UN Security Council urges cessation of violence amid Israeli-Palestinian tension

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A Palestinian firefighter puts out a fire that broke out on a house after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, May 16, 2021. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday reached 188, including 55 children and 33 women, in addition to more than 1,000 injuries. (Photo by Yasser Qudih/Xinhua)
A Palestinian firefighter puts out a fire that broke out on a house after an Israeli airstrike in the southern Gaza Strip city of Khan Younis, May 16, 2021. According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza, the number of Palestinians killed in the Gaza Strip since Monday reached 188, including 55 children and 33 women, in addition to more than 1,000 injuries. (Photo by Yasser Qudih/Xinhua)

As the Israeli-Palestinian conflict keeps escalating, the United Nations (UN) Security Council on Sunday held an open debate on the situation, during which countries around the world called for an immediate end to the bloodshed.

Confrontations between Palestinians and Israelis at the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound in Jerusalem’s Old City have been intensified following a court ruling that tried to evict several Palestinian families from their homes in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

After hundreds of Palestinians were injured in clashes with Israeli police in East Jerusalem last week, Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, launched rocket attacks against Israel, which responded with intense airstrikes against targets in Gaza. The fiercest fighting between the two sides since 2014 has killed nearly 200 Palestinians and about 10 Israelis.

In his opening remarks at Sunday’s meeting, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres described the conflict as “utterly appalling,” calling for an immediate end to it. “Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately. Rockets and mortars on one side and aerial and artillery bombardments on the other must stop. I appeal to all parties to heed this call,” Guterres said.

Warning that the fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, the UN chief said this senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction must stop immediately.

“The only way forward is to return to negotiations with the goal of a two-state solution, with two states living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states, based on relevant UN resolutions, international law and prior agreements,” Guterres added.

During the meeting, China put forward a four-point proposal regarding the escalating conflict. The escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine had resulted in a large number of casualties, including women and children.

The situation is extremely critical and severe, and a ceasefire and cessation of violence is urgently needed, Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi said.

In response to the current tense situation, Wang put forward a four-point proposition: First, ceasefire and cessation of violence is the top priority; second, humanitarian assistance is an urgent need; third, international support is an obligation; fourth, a “two-state solution” is the fundamental way out.

“China will continue to intensify efforts to promote peace talks, and fulfill its duties as the rotating presidency of the UN Security Council,” said Wang, adding that China reiterates its invitation to peacemakers from Palestine and Israel to hold dialogue in China, and welcomes negotiators from the two countries to hold direct talks in China.

U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said “the human toll of this past week has been devastating. Hundreds have been killed and injured by rockets and airstrikes, including children.”

“The United States calls on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and to respect international humanitarian law. We also urge all parties to protect medical and other humanitarian facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “It’s time to end the cycle of violence …

We urge all parties to avoid actions that undermine a peaceful future. This includes avoiding incitement, violent attacks, and terrorist acts, as well as evictions … And critically, all parties need to uphold and respect the historic status quo at the holy sites,” she added.

The armed confrontation must end, said Russian Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Sergey Vershinin, who condemned the use of force and violence against civilians in Israel and Palestine. Stressing that the priority is to cease fire and bloodshed, he denounced attempts to change the demographic character of East Jerusalem.

Parties must comply with international humanitarian law and protect civilians as well as infrastructure used by journalists and the media, he added. During the open debate, senior officials from Palestine and Israel traded accusations against each other.

“Israel is killing Palestinians in Gaza, one family at a time,” Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki said, adding there are no words to describe the horrors his people are enduring. “We are not two neighbours living side by side in peace,” said Malki, calling Israel an armed thief who has “entered our house and is terrorizing our family.”

Noting Palestinians are victims of dispossession, forced displacement, and discrimination, Malki said they deserve compassion, solidarity and action and called on the international community to take actions to ensure Israel’s compliance with its obligations and bring about an end to its occupation.

In response, Israel’s representative accused Hamas militants of being responsible for the escalation, saying, “What would you do if thousands of terrorist rockets were being fired at your country?”

Describing Hamas’ attacks as a “double war crime,” the Israeli representative emphasized that Israel has always sought peace and continues to do so.

During the meeting, other countries, including France and Britain, also called for an immediate end to the rising tension, sounding alarm bells over the imminent potential for the violence to spill into the wider region, according to a UN press release.

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