Pope Francis, Middle East Quartet join condemnation of Jerusalem violence

While international concern over the ongoing violence is growing, there appears to be little prospect of de-escalation

Palestinian protesters run from stun grenades fired by Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on May 8, 2021. AFP 
Palestinian protesters run from stun grenades fired by Israeli security forces outside the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem's Old City on May 8, 2021. AFP 

International condemnation of Israel’s draconian response to demonstrations in and around Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem continued on Sunday.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called for Israel to "exercise maximum restraint and respect the right to freedom of peaceful assembly." He urged Israel to cease demolitions and evictions, a spokesperson for the Secretary General said.

Statements from the joint Russian, US, UN and EU “Middle East Quartet” group of envoys joined remarks from Pope Francis, as well as statements from Sudan and Morocco on Sunday.

On Saturday, the UN, the EU and the US separately issued statements warning Israel against evicting Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, as well as condemning violence in which more than 200 Palestinians were wounded.

The quartet envoys "express deep concern over the daily clashes and violence in East Jerusalem, in particular last night's confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli security forces at Haram Al Sharif," the group said.

It also called for the Hamas militant group to de-escalate the situation on the Gaza border.

"The envoys noted with serious concern the possible evictions of Palestinian families from homes they have lived in for generations... and voice opposition to unilateral actions, which will only escalate the already tense environment," the quartet said.

"We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim holy days."

The quartet has been more active since US President Joe Biden took office earlier this year, after falling largely dormant during the Trump administration, which Palestinians considered biased towards Israel.

The group repeated its "commitment to a negotiated two-state solution".

Pope Francis was the most high-profile figure to condemn the violence on Sunday.

“I am following with particular concern the events taking place in Jerusalem," he said. "I pray that it be a place of encounter and not of clashes, a place of prayer and peace. I invite all to find shared solutions so that the multi-religious and multi-cultural identity of the Holy City is respected. Violence only generates violence. Enough of the clashes."

Sudan and Morocco also followed Saturday’s statements of condemnation from the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain and Jordan. Sudan labelled Israeli measures as "repression", and "coercive action" in a foreign ministry statement late Saturday.

It called on the Israeli government "to refrain from taking unilateral steps that diminish the chances for resuming peace negotiations."

Meanwhile, Morocco expressed "deep concern" over the violence, saying King Mohammed VI "considers these violations ... likely to fuel tensions".

Updated: May 10, 2021 10:20 AM


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