The Star Late Edition
Security Council in urgent bid for ceasefire
TUNISIA, Norway and China have requested another emergency UN Security Council meeting be scheduled tomorrow on the worsening hostilities between Israel and Palestinians, despite ongoing US resistance to the body taking a role in the conflict.
The session would be public and would include participation by Israel and the Palestinians, diplomats said yesterday.
The council has already held two closed-door video conferences since Monday, with the US, a close Israel ally, opposing adoption of a joint declaration, which it said would not “help de-escalate” the situation.
According to a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, the idea of a third meeting in less than a week was pushed by the Palestinians.
The goal of a new meeting is “to try to contribute to peace … and to have a Security Council able to express itself and to call for ceasefire,” said another diplomat speaking anonymously.
Israel has refused to allow the Security Council to get involved in the conflict, a demand Washington has so far agreed to, diplomats said.
According to several sources, 14 of the 15 members of the council were in favour of adopting a joint declaration early yesterday aimed at reducing tension.
However, the US saw the Security Council meeting as a sufficient show of concern, calling a statement “counter-productive”, diplomats told AFP on condition of anonymity.
In Washington, chief diplomat
Antony Blinken announced that a US envoy would travel to the Middle East to seek to calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.
But in a sign of frustration after the US move to block a Security Council statement, four council members from Europe – Norway, Estonia, France and Ireland – issued their own joint statement later yesterday.
“We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel by Hamas and other militant groups, which is totally unacceptable
and must stop immediately,” the statement said.
“The large numbers of civilian casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and of Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza, are both worrying and unacceptable.
“We call on Israel to cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, including in East Jerusalem,” they wrote.
And Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour published a letter to the organisation’s top officials yesterday in which he pleaded with them to “act with immediacy to demand Israel cease its attacks against the Palestinian civilian population, including in the Gaza Strip”.
He also called for them to demand that Israel “cease all other illegal Israeli actions and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, and including a halt to plans to forcibly displace and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the city”.
When asked about the inability of the Council, the body in charge of world peace, to speak out on the Israeli-Palestinian clashes, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric expressed hope for a turnaround soon, and added that “any international situation will always benefit from a strong and unified voice from the Security Council”.
UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland had warned yesterday’s meeting that the “situation has deteriorated since Monday … there is a risk of a spiral of violence,” according to a diplomatic source.
During a first emergency meeting on Monday, the US also refused to back a text proposed by Tunisia, Norway and China calling on all parties to refrain from provocation.
Renewed rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns has fuelled growing fears that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could descend into full-scale war. The most intense hostilities in seven years have killed at least 65 people in Gaza, including 16 children, and seven in Israel, since Monday. |
AS CLASHES continue in East Jerusalem with the pending eviction of Palestinians from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah to make way for Israeli settlers, and there are repeated raids into Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces and the death toll rises in Gaza, anger and frustration within Israel’s Green Line has reached boiling point.
On Wednesday, Israel declared a state of emergency and a night curfew in the northern city of Lod, where a young Palestinian man was shot dead by an Israeli and protesters clashed with Israeli forces during the funeral procession on Tuesday night.
This was the second time in the city’s history that a state of emergency had been declared, the first being in 1966 before the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
During the clashes, a police vehicle was set alight and two policemen were reported injured.
However, both Israeli Prime Minister (Benjamin Netanyahu and Defence Minister Benny Gantz refused to acknowledge the violence was related to security forces cracking down on protesters whom they labelled “criminals”.
Clashes were also reported overnight in other Palestinian cities in northern Israel, including Akko, Tiberius, Deir Al Asad and Qalansuwa, during which property, police stations and cars were attacked and burnt while fires engulfed the towns of Wadi Ara, Jisr as Zarqa and Um al Fahm.
Israeli police responded with stun grenades and rubber bullets before arresting dozens of Palestinians.
There were also reports of gunmen opening fire on Israeli police in Beer Sheba in the south of Israel.
Israeli Police Chief Kobi Shabtai said this kind of violence had not been seen since the second Palestinian Intifada – which erupted in October 2000 after former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon paid a controversial visit to Al-Aqsa Mosque despite warnings against this by Israeli security officials.
Palestinian fury over unfolding events also spread to refugee camps, cities, towns and border crossing points in the West Bank, with two young Palestinian men shot dead by Israeli soldiers on Wednesday night during clashes, after Israeli troops raided a number of areas and carried out arrest of journalists, students and Hamas supporters.
According to Palestinian social media reports, journalist Muhammed Nimer from the village of Tel, southwest of Nablus, was arrested as was photographer Hazem Nasser.
Sameh Afana and An-Najah university student Hudhaifa Al-Taweel were both arrested in Qalqilya. The homes of several Hamas leaders were also raided but they were not home.
Palestinian gunmen traded gunfire with Israeli forces in Jenin in the northern West Bank, Qalandia refugee camp near Ramallah and Anata, northeast of Jerusalem.
Clashes between Palestinian protesters also took place all over the West Bank. In Ramallah a protest took place in the city centre on Tuesday night, while in the early hours of the morning a group of youths in the street shouted “no to Israel yes to Palestine”.
The mood among Palestinians in the city, was one of anger at the situation in Sheikh Jarrah, Al Aqsa and in Gaza, with the general sentiment being that Israel needed to be challenged despite the high price Palestinians were paying in terms of lost lives, destroyed homes and further suffering.
“Gazans are humans and should have the same rights as everybody else,” said restaurateur Ayser Zain.
“They are sick of the situation where every time there is conflict with Israel, it repeatedly breaks promises to extend Gaza’s fishing zone and improve the humanitarian situation.
“The only way to challenge the occupation is to challenge Israel’s comfort levels because nothing else works. We all support Gaza,” said Zain.
His older brother, Ayman Zain, held a different view, saying the conflict was about “religious nonsense” and the competing claims of faiths to claim ownership over Al-Aqsa.