation.

Prince Turki, a widely respected elder statesman in Saudi circles, has publicly condemned both Hamas and Israel for attacking civilians, following Hamas’s 7 October attack on southern Israel and the subsequent Israeli bombardment of Gaza. There were no heroes, he said, only victims.

Such is the groundswell of Arab anger at those Israeli air strikes that Prince Turki, who was addressing a US audience at Rice University in Houston, is a rare Arab voice of criticism of Hamas in the current climate.

The group’s acts, he said, went against Islamic injunctions not to harm civilians. The majority of those killed or kidnapped by Hamas were civilians.

Prince Turki, a careful, thoughtful ex-diplomat and spy chief, balanced his condemnation of Hamas with that of Israel, which he accused of “indiscriminate bombing of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza” and the “indiscriminate arrest of Palestinian children, women and men in the West Bank”.

He took issue with the US media’s use of the phrase “unprovoked attack” in reference to the 7 October raid, saying: “What more provocation is required.. than what Israel has done to the Palestinian people for three-quarters of a century?”

He added that “all militarily occupied people have a right to resist occupation”.

Prince Turki also condemned Western politicians for “shedding tears when Israelis are killed by Palestinians”, but refusing to “even express sorrow when Israelis kill Palestinians”.

President Joe Biden has since said, during his visit to Israel, that the US mourned all innocent victims.

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