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UN chief condemns rising violence in Jerusalem

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The Dome of the Rock Mosque, East Jerusalem, one day after confrontations took place between Israeli police and Palestinians on Friday 7 May 2021.

Senior UN officials, including the Secretary-General, António Guterres, have expressed concern over a spate of violent incidents at the al-Aqsa compound in Jerusalem, an important religious site for both Muslims and Jews.

According to media reports, more than 150 people were injured in clashes between Palestinians, and Israeli police on Friday, which took place during a tense period of Israeli-Palestinian relations.

According to the Palestine Red Crescent, most of the Palestinian injuries came from rubber bullets, stun grenades and police batons, whilst Israeli police reported injuries to three officers, as a result of stone-throwing.

The fighting at the compound follows recent attacks in Israel which left at least 14 dead, and subsequent raids by Israeli forces in the occupied West Bank, in which 25 Palestinians died, according to reports.

Calls for calm

In a message released by his spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, on Friday, Mr. Guterres called on leaders on all sides to help calm the deteriorating situation, and insisted that “provocations” on the Holy Esplanade must stop immediately, to prevent further escalation. 

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The status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem, he said, must be upheld and respected. 

The Secretary-General reiterated his commitment to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict, on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, international law, and bilateral agreements.

Avoid ‘inflammatory rhetoric’

In a separate statement, Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called for political, religious, and community leaders on all sides to help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and speak up against those seeking to escalate the fighting.

Mr. Wennesland warned that allowing tensions to spiral further risks another escalation, and urged the authorities on both sides to immediately de-escalate the situation and prevent any further provocations by radical actors.
Mr. Wennesland is in close contact with key regional partners and the parties to calm the situation. 
 

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