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Top UN officials voice ‘deep concern’ over E. Jerusalem violence, gives ‘restraint’ call to Israel

UNITED NATIONS, May 10 (APP): United Nations (UN) Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has expressed “deep concern” over confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in East Jerusalem, urging Israel to respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

Other senior UN officials also voiced concern over the incidence of violence, particularly those which began on Friday evening, and continued into Sunday night.
Tensions in East Jerusalem have soared recently, with Palestinians complaining of oppressive restrictions during the holy month of Ramadan.

Friday’s violence, described as some of the worst seen in Jerusalem for many years, saw some 200 Palestinians and 17 Israeli Police injured in clashes around Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount. On Saturday and Sunday clashes continued in East Jerusalem, ahead of a planned march by an Israeli group through the Old City.

The official spokesperson for UN chief, Stephane Dujarric, said in a statement released on Sunday evening, that Israeli authorities must exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly.

“All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement”, the statement continued.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his commitment, including through the Middle East Quartet, to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements”.

The Envoys of the Middle East Quartet (from the European Union, Russia, the United States, and the United Nations), released a press statement on Saturday, in which they expressed their alarm at “the provocative statements made by some political groups, as well as the launching of rockets and the resumption of incendiary balloons from Gaza towards Israel, and attacks on Palestinian farmland in the West Bank”.

The Quartet representatives went on to declare their concern regarding the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes, in which they have lived in for generations, in two neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem – Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan – and their opposition to “unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment”.

This is a reference to a court case involving several Palestinians who face eviction due to a legal challenge by the Nahalat Shimon settler organization. The risk is considered to be imminent for four of the families.

The UN has called for on the Israeli Government to halt all forced evictions and on Thursday, Rupert Colville, the spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR), warned that, if they take place, the evictions in the Sheikh Jarrah case would violate Israel’s obligations under international law.

Saturday’s fighting took place on Laylat-al-Qadr, the most holy day in the Muslim month of Ramadan, after large numbers of ‘namazis’ had prayed at the Haram Al-Sharif/Temple Mount compound. In their statement, the Quartet Envoys called on the Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days.

“We call on all sides to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites”, the statement continues. “All leaders have a responsibility to act against extremists and to speak out against all acts of violence and incitement”.

The statement concluded with a reiteration by the Quartet Envoys of their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution.

On Sunday, the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, urged the Israeli authorities to refrain from using violence against children and release all those children detained.

In a joint statement, Ted Chaiban, UNICEF Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, and Lucia Elmi, UNICEF Special Representative in the State of Palestine, noted that 29 Palestinian children have been injured over the past two days, and a further eight arrested. “A one-year-old toddler was among those injured.

Some children were taken for treatment at hospitals, with injuries in the head and the spine. This comes amid reports that nearly 300 people were injured in the area”.

The senior UNICEF officials said that the agency had received reports of ambulances being restricted from arriving on location to assist and evacuate the injured, and that an on-site clinic was reportedly hit and searched.

The statement called for all children to be protected from violence and kept out of harm’s way at all times, for families’ rights to access all places of worship to be preserved, and for those injured to be assisted without restrictions.



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