UN chief’s surprise visit to calm Israeli-Palestinian unrest

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon is to visit Israel and Palestine in effort to help end weeks of violence

Photo by: AFP
Photo by: AFP

United Nations Chief Ban Ki-moon is to make an unannounced visit to Israel and Palestine on Tuesday to try to calm nearly three weeks of violence that has raised fears of a full-scale uprising.

The violence in occupied Palestinian territories began in September when tension in Jerusalem between Jews and Muslims boiled over amid rumours that Israel planned to relax long-standing rules to strengthen Jewish rights at the site, which Israel has denied.

In the recent attacks, Palestinians used knives to stab Israelis and they were shot dead in the occupied West Bank where eight Israelis and more than 40 Palestinians have been killed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon who is scheduled to hold talks with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders urged both Israelis and Palestinians to end their "posturing and brinkmanship" and return to trying to achieve a two-state solution to the conflict before his surprise visit to the region.

Ban told to the Palestinian side that he understood their frustration and anger "at the continued Israeli occupation and expansion of settlements,” adding "but you must put down the weapons of despair."

Ban also addressed the Israelis that he understood their "genuine concern about peace and security," but warned that "walls, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need and must have."

US Secretary of State John Kerry’s meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Germany this week and Abbas later at an unspecified location in the Middle East has fuelled international concerns.

The Israeli government escalated works for punitive home demolitions in response to the series of attacks, which have been denounced by several human rights groups as a form of collective punishment and against international law.  

Ban Ki-moon said he understood Israelis' anger at attacks, "when children are afraid to go to school, when anyone on the street is a potential victim, but wars, checkpoints, harsh responses by the security forces and house demolitions cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need and must have," he said on UN TV.

He also told Palestinians, "I know your hopes for peace have been dashed countless times. You are angry at the continued occupation and the expansion of settlements," however reminding, "At this difficult time let us say: Enough is enough."

Home demolitions and checkpoints in occupied east Jerusalem, where many of the attackers come from have triggered further anger in the Palestinian side.

Videos of Israeli security forces shooting dead alleged attackers that have spread online have also fed unrest, with Palestinians seeing some of the shootings as unjustified while attacks and stabbers have sparked fear among Israelis, which caused some Israeli politicians to encourage residents to arm themselves in the face of the violence.

Human rights activists blamed politicians’ provocative calls as they led unexpected events such as the shooting down of an Eritrean man who was mistaken for an attacker and killed by a security guard who thought he was a second attacker beside a Palestinian.

TRTWorld and agencies