International calls for calm as Jerusalem violence escalates


Reactions poured in from around the world after Monday’s violence sparked by days of unrest over the threatened evictions of Palestinians from their East Jerusalem homes bubbled over in clashes at the flashpoint Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, with Israel launching deadly air strikes on Gaza in response to a barrage of rockets fired by the Islamist movement Hamas.  

The U.S., EU and other nations called for a lowering of tensions while several Arab nations, including Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Oman called on Israel to respect international law and the right of peaceful worship.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged both Israel and the Palestinians to lower tensions.

"All sides need to de-escalate, reduce tensions, take practical steps to calm things down," Blinken said as he met his Jordanian counterpart in Washington.

Blinken strongly condemned the rocket fire by Hamas, saying they "need to stop immediately", and backed Israel's right to respond.

U.S. State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned the violence and said the Biden administration stands by Israel’s right to self-defence during a testy press conference with reporters in Washington Monday.


The Biden administration’s response was criticised by some Democratic lawmakers for being inadequate in its condemnations of Israeli actions. Rep. Rashida Tlaib – a Michigan Congresswoman of Palestinian origin – joined Rep. Ilhan Omar and Rep. Andre Carson in criticising the U.S. for paying “lip service to a Palestinian state while land seizures, settlement expansion and forced displacement continue”.

The EU's top diplomat called for calm in East Jerusalem, after more than 300 Palestinians were hurt in clashes with Israeli police.

"The situation with regard to evictions of Palestinian families ... is a matter of serious concern. Such actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground," EU foreign affairs chief Josep Borrell told a news conference. 

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to mobilise the world to stop Israeli "terror", in phone calls Monday to Palestinian leaders.

In the calls to Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh, Erdogan denounced Israel's actions and extended support. 

The Turkish leader pledged to "do everything in his power to mobilise the world, starting with the Islamic world, to stop Israel's terror and occupation", his office said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif took to Twitter to blame Israel for stealing "people's land & homes" and creating "an Apartheid regime". 

He also accused Israel of refusing to vaccinate citizens "under illegal occupation" and accused Israeli police of shooting "innocent worshippers" inside the Al-Aqsa mosque. 

On Saturday, a foreign ministry spokesman called on the United Nations to condemn Israeli police action in the mosque compound, saying it amounted to a "war crime".

UN Security Council holds off on statement

The UN Security Council held an urgent meeting on the unrest in Jerusalem but issued no immediate statement, with diplomats saying the United States believed public comments would be counterproductive.

Ireland’s UN ambassador, Geraldine Byrne Nason, who joined in calling for the emergency meeting, said that “the Security Council should urgently speak out, and we hope that it will be able to do so today”.

Council diplomats said all 15 members expressed concern at the clashes and rising violence but the United States, Israel’s closest ally, said a statement might not be useful at this time.

U.S. State Department spokesman Price said the Biden administration wants to ensure that anything from the UN Security Council “be that statements or anything else -- don’t escalate tensions. That’s our overriding priority”.

The U.S. agreed to have council experts discuss the statement after all other members said the UN’s most powerful body must react, the council diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because consultations were private. But the U.S. was still wary late Monday afternoon, they said.

The draft statement would express the Security Council’s “grave concern” at escalating tensions and violence in the West Bank, including east Jerusalem, and “serious concern” over the possible evictions of Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in east Jerusalem, “many of whom have lived in their homes for generations”.

There have been weeks of mounting tensions and almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli troops in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, already a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fuelled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

The proposed statement would call on Israel “to cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, including in East Jerusalem in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law” and refrain from unilateral steps “that exacerbate tensions and undermine the viability of the two-state solution”.

It would express deep worry about daily clashes, especially in and around Jerusalem’s holy sites which have led to many injuries and would call for restraint and “refraining from provocative actions and rhetoric.”

Calling for respect for the historic status of Jerusalem’s holy sites, the draft would also underscore “that Muslim worshippers at the holy sites must be allowed to worship in peace, free from violence, threats and provocations”.

The council would also reiterate its support for a negotiated solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict where “two states, Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and sovereign Palestine live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders”.

China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun, the current council president who proposed the statement under consideration along with Norway and Tunisia, called the clashes between Israelis and Palestinians “disturbing”.

“Israeli authorities should take necessary measures to prevent violence, threats and provocations against Muslim worshippers,” Zhang said.

Norway's UN ambassador, Mona Juul, said: “The situation on the ground is clearly explosive, not only in East Jerusalem but also in and around Gaza. This will have grave consequences and is the last this region needs."

She told AP her key message to the council was that it is vital for the 15-member council to come “out with a clear statement, calling for de-escalation and confirming its support to the two-state solution".    (France24/AFP/AP)


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