Saudi Arabia’s diplomacy announced on Friday that the kingdom “categorically” rejects any movement of the population of Gaza, condemning the bombing of “defenseless civilians”, raising the tone of its criticism of Israel after the Hamas attack.

Riyadh “states its categorical rejection of calls for the forced displacement of the Palestinian population of Gaza and its condemnation of the continued shelling of defenseless civilians” in the enclave, the Saudi Foreign Ministry said in a press release.

Thousands of Palestinians fled on Friday, taking to often damaged Gaza roads, in the hope of finding safe haven further south, after the Israeli army ordered the population to evacuate the northern part of the Gaza Strip, where it is preparing to launch a large-scale ground operation in retaliation for the bloody attack by Hamas on Israeli territory a week ago.

The Saudi announcement came as US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken arrived in Riyadh as part of a tour of six Arab countries following his trip to Israel.

Hamas’ deadly attack on Israel from Gaza and Israel’s war against it, shelling the Strip, have called into question, if not buried, the efforts of the US administration of Joe Biden to promote an Israeli-Saudi rapprochement.

Riyadh, which has so far not recognized the state of Israel, released a series of statements of support for the Palestinians this week.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs also called on the international community yesterday Friday to “take action quickly to stop any form of military escalation against civilians, prevent a humanitarian disaster and provide the necessary assistance to the residents of Gaza.”

“Depriving them of the necessary means for a dignified life is a violation of international humanitarian law and will exacerbate the crisis and suffering in the region,” he added.