UN chief calls Israeli PM and Palestinian president as violence continues

Violence between Israeli forces and militants has been escalating in recent weeks, raising fears of full-scale conflict

Israeli security forces inside Jerusalem's Al Aqsa Mosque complex following clashes with Palestinian protesters on April 22. AFP

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has discussed the flare-up of tensions around Jerusalem's holy sites in separate calls on Saturday with the Israeli prime minister and Palestinian president.

In statements released after both calls, the UN said Mr Guterres discussed “efforts to lower tensions, end provocations and unilateral steps, and restore calm".

More than 200 people, mostly Palestinians, have been wounded over the past week in confrontations with police in and around the Al Aqsa compound, a holy site for both Muslims and Jews.

Palestinians have been outraged by a massive Israeli police deployment and repeated visits by Jews to the holy site. Access to the Al Aqsa compound and other holy sites is governed through a tenuous agreement that is supposed to allow freedom of worship, while also outlining security conditions.

Mr Guterres “reiterated that the status quo at the Holy Sites must be upheld and respected,” both statements read.

The clashes at Al Aqsa come amid a wave of deadly violence, which has sparked fears of a wider conflict.

Rocket launches from the Gaza Strip on Wednesday and Thursday prompted retaliatory strikes from Israel.

But after similar attacks from Gaza on Friday night and Saturday morning, Israel decided not to launch counter-attacks, instead saying it would close its only border to the enclave on Sunday.

Updated: April 24, 2022, 11:07 AM