Ban says visit to Jerusalem reflects ‘global alarm’
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned: ‘If we do not act fast, the dynamics on the ground will only get worse’
U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned of a “dangerous escalation” and urged Israelis and Palestinians to move quickly to calm nearly three weeks of unrest during a surprise visit to Jerusalem on Tuesday.
“My visit reflects the sense of global alarm at the dangerous escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians,” he told journalists after meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.
He warned: “If we do not act fast, the dynamics on the ground will only get worse.”
Ban is due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu later Tuesday and Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas on Wednesday morning.
The violence, including a wave of Palestinian knife, gun and car attacks against Israelis, has raised fears of a full-scale uprising.
“It is not too late to avoid a broader crisis,” Ban said, urging renewed peace efforts, with negotiations at a standstill for more than a year.
“In my meetings today and tomorrow, with the Israeli and Palestinian leadership, I will be appealing to all to make concerted efforts to limit new incidents on both sides ... We must not allow extremists on either side, or those who believe violence is the answer, to further fuel the conflict.”
He said that “beyond the immediate tensions, what is missing is the resolve to restore a political horizon for talks, and a political process that delivers real results and peace.”
“We must, for the future of our children, come back from this dangerous abyss, safeguard the two-state solution, and lead people back to the road toward peace.”
Kerry on ‘basic calm’
Also on Tuesday, Kerry held out the possibility that he may meet Netanyahu in the Middle East rather than in Germany as previously planned.
"I will be meeting with Prime Minister Netanyahu either in Germany or in the region," Kerry said during a question and answer session after making a speech on climate change.
The State Department has not finalized Kerry’s travel plans for the week, but reports have suggested he could meet Netanyahu in Berlin then continue to Amman for talks with Abbas and King Abdullah of Jordan.
Kerry said he will engage Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the “basics” of administering Jerusalem’s holy sites to try to calm tempers in the city.
On the agenda will be the administration of the Haram al-Sharif and the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, holy sites that have been a flashpoint in the recurrent clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters.
Recent violent incidents
In the latest incident, a Palestinian stabbed and wounded an Israeli officer in the occupied West Bank before other troops shot the assailant, the military said. The Palestinian Health Ministry said he was killed.
The Israeli military early Tuesday, meanwhile, destroyed the West Bank house of a Palestinian from Hebron in the West Bank who allegedly killed an Israeli in a knife attack last year, the army said, according to Agence France-Presse.
The destruction of the house of Maher al-Hashlamoun was accompanied by clashes between dozens of Palestinian stone throwers and Israeli soldiers.
Hashlamoun, a member of Islamic Jihad, was given two life sentences by a military court in March for the November 10, 2014 murder of Dalia Lemkus, 26, and the attempted murder of two other people on a road in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc, south of Jerusalem.
Last week, the Israeli government ordered an intensification of punitive home demolitions in response to a wave of stabbing and shooting attacks and other deadly unrest.
It says the controversial policy acts as a deterrent but critics say the main victims of such demolitions are relatives forced to pay for another person's actions.
Meanwhile, Palestinians in occupied Jerusalem, more than a third of the city’s population, on Monday woke up to a new reality: Israeli troops are encircling Arab neighborhoods, blocking roads with concrete cubes the size of washing machines and ordering some of those leaving on foot to lift their shirts to show they are not carrying knives.
Netanyahu’s government has portrayed the measures as temporary, in line with what his advisers say any police department in the U.S. or Europe would do to quell urban unrest.
But some allege he is dividing occupied Jerusalem, something Netanyahu has said he would never do.
Arab residents, who have long complained of discriminatory Israeli policies, say the latest closures are bringing them to a boiling point and lead to more violence.
The unprecedented clampdown is meant to halt the rash of stabbings attacks. Many of the attacks were allegedly carried out by residents of occupied East Jerusalem, the sector captured and annexed by Israel in 1967 and claimed by Palestinians as a future capital.
The unrest, the most serious in years, has also been stirred in part by anger over what they see as increased Jewish encroachment on the mosque compound, Islam’s most sacred site outside Saudi Arabia and also revered by Jews as the location of two destroyed biblical Jewish temples.
(With AFP, AP and Reuters)