Israel-Palestine: UN envoy ‘deeply alarmed by continuing cycle of violence’
The UN’s Middle East envoy said on Tuesday he was “deeply alarmed” at the continuing cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine, and “appalled by the continued loss of civilian lives.”
Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland was reacting on Twitter to the news of a shooting attack reportedly by two Palestinian gunmen, who opened fire at a petrol station on a road outside an Israeli settlement in the occupied West Bank.
News reports quoting the Israeli military said both of the gunmen had been shot dead, one at the scene by an armed civilian and the other by Israeli security forces.
The UN envoy urged “all sides to refrain from steps that could further enflame an already volatile situation.”
Jenin camp raid
Tuesday’s violence followed a day of bloodshed on Monday, when at least five Palestinians were killed by Israeli security forces during an operation inside the Jenin refugee camp prompting Mr. Wennesland to voice his deep concern over the escalating violence.
He tweeted that the Israeli operation and ensuing exchange of fire with Palestinian militants in the occupied West Bank city resulted in five dead including a child.
Scores of Palestinians and seven Israeli security personnel were reportedly wounded.
Return to ‘political path’
“Such escalations threaten to plunge Palestine and Israel deeper into a deadly crisis”, he said. “All sides must refrain from actions that would further escalate the situation and take steps to reengage on a political path.”
According to news reports, the confrontation involved Israeli forces entering the camp before dawn on Monday. An Israeli helicopter fired missiles in response to militants targeting troop carriers with explosives.
The helicopter reportedly opened fire as forces were attempting to extract soldiers and stranded vehicles.
Israel has been intensifying raids in the West Bank for months now carrying out searches, arrests and home demolitions, amid a reported rise in attacks from Palestinian militants targeting Israelis. More than 160 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank and Gaza Strip since the start of the year, with 21 Israeli deaths.
Guterres ‘deeply troubled’ over settlements plan
On Monday night, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres issued a statement saying he was “deeply troubled” by the Israeli Government’s decision to amend its settlement planning procedures in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
Reiterating concerns expressed earlier in the day by Mr. Wennesland over the plans which are expected to expedite illegal Israeli settlement expansion – overhauling policies in place since 1996 – the UN chief said he was also “deeply alarmed” over the likely Government announcement next week of 4,000 new settlement housing units.
“The Secretary-General reiterates that settlements are a flagrant violation of international law”, said the statement issued by his Spokesperson.
“They are a major obstacle to the realization of a viable two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace. The expansion of these illegal settlements is a significant driver of tensions and violence and deepens humanitarian needs.”
He said the move would further entrench the occupation, while encroaching on Palestinian land and natural resources.
It will also further hamper the free movement of the population and undermine Palestinians’ right to self-determination and sovereignty.
“The Secretary-General urges the Government of Israel to halt and reverse such decisions and to immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and to fully respect its legal obligations in that regard.”
He also called for “further concrete steps” to put in place de-escalation measures to stem the rising violence, agreed between Israeli and Palestinians in recent months in the form of Joint Communiqués in Aqaba, Jordan and Sharm al-Sheik.