(photo credit: AP)
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Thursday urged Israel to stop using "disproportionate and excessive force" against the Palestinians.
"Israel's disproportionate and excessive use of force has killed and injured many civilians including children ... I condemn these actions and call on Israel to cease such acts," Ban told the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC)summit in Senegal's capital Dakar.
Earlier at the summit, Senegal's president and the new OIC chairman, Abdoulaye Wade, said he would make solving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict a priority for the organization.
"The just and legitimate cause of Palestine remains at the heart of our concerns," Wade told the leaders of dozens of Islamic nations who attended the two-day summit of the world's largest Muslim group.
Wade called Israel "an occupying power" and urged its government to "immediately stop its disproportionate use of force."
He added: "I should like to tell our brothers and sisters of Palestine that your unity is the
first priority of success .... Please unite."
The Middle East has long been a core issue for the 57-member OIC, which was founded in 1969 in response to an arson attack on the al-Aksa mosque in Jerusalem. The group aims to promote Islamic unity and serve as a voice for the Muslim world.
The Palestinian delegation declared the summit a success even before it began, saying earlier Thursday it had garnered key support from fellow Muslims.
A declaration drafted by foreign ministers to be adopted by the summit "reinforces support and backs Palestine, and condemns Israel for what it is doing in Gaza," Palestinian Authority Foreign Minister Riad Malki said as leaders of dozens of Islamic nations gathered in Senegal's capital for the opening of a two-day Organization of the Islamic Conference summit.
Malki called the summit "an exercise in solidarity and in showing political support for countries like Palestine."
Summits are traditionally held every three years, and the agenda this year included studying ways to improve Islam's image in the West and spurring economic development in some of the world's poorest countries - the summit brings together Arab countries that set the price of oil with small African nations who struggle to provide their citizens with paved roads.