'The violence must stop,' UN envoy says as Israel-Palestine tension flares

Violent trends that dominated end of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll

An Israeli soldier stands guard after a Palestinian was shot dead in the village of Halhul, north of Hebron, in the West Bank. AFP
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A dangerous cycle of violence persists between Israelis and Palestinians amid increased political tension and a stalled peace negotiations, the UN's special co-ordinator for the Middle East Peace Process said on Wednesday.

“The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll,” Tor Wennesland said during his monthly briefing to the UN Security Council. “The violence must stop.”

Between early December and mid-January, 14 Palestinians, including five children, were killed and 117 Palestinians, including 18 children, were injured by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, search-and-arrest operations and other incidents, Mr Wennesland said.

He added that five Israeli civilians and four members of the security forces were injured by Palestinians in attacks and other incidents.

Palestine's permanent representative at the UN, Riyad Mansour, maintained that peace is still possible, even though countless Palestinians have been killed.

“I do not say this lightly, but with a heavy heart, as every day Palestinians are killed,” Mr Mansour said.

“The year is two weeks old and already 15 Palestinians have been killed, including four children. And yet, I say it again: Peace is still possible.”

Israel's UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, accused the world body of distorting its reports and data, which he said “do not reflect the reality on the ground”.

On Monday, more than 100 nations called on Israel to reverse steps taken against the Palestinian Authority over its push for an investigation into the country at the UN.

“Regardless of each country’s position on the resolution, we reject punitive measures in response to a request for an advisory opinion by the International Court of Justice, and more broadly in response to a General Assembly resolution, and call for their immediate reversal,” the countries said in a statement.

The signatories included representatives of Arab states, the members of the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation and 37 other countries, including Germany, France, Japan, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.

France issued a statement on Monday after signing, reaffirming its commitment to upholding “international law and multilateralism”.

Late last month, the 193-member General Assembly approved a resolution requesting that the International Court of Justice — the top UN court that hears disputes between states — weigh in on the conflict, including Israeli “annexation” and the “legal status of the occupation”.

The request was promoted by the state of Palestine and opposed by Israel.

Following the vote, Israel's new hardline government imposed a series of sanctions against the Palestinian Authority and denied benefits for certain Palestinian officials, among other measures.

Mr Erdan called the resolution on Wednesday “meaningless”, while Mr Mansour said the action was within his state's “democratic right.”

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, expressed concern over the situation in the West Bank and the potential for “further instability”.

She told council members that the US continues to oppose unilateral actions that endanger stability and the viability of a two-state solution.

This includes actions that disrupt the historic status quo at Al Aqsa Mosque compound as well as settlement building.

Updated: January 18, 2023, 8:00 PM
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