UNITED NATIONS, May 16 (Xinhua) -- UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland on Sunday called for international efforts to end the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian violence.
This escalation in the past week has already produced tragic results. A further intensification of hostilities would have devastating consequences for both Palestinians and Israelis, he told the Security Council in a briefing. "We cannot allow the situation to slide further into chaos. The hostilities must stop."
The international community has a crucial role to play. It must take action now to enable the parties to step back from the brink, said Wennesland.
He welcomed the statements from members of the Security Council, the Arab League and others aimed at finding a diplomatic solution to the immediate crisis. He also appreciated the efforts of leaders across the international community over the past days urging all parties to exercise restraint, de-escalate tensions and prevent further civilian casualties.
"We are once again witnessing the tragic results of the failure to address the core issues that have driven the conflict for decades. Palestinian and Israeli civilians continue to endure the suffering that accompanies repeated cycles of violence and conflict. These cycles of violence will only stop with a political resolution of the conflict, including addressing the status of Jerusalem and other final-status issues, with an end to the occupation, and the realization of a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 lines, UN resolutions, international law and mutual agreements, with Jerusalem as capital of both Israel and Palestine," he said.
"I reiterate my call to the members of the Middle East Quartet, key Arab and international partners, as well as to Israeli and Palestinian leadership, to strengthen efforts to return to meaningful negotiations toward a viable two-state solution."
Israelis and Palestinians have a legitimate right to safety and security. The ongoing violence is unacceptable and unjustifiable, said Wennesland.
Hamas and other militants' indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars from highly populated civilian neighborhoods into civilian population centers in Israel violates international humanitarian law and must cease immediately. Civilian areas must never be used for military purposes. Israeli authorities must abide by international humanitarian law principles governing armed conflict, including the proportional use of force, exercising maximum restraint to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations, he said.
"I reiterate that children should not be the target of violence or put in harm's way."
Since Monday, according to Israeli official sources, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militants have launched over 2,900 indiscriminate rockets from the Gaza Strip toward Israel. According to the Israeli prime minister's office, nine Israelis, including five women and two children, and one Indian national were killed, and over 250 injured. Civilians across the south and the center of the country have been repeatedly sent to shelters. An anti-tank missile fired at a vehicle near the Gaza perimeter fence killed an Israeli soldier and injured two others, he said.
In response to the Palestinian militant rocket attacks, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) has conducted over 950 strikes against what it said were militant targets. As of Sunday afternoon local time, health authorities in Gaza have reported that 181 Palestinians, including at least 52 children, 31 women and a person with disabilities, were killed and 1,200 people injured in these strikes.
The population must repeatedly try to find cover from the strikes and over 34,000 people have been displaced from their homes, said Wennesland.
The dense and closed context of Gaza makes seeking shelter all the more difficult. As a result of the military operations, seven factories, 40 schools and at least four hospitals sustained complete or partial damage. At least 18 buildings, including four high-rise towers, including one hosting international media outlets, have been destroyed and over 350 buildings damaged, he said.
Violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues to increase, said Wennesland.
Since Monday, 19 Palestinians, including two children, have been killed and some 1,844 Palestinians were injured in the West Bank by Israeli security forces in either clashes or other incidents, with 444 injured by live ammunition, he said.
At least eight Israelis were injured in these incidents, according to Israeli government sources, he added.
On Monday, amid heavy presence of Israeli security forces ahead of planned Jerusalem day marches, thousands of Palestinians clashed with police in and around the Holy Esplanade and other parts of the Old City of Jerusalem. Israeli security forces reportedly shot and injured over 650 Palestinians with rubber-coated metal bullets and other crowd-control means. Some 32 Israeli security forces personnel were injured in the clashes, he said.
In Sheikh Jarrah, Israeli security forces dispersed demonstrators using skunk water, sponge-tipped bullets and stun grenades. One Palestinian was killed and another shot and injured in separate incidents after they attempted to attack Israeli soldiers, he said.
On Friday, violence escalated as Palestinians held a "Day of Rage" in support of Gaza, with clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces in Qalqilyia, Ramallah, Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and dozens of other locations. Ten Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces, in addition to one Palestinian killed near Ofra settlement in an alleged stabbing attack against Israeli security forces. This is the highest number of Palestinian fatalities recorded in a single day in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since the United Nations began recording fatalities in 2008, he said.
The IDF said Thursday that three rockets were fired from Lebanon into the sea off the coast of northern Israel. Lebanese Armed Forces confirmed the firing and reported finding materiel close to a Palestine refugee camp in Rashidiyeh, said Wennesland.
On Friday, up to 100 individuals protested north of the Blue Line, a border demarcation between Lebanon and Israel published by the United Nations in 2000. The UN Interim Force in Lebanon observed several protesters cross the Blue Line close to the town of Metula. IDF personnel fired multiple warning shots, reportedly injuring two. According to Lebanese authorities, a Lebanese citizen later died. The Lebanese Armed Forces arrested several protestors following the incident, said Wennesland.
Three rockets were launched from Syria toward Israel. There were no reports of damage or injuries, he said.
Mass protests in solidarity with Palestinians also occurred at Israeli borders with Jordan, where thousands of Jordanians marched toward the bridge connecting Jordan to the occupied West Bank but were reportedly stopped short by the Jordanian security forces, said Wennesland.
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