From sand dunes to melting glaciers, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Abeer shares lessons from her Antarctic expedition

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Princess Abeer was part of an expedition that studied, among other things, the impact of climate change on the Antarctic. (Supplied)
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Princess Abeer saw with her own eyes the pace of ice melt and the threat this poses in the form of rising sea levels. (Supplied)
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Updated 24 February 2024

From sand dunes to melting glaciers, Saudi Arabia’s Princess Abeer shares lessons from her Antarctic expedition

  • The princess joined an expedition in November to the remotest parts of Antarctica led by Australian NGO Homeward Bound
  • She joined the expedition to raise awareness about climate action, sustainability, and the need for ‘a peace pact with nature’

RIYADH: Princess Abeer bint Saud bin Farhan Al-Saud recently became the first person from Saudi Arabia and the wider Gulf region to go on a research expedition to the remotest parts of the Antarctic continent.

In November, the princess was among 80 people selected from a pool of 1,800 applicants from 45 nations who joined the expedition led by Homeward Bound, an Australian organization that promotes women’s leadership in STEMM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics, and medicine).

Princess Abeer told Arab News: “The whole purpose of me joining this expedition was to raise awareness about climate action, environmental sustainability, and making a peace pact with nature and biodiversity.”

The women on The Island Sky 2023, from 18 countries, set sail on Nov. 12, 2023, from Puerto Madryn, Argentina, for a 19-night voyage. (Photo courtesy of Homeward Bound)

Also on the expedition were astronomers, oceanographers, glaciologists, mathematicians, marine biologists, and renewable energy engineers, who collaborated on various projects some of which were part of the UN Climate Change Conference (COP28), held in Dubai in November and December.

The princess said: “As a group, a few of us collaborated on multiple projects combining science, art, and policy and advocating at the UN by drafting reports and preparing our talks and findings for our participation at COP28.”


• In November, Princess Abeer joined an expedition to the remotest parts of Antarctica, led by Homeward Bound, an Australian organization that holds leadership programs for women in STEMM, becoming the first person from the Gulf region to do so.

Princess Abeer is an international development professional with culture and heritage, peacebuilding, multilateralism, and NGO expertise, who has worked for several UN agencies.

She currently chairs the Sustainable Development Association (Talga) which aims to localize the UN Sustainable Development Goals in alignment with Vision 2030.

The princess noted that she was passionate about dedicating her life to projects that helped preserve endangered species, land, and the planet.

She is also an artist, inspired by her surroundings and what she described as her “cosmic desert” adventures in Saudi Arabia, where she produces works on canvas utilizing natural materials.

Before setting off for Antarctica, Princess Abeer pointed out that she would channel her ancestral heritage.

“I will draw on my roots as a woman from the desert and as a sailor, looking to the heavens to guide me.

“The Southern Cross has led me to many answers and many more questions, just like the North Star has led wanderers through the desert for countless generations,” she added.

The Bedouin who traversed Arabia’s vast deserts over the millennia relied on the stars.

November’s expedition was not all plain sailing. An unexpected storm struck the team’s ship as it navigated the Drake Passage, one of the world’s choppiest sea routes located between South America’s Cape Horn and the South Shetland Islands of Antarctica.

Navigating through icebergs amid stormy waters could be a truly frightening experience. (Photo by Maya Beano)

The princess said: “We had a very challenging 48 hours on the Drake Passage. My expedition mates lay on their bunks. Others used dark humor to console their anxiety by playing the ‘Titanic’ soundtrack on the old piano on board in the open area lounge.

“A few others were brave and calm, enjoying their time knowing that the storm would pass.”

While the experience was no doubt frightening, she added that she felt humbled, both by the power of nature and the skill of the ship’s crew who brought them safely through the towering waves to calmer seas.

“Witnessing and experiencing the majesty of nature’s fury is the art of humble exploration. I think it requires so much mental agility, gentle wisdom, and humor to overcome any storm, rogue waves, or any hardship in your life,” she added.

When the team arrived in Antarctica, Princess Abeer noted that it felt like she had been transported to another world, similar to “Alice in Wonderland.”

She said: “It felt like being in an immersive and multi-sensory natural museum of raw and untouched beauty. You can hear the sound of silence. Antarctica is the icebergs and glaciers gazing at you.”

Although the expedition took place during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer season, it was vital that participants wore the appropriate gear to withstand the cold, plus polarized sunglasses to protect their eyes from the sun’s harsh ultraviolet rays.

But to work in such inhospitable conditions, the princess pointed out that participants required inner strength.

Humpback whales gracefully surface in the Gerlache Strait during sunset. (Photo by Maya Beano)

“In isolated polar regions, just like hibernating animals live off their fat, as polar explorers we sought to ignite our spirits — with sea crafts like bunting,” she added.

Princess Abeer and the rest of the team slept aboard their ship, anchored off the Antarctic coast, but each day used Zodiacs — heavy-duty inflatable boats — to commute to their research stations and to conduct field research.

While studying the impact of climate change on the Antarctic’s weather, wildlife, and geography, the princess was shocked to see the massive icebergs breaking into the ocean and the record number of invasive species drawn to the continent by its warming climate.


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In particular, she was stunned to see rainfall in a part of the world where water in the atmosphere should be falling as snow.

She said: “It was raining occasionally instead of snowing. That is defying nature by all measures. It can’t and shouldn’t be raining in Antarctica at all.”

Out on the Antarctic ice, Princess Abeer was a long way from the vast sandy deserts of the Arabian Peninsula. However, she found some unexpected similarities in the contrasting environments.

“When you’re in a desert of ice, as opposed to a desert of sand, you’re living with people who are on the very edge of human tolerance. I think the upshot of that is the incredible hospitality you get,” she added.

View of Antarctica on a sunny day. (Photo by Maya Beano)

It highlighted to her how the world’s most distinct ecosystems — from polar regions and subtropical rainforests to vast interior deserts and coastal habitats — were interconnected by the global climate system.

Princess Abeer said: “Safeguarding the cryosphere is not a matter for polar regions alone but all countries alike. Glaciers and icebergs melting at faster rates will cause rising sea levels, affecting all coastlines in the world.

“The polar and MENA (Middle East and North Africa) regions — in fact the entire globe — are linked. If we want to save one, then we have to save the other.

“The importance lies in understanding these reciprocal relationships for effective climate management, ensuring global climate stability, and safeguarding ecosystems in both polar and desert regions alike, and henceforth contributing to safeguarding the global climate system,” she added.

Another major concern for polar researchers was the impact of a warming climate on seabird habitats. The breakup of sea ice has disrupted colonies, while the arrival of invasive species from further north has brought with it the spread of avian flu.

The Snowy Sheatbell, the only land bird native to the Antarctic. (Photo by Princess Abeer Al-Farhan) 

“Antarctica is like a haven paradise of wildlife. On a daily basis we had awe-inducing surprise encounters with humpback whales flashing their flukes against the water.

“There were also colonies of Weddell seals that I think can only be found in ice-free islands in Antarctica,” the princess said.

Antarctica is home to one especially iconic species — penguins. Of the world’s 18 different penguin species, seven of them are only found on the southernmost continent.

“We were so lucky to have seen them all in their natural habitat during our last expedition.

Adelie penguins colony on the iceberg Antarctica. (Shutterstock)

“The species found in Antarctica and the Subantarctic region are the emperor penguin, Adelie, chinstrap, gentoo, macaroni, rockhopper, and king penguin,” she added.

For Princess Abeer, the biggest takeaway from her time in Antarctica was the need for the world and individuals to take a cross-sectoral approach in their efforts to halt climate change and prevent global temperatures from rising any further. Failure to do so, she highlighted, would lead to further ice melt and a rise in global sea levels.

“I believe that it’s time to make a peace pact with nature. We must not let our faith for a regenerative future for this planet melt away. What happens in Antarctica doesn’t stay in Antarctica,” she said.


World needs rewilding experiments, Riyadh forum told

Updated 15 sec ago

World needs rewilding experiments, Riyadh forum told

  • Kingdom ‘dedicated to restoring endangered species to natural habitats,’ expert says

RIYADH: The Kingdom is taking promising steps to balance its ecosystem by expanding rewilding efforts.

Rewilding is a method used to restore and sustain biodiversity by reintroducing wild animals, restoring wilderness areas and promoting natural processes.

During a discussion panel titled “Rewilding, Restoration and Reintroducing” at the inaugural Hima protected areas forum, held in Riyadh from April 21-24, Paul Marshall, head of NEOM Nature Reserve, along with other panelists such as Prof. Philip Seddon from the department of zoology at the University of Otago and Tim Coulson, head of biology at the University of Oxford, shared insights on the topic.

Ahmad Al-Boug, general manager of terrestrial habitat conservation at the National Center for Wildlife, said: “Our focus goes beyond reintroducing wildlife to protected areas. We’re dedicated to restoring native, endangered species to their natural habitats across the Kingdom, within their geographical range.”

Marshall explained some of the steps NEOM is taking to ensure the success of its program, adding: “Rewilding brings many things to our arid ecosystems … the first is ecological benefits. We restore natural dynamics and we rebuild populations.”

However, Marshall argued that rewilding can pose some ecological risks, including the potential for mismatches between reintroduced and existing species.

“I like to think of rewilding as an experiment … an experiment the world needs,” he said.

Another panelist, Robert Muir, technical adviser for the operationalization of protected areas at the National Center for Wildlife, shared steps for success in rewilding: “One is animal protection — making sure that the areas into which wildlife is being brought are sufficiently well protected. Drivers of threat and threats themselves that led to the degradation of habitat and wildlife should be sufficiently addressed.”

Speaking about the Kingdom’s efforts, Marshall said: “What’s remarkable about Saudi Arabia is its forward-thinking approach. It’s leading the way in economic development and social transformation. Equally inspiring is its commitment to conservation, making it a beacon for future generations.”

NEOM bred four Arabian oryx by late 2022. The species had not walked on Saudi sands during the previous century after being driven to near extinction in the wild.

The Kingdom is improving environmental protection programs throughout its reserves, ensuring sustainable practices.

The National Center for Wildlife organized the Hima forum to discuss conservation efforts for natural habitats and wildlife in Saudi Arabia.

It was inaugurated on Sunday by the minister of environment, water, and agriculture and chairman of the board of the center, Abdulrahman Al-Fadhli.

Since launching in 2019, the center has addressed challenges facing wildlife and marine ecosystems, aiming to protect the environment for future generations.

How resumption of movie screening provided a global platform for local Saudi talent

Updated 23 April 2024

How resumption of movie screening provided a global platform for local Saudi talent

  • Since cinemas reopened six years ago across the Kingdom, cumulative box office revenues are approaching the $1 billion mark
  • The Red Sea Film Foundation and the Saudi Film Fund support homegrown talent through programs and partnerships

RIYADH: This month, Saudi Arabia marks six years of movie screenings after a 35-year gap. Back then, the idea of a flourishing domestic film industry seemed improbable. Today, it has become a reality.

Since cinemas reopened on April 18, 2018, multiplexes have prospered, with accumulative box office revenues hitting almost $1 billion. Even the closures of the pandemic years were not enough to halt the industry’s meteoric rise.

Cities across the Kingdom now boast their own world-class movie theaters, screening the latest international blockbusters, regional hits and domestic productions, while homegrown film-making capability is now routinely spotlighted at local film festivals.

Saudis gather at a cinema theatre in Riyadh on April 30, 2018. (AFP)

With the launch of the Red Sea Film Festival in December 2021 and the establishment in 2020 of the Saudi Film Commission under the Ministry of Culture, many Saudis who were working in production houses overseas are now relocating to the Kingdom.

“The year 2018 marked a significant turning point for Saudi filmmakers and audiences as well,” Saudi film producer Mohammed Al-Turki, who was named CEO of the Red Sea Film Festival in 2022, told Arab News.

“The Saudi box office is growing rapidly. These achievements reflect the filmmakers’ passion for crafting captivating stories that are deeply embedded in our culture and resonate with an engaged local audience.”

The launch of the Red Sea Film Festival in 2021 prompted many Saudis who were working in production houses overseas to relocate to the Kingdom. (Red Sea Film Festival)

Saudi filmmakers are making their mark both locally and internationally. Among them are Tawfiq Al-Zaidi, the Qudus brothers, Ali Al-Kalthami, and Mishal Al-Jasser, said Al-Turki. “All tirelessly striving to deliver their finest work.”

The Red Sea Film Foundation, which was created in 2019 after the cinema ban was lifted, has become a catalyst for the industry’s expansion, staging one of the Middle East’s biggest film festivals in partnership with other major gatherings in the world cinema calendar.

RSFF has developed a variety of programs and initiatives specifically tailored to filmmakers from the Arab world, Africa, and Asia, with a special focus on Saudi filmmakers.

“Our programs include the Red Sea Fund, which offers financial support to film projects at various stages from development through to post-production,” said Al-Turki. “The Red Sea Labs provide a range of training workshops and courses for filmmakers.”

Winners and jury members posing on stage at the end of the second RSFF’s awards ceremony on December 8, 2022. (AFP)

Additionally, the Red Sea Souk acts as a networking hub, providing numerous developmental programs.

“Among our recent successful initiatives is our collaboration with the Series Mania festival, which has enabled several promising Saudi filmmakers to advance their television projects and gain exposure at one of the world’s foremost television festivals,” said Al-Turki.

“We continue to launch many value-adding programs aimed at nurturing rising Saudi talent.”

The Kingdom has established several initiatives to support the industry. Most recently, a SR375 million ($100 million) Saudi Film Fund was unveiled by the government’s Cultural Development Fund in partnership with local investment firm MEFIC Capital and Roaa Media Ventures, a holding company that promotes local media projects and talent.

The fund will collaborate with major international studios to invest in film production that provides content reflecting Saudi culture and values.

Such government initiatives are also spurring the private sector. In 2023, Syed Ali launched 40Films KSA to work with local and international clients.

Ibraheem Alkhairallah on the set of Saudi film “Sattar,” where he portrayed the character of Abdulkhaleq, an undercover officer pretending to be a wrestling coach. (Supplied)

“This cinematic renaissance has made a positive impact on our business, fueling commitment to nurture more and meet the top standards being set daily in the market,” Ali, a Pakistani businessman based in Riyadh, told Arab News.

“The Kingdom is not just a consumer of global cinema; it is a creator, contributing its unique voice to the rich tapestry of world cinema. Saudi filmmakers are narrating stories that captivate audiences both at home and around the globe.” 

Saudi filmmaker Mujtaba Saeed, who is based between the Kingdom and Germany, says he has also benefited from the boom in the Saudi entertainment industry and will begin working on a film to be shot in the Eastern Province at the end of this year.

The film, titled “Drowning,” will be funded by the Red Sea Film Festival, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, and the Saudi Film Commission. “Without this support I would not have been able to shoot the film,” Saeed told Arab News.

“The great developments in the Saudi film industry have greatly contributed to the growth of my work as a young director. Through increased opportunities for collaboration and greater support I have access to resources and support that were previously unavailable to me.”

Two young Saudi film directors have been presented with trophies after winning the second edition of a 48-hour filmmaking challenge. (AN Photo/Ali Khameq)

During the Cannes Film Festival in 2022, the Saudi Film Commission announced an incentive program aimed at transforming the Kingdom into a global hub for film production. This included 40 percent returns for productions that hired local crews, among other initiatives.

The incentive program was announced a few months after the RSFF established the Red Sea Fund to support Arab and African filmmakers and directors. The $10 million fund has backed more than 250 projects since its launch.

It is through schemes such as these that the RSFF aims to foster “cultural connections,” providing a platform for up-and-coming film talent in the Kingdom, said Al-Turki.

The Saudi Film Commission is responsible for numerous initiatives that have helped bolster the Saudi industry at home and abroad by providing young Saudi filmmakers with opportunities.

One example is “Norah,” a Saudi production that will be screened at the 77th Cannes Film Festival this year in its “Un Certain Regard” section. It will be the first time a Saudi movie has been selected for the prestigious festival.

Directed by Saudi Tawfik Alzaidi and produced by American Paul Miller, formerly the head of finance at the Doha Film Institute, the film is the first Saudi movie shot entirely in the AlUla region.

Poster of Saudi movie “Norah.” (Supplied)

Supported by the Red Sea Fund, the film also clinched the top prize of a funding award from the Saudi Film Commission’s Daou Competition — an initiative launched by the Kingdom’s Ministry of Culture in September 2019 to bolster Saudi film production and nurture the country’s next generation of filmmakers.

Set in Saudi Arabia during the 1990s, the film follows Norah, a young Saudi woman who lives in a small village, who is introduced to Nader, an artist. Norah asks him to paint her portrait and soon an artistic relationship develops between them. 

The film, Alzaidi’s debut feature, explores the period of Saudi conservatism and the various forms of art that were banned. It examines how art can facilitate communication between people and foster social change.

In the run-up to the sixth anniversary of the lifting of the cinema ban, the Saudi Film Commission organized the fourth edition of the Gulf Cinema Festival, which ran from April 14 to 18.

This was the first time the festival was managed by a government agency, underlining the recognition of the socio-cultural and economic importance of the film industry for the Kingdom.

The Gulf Cinema Festival brought together several pioneers of Gulf cinema to share their visions and experiences in film production. (Supplied)

In a speech during the opening of the festival, the Film Commission’s CEO Abdullah bin Nasser Al-Qahtani said “this edition of the festival represents a crucial milestone in cultural cooperation among the Gulf Cooperation Council countries and embodies our wise leadership’s commitment to enhancing collaboration among us,” according to SPA.

“This festival, which brings us together today, reflects the strong connection between ambition and the cultural strategy of the GCC countries, which play a significant role in enhancing cultural exchange, expanding infrastructure, drawing inspiration from successful experiences, and encouraging Gulf talents to offer more,” he said.

The booming Saudi entertainment industry is also attracting directors from across the world to shoot and produce films in the Kingdom.

Over the last 18 months, the landscapes of NEOM in the Tabuk region have been featured in several international films, including Ruper Wyatt’s “Desert Warrior,” starring Anthony Mackie and Sir Ben Kingsley; “Dunki” directed by Indian filmmaker Rajkumar Hirani starring Shahrukh Khan; the first regional reality TV show “Million Dollar Island;” and the “Rise of the Witches,” the region’s largest-ever budget TV show. 

As deals continue to be made and incentives offered for making movies in Saudi Arabia, the future looks bright not only for domestic movie theaters but also for local, regional and international filmmakers and producers intending to work and collaborate in the Kingdom.

“Despite these accomplishments, this is merely the start,” said Al-Turki. “Saudi cinema has much more to accomplish.”

Saudi FM receives Bahraini counterpart in Riyadh

Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan receives his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in Riyadh.
Updated 23 April 2024

Saudi FM receives Bahraini counterpart in Riyadh

  • During the meeting, the close relations between Saudi Arabia and Bahrain and ways to strengthen them in various fields were reviewed

RIYADH: Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan received his Bahraini counterpart Abdullatif bin Rashid Al-Zayani in Riyadh on Tuesday.

During the meeting, the close relations between their countries and ways to strengthen them in various fields were reviewed.

The ministers also discussed the latest regional and international developments and efforts made with regard to them. 

Outer Edge Summit in Riyadh explores AI, digital futures

Updated 24 April 2024

Outer Edge Summit in Riyadh explores AI, digital futures

  • Experts highlight issues in data ownership and the revolutionary Web3

RIYADH: By owning our data, we will be empowered and safe, says Krista Kim at Outer Edge Innovation Summit on April 23 at The Garage in Riyadh.

Kim spoke in one of the summit’s panel discussions, titled “Web3 and AI for business and smart cities,” which included guest speakers Naif Al-Rabeah, director of Web3 and spatial reality portfolio at NEOM; Eric Pulier, founder & CEO at Vatom Corporation; and Kamal Youssefi, president at the Hashgraph Association.

Outer Edge Innovation Summit brought together some of the biggest names in the blockchain, AI, and gaming ecosystems from all over the world. (AN photos by Abdulrhman Bin Shalhoub)

The Korean Canadian artist has a goal to raise awareness of the importance of each person owning their data: “I believe that data is power. You need to allow people to be empowered by owning their own data and to give them a choice of what projects they want to be involved in.”

Kim highlighted that data ownership “is one of the greatest human rights issues in the 21st century.


• Topics at the Outer Edge Innovation Summit in Riyadh include smart cities, gaming, esports, art, culture, and more.

• The panel discussion titled ‘Web3 and AI for business and smart cities’ included guest speaker Naif Al-Rabeah, the director of Web3 and spatial reality portfolio at NEOM.

• Last month, Krista Kim presented ‘Heart Space,’ the first collaborative generative AI biometric artwork in history, commissioned by Julius Baer at Art Dubai.

“Right now, in the Web2 system, our data is taken for free. The companies practice surveillance capitalism and they take your data and they monetize on your free data.”

Scott Lawin, CEO of Candy Digital, a gaming and fan engagement company focused on sports and entertainment, attended the summit to support Web3: “Web3 really gives people that opportunity to authenticate their data and share it in a selective way where necessary. And also benefit from the contribution of that data.”

Krista Kim, Contemporary artist

Lawin attended the panel discussion highlighting the importance of the harmony of web3 and smart cities. Web3 is a term used to describe an idea for the next stage of internet development, which incorporates concepts such as decentralization, blockchain technologies, and token-based economics.

"I’m really excited about the Kingdom’s push forward and support for Web3. And I wanted to come and sort of see it here at first hand and meet the community here."

(Data ownership) is one of the greatest human rights issues in the 21st century.

Krista Kim, Contemporary artist

“As it relates to smart cities, (they) are designed and built around data. And understanding how the personalization of that data can help improve citizens’ lives,” he explained. “But ownership of that data and giving each individual the ability to sort of turn on and turn off the way that data is utilized is also quite important. From a privacy perspective and just a self-determination perspective.”

Meanwhile, Kim hopes to raise awareness of the global issue through personal projects and artistic efforts.

Last month, she presented “Heart Space,” the first collaborative generative AI biometric artwork in history, commissioned by Julius Baer at Art Dubai.

Within the exhibition, visitors take their heartbeat measurements with an app that will create a heart signature to be used an artwork in the immersive space.

“So, you are contributing through your heartbeat to the experience of the artwork, and you have the opportunity to create the NFT of your heart signature on the app,” the artist explained. “This is a project that I'm creating for people to take the first step to create your heart signature and then from that first step, you can start the movement toward that privacy and identity on the chain.”

The line between real and fake is being blurred further, creating ramifications in various fields. “AI can now create fake articles and they can fake your identity ... in three years, AGI (artificial general intelligence) is going to automatically just create stories,” Kim said. “So, we need to differentiate between what is real and what is fake, and also what is made by a human being versus what is made by the machine.”

Technology can be used to its advantage. Blockchain provides a solution of creating verification for newspapers, journalists and online media outlets, Kim says.

Speaking about how it works, she added: “On-chain media is very important, so that you can see the verification of this story on the blockchain. To bring it a step further — biometrics. So, your heart signature that I spoke about, as a journalist, you can use your heart signature to sign your story online.”

Outer Edge Innovation Summit brought together some of the biggest names in the blockchain, AI, and gaming ecosystems from all over the world.

In partnership with Animoca Brands and King Abdulaziz City for Science and Technology, the summit highlights advances in Web3 and the gaming ecosystem development in Saudi Arabia.

Topics at the summit will include smart cities, gaming, esports, art, culture, and more.

For more information about the Outer Edge Innovation Summit in Riyadh, visit



Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli war crimes in Gaza

Updated 23 April 2024

Saudi Arabia condemns Israeli war crimes in Gaza

  • Palestinian authorities reported finding hundreds of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops
  • Ministry renewed Kingdom’s demand that international community assume its responsibility toward stopping Israeli attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia condemned Israeli war crimes being committed in the Gaza Strip without deterrence, Saudi Press Agency reported on Tuesday.

The condemnation comes after Palestinian authorities reported finding hundreds of bodies in mass graves at Nasser hospital in Khan Younis this week after it was abandoned by Israeli troops.

Bodies were also reported at the Al-Shifa medical site following an Israeli special forces operation.

The Kingdom’s Foreign Ministry stressed that the failure of the international community to hold Israel accountable for violating international law will only result in more violations and the exacerbation of human tragedies and destruction.

It renewed the Kingdom’s demand that the international community assume its responsibility toward stopping Israeli attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip and holding it accountable for the massacres that it has committed there.

UN rights chief Volker Turk said earlier on Tuesday he was “horrified” by the mass grave reports at Gaza hospitals.