Frustration grows at UN at inertia on Israeli-Palestinian bloodshed

Biden administration slowing UN efforts to speak out against the violence

UN Security Council members expressed frustration on Wednesday at the lack of action by the body, as the US delayed any public statement about the worst violence between Israelis and Palestinians in years.

The second emergency UN session since the crisis erupted came after another night of Palestinian militants firing hundreds of rockets from Gaza and Israeli forces pounding the densely populated strip with air strikes.

At least 53 Palestinians and six people in Israel have been killed since Monday.

Tunisia, Norway, China and other members of the 15-nation body are pushing for a public statement expressing concern about the clashes and the evictions of Palestinians in a Jerusalem neighbourhood by Israeli settlers that have inflamed tensions in recent weeks.

But the US is understood to be delaying any such public move from the council, reportedly saying it would be counterproductive as it tries to defuse tension between the two sides through direct negotiations.

The UN mission of Ireland, a temporary council member, said the body “cannot stay silent” in the face of “disproportionate Israeli actions in Gaza”, where warplanes flattened two tower blocks on Tuesday and Wednesday.

“The Security Council must speak on this issue and condemn violence against civilians by all parties and call for an immediate ceasefire,” Ireland’s Foreign Minister Simon Coveney said on Twitter.

“People of the Gaza Strip cannot endure another war. Rockets from Gaza into Israel must stop.”

Council members were briefed online by Tor Wennesland, the UN’s co-ordinator for the long-stalled peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians. The UN was pushing for a ceasefire as the rocket fire and air strikes continued.

“Stop the fire immediately. We’re escalating towards a full-scale war,” Mr Wennesland said via Twitter late on Tuesday.

“Leaders on all sides have to take the responsibility of de-escalation.”

Council members are discussing a draft statement that would express concern about the fighting and the looming evictions, urge Israel to halt settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, and call for restraint.

Such statements must be agreed to by consensus, but diplomats said the US had put the brakes on any public address for now. The US mission to the UN told Reuters it was pushing for moves that would be “helpful in de-escalating tension”.

Ken Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch, criticised Washington for failing to act against the “new violence and abuses” by Israelis and Palestinians.

Sherine Tadros, the UN representative for Amnesty International, said the global community’s handling of tension between Israelis and Palestinians had been stuck in the same loop of violence for decades.

“Same statements, same accusations, same reactions, same war, same senseless deaths, same ceasefire, same siege and same misery for people in Gaza when this round is over,” Ms Tadros posted on Twitter.

Updated: May 13, 2021 11:11 AM

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