European countries voice concern over Israel-Palestinian violence

Joint statement by France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK calls for reversal of Israel's settlement approvals

Israeli border police fire on Palestinians in Silwan neighbourhood of East Jerusalem.  Reuters
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France, Germany, Italy, Poland, Spain and the UK on Saturday spoke about “their grave concern” as violence in the occupied Palestinian territories continues.

The statement condemned violence on both sides and urged the Israeli government to reverse decisions to step up construction of more than 7,000 settlement homes and buildings across the occupied West Bank and not to legalise settlement outposts.

“We strongly condemn recent terrorist attacks that killed Israeli citizens. Terrorism can under no circumstance be justified,” the statement said.

“We also strongly condemn indiscriminate violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, including destruction of homes and properties.”

The statement said a meeting attended by Israeli and Palestinian officials in Aqaba, Jordan, last month was a “spark of hope”.

The meeting, the first of its kind in years, ended with Israeli and Palestinian officials pledging to de-escalate the surge in violence and was attended by senior US, Jordanian and Egyptian officials.

The participants will meet again this month in Sharm El Sheikh, Egypt.

“We urge all parties to refrain from making this fragile process derail, and call on all parties to make good on the commitments they made in the Aqaba meeting by de-escalating in words and deeds and to restore calm, in order for those efforts to blossom and to make the next meeting in Egypt a success,” the statement said.

At the time, Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs the Gaza Strip, called the meeting “worthless” and condemned the West Bank-based Palestinian Authority for taking part.

Violence in the occupied West Bank has surged over the past year as increased Israeli military raids followed a spate of Palestinian attacks. The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for de-escalation.

Israeli settlers went on a rampage in the Palestinian village of Hawara on Sunday, when one Palestinian was killed and dozens of houses, shops and cars were set on fire. The killing followed a Palestinian gun attack in which two Israeli brothers died.

The US has demanded that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu disavow a call on Wednesday by far-right Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich for Hawara to be “erased”.

The UN Human Rights chief Volker Turk also criticised Mr Smotrich's remarks as “an unfathomable statement of incitement to violence and hostility”.

At least 62 Palestinians, including gunmen and civilians, have been killed since the start of 2023, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.

Thirteen Israelis and a Ukrainian tourist died in Palestinian attacks in the same period, according to official Israeli figures.

In Saturday's statement, the signatories said they were saddened by all loss of life.

“These acts can lead nowhere, except to more violence. Those responsible must face full accountability and legal prosecution. All unilateral actions that threaten peace and incitement to violence must cease,” they said.

Updated: March 04, 2023, 11:22 AM