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Palestinian Israeli conflict

UN Security Council to hold first public meeting on Palestine-Israel violence

The United States initially blocked a public meeting scheduled for Friday, hoping diplomatic efforts would ease fighting.

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The United States blocked a public UN Security Council meeting scheduled for Friday to discuss and issue a statement regarding the escalating violence between Israel and Palestine before agreeing to hold the meeting on Sunday, sources familiar with the matter said.

Days after objecting to a statement on behalf of the Security Council, the US again moved to prevent a meeting from taking place that Tunisia, Norway and China proposed.

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China, heading the UN Security Council for May, later announced that there would be no meeting on Friday without elaborating.

But diplomatic sources told AFP later Thursday that the meeting would be held on Sunday after the US backed down from its opposition.

Sources familiar with the US approach said Washington continues to believe that a meeting will not help the ongoing violence. “The US would have to stop the Council from issuing any statement,” as it is widely expected a gathering of the member states would result in a “statement bashing Israel,” one source told Al Arabiya English.

US officials have been holding calls with Palestinian and Israeli officials as well as with leaders of regional states that have ties with Palestine and Tel Aviv. Issuing any statement that does not lead to progress in de-escalating violence is considered a waste of time and effort by Washington.

Hady Amr, the top US diplomat in charge of Israeli-Palestinian affairs, headed to the region Thursday to meet with Palestinian and Israeli officials.

President Joe Biden, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan all held separate calls with their Israeli counterparts on Wednesday.

Biden also sent a letter to Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, while Blinken spoke to Abbas on the phone.

On Thursday, Blinken suggested the US would support an open meeting next week, with the hopes that diplomatic efforts would help ease the violence.

“This, I hope, will give some time for the diplomacy to have some effect and to see if indeed we get a real de-escalation and can then pursue this at the United Nations in that context,” Blinken said.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a press conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab following their bilateral meeting in London on May 3, 2021. (AFP)
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks at a press conference with Britain's Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab following their bilateral meeting in London on May 3, 2021. (AFP)

The 15-nation Security Council met virtually behind closed doors twice this week as violence spilled over from the Al-Aqsa Mosque with rockets being fired by the Islamist Hamas movement and Israeli forces bombarding Gaza with airstrikes.

An initial draft statement by Tunisia and Norway - seen by Al Arabiya English - had language condemning both Palestinian factions and Israel while also condemning Tel Aviv for its excessive force against peaceful protesters.

One senior diplomat told Al Arabiya that it was “unacceptable for the Security Council to follow the developments and not to release a statement.”

But after one week of fighting, the violence appears to continue escalating and civilian deaths increase by the day.

Read more: US steps up diplomacy as rockets, air strikes rain over cities in Palestine, Israel