COP27 president Sameh Shoukry and other delegates observe a minute of silence during the opening cremony of the COP28 United Nations climate summit in Dubai on November 30, 2023. AFP
Seven weeks into the deadly war, the COP28 talks opened with a moment's silence announced by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, the COP27 president, for "all civilians who have perished during the current conflict in Gaza".
The deadly war also dominated the activist agenda, with chanting, keffiyeh-wearing climate justice defenders urging a ceasefire and an end to Israel's 17-year blockade of the Gaza Strip.
"We are here to express our solidarity with the Palestinians and call for a permanent ceasefire," Lidy Nacpil, representing a coalition of 350 climate justice organizations, told a press conference on the sidelines of the COP gathering.
The conflict began on October 7 Hamas Al-Aqsa Flood operation, killing 1,200 people, and capturing about 240, according to Israeli authorities.
Israel retaliated with an air and ground brutal war on Gaza that the Hamas government in Gaza says has killed more than 15,000 people, almost two-thirds of them women and children, and reduced large parts of the north of the territory to rubble.
Israeli President Isaac Herzog, who was scheduled to arrive in the United Arab Emirates on Thursday, plans to use his COP28 visit for a diplomatic push to release captives held by Hamas, according to his office.
Herzog "intends to engage world leaders in a high-level humanitarian effort to return the hostages", the Israeli presidency said in a statement.
Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas is also expected to be at COP28 and will be in the same room as Herzog on Friday, as they are scheduled to give speeches just minutes apart.
'Violence becomes normalized'
Some activists at the press conference, wearing Palestinian keffiyeh scarves, chanted "Free Palestine!" and other slogans.
"It's our duty as protectors of the motherland and the mother earth, and also protectors of humans, to speak up publicly and demand a ceasefire and the end of the occupation," said Rania Harrara of the MENA Feminist Taskforce.
Dozens of people also attended a separate gathering in support calling for an end to the war.
"We see the same rich countries who say there is no money to help pay for the damage they caused to the climate, say they have no problem paying for bombs raining on innocent people," said Asad Rehman, lead spokesperson for the Climate Justice Coalition.
The activists at COP28 included Tariq Luthun from Gaza, who is a member of the Climate Action Network.
The 32-year-old based in the United States said 95 percent of his family is in the besieged Palestinian territory, including extended family members who have died in the latest fighting.
"If we don't take stances in moments that are so high urgency like this, we allow a precedent to be set where this kind of violence becomes normalized," he told AFP.