UAE calls for 'calm' in Israel and Palestine as Ramadan tension flares

Last year, deadly clashes at Al Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem escalated into 11-day war

An Israeli policeman secures the area following an incident inside Jerusalem's Old City. Reuters
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The UAE ambassador to the UN, Lana Nusseibeh, on Tuesday issued a call for calm between Israelis and Palestinians during Ramadan, warning of a rerun of the deadly clashes that marred the holy month last year.

Ms Nusseibeh appealed for peace between the two groups, following a spate of Palestinian stabbing attacks in East Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank in recent weeks — often met with lethal responses by Israeli forces.

During Ramadan last year, clashes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank partly triggered an 11-day war in Gaza between Israel and Palestinian militants. This year’s holy month overlaps with the Jewish holiday of Passover.

“We hope that this coming period will be one of calm, in contrast to the traumatic events that occurred in the occupied Palestinian territory at this time last year,” Ms Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council.

“These occasions represent an opportunity to promote the values of peaceful coexistence between different religions.”

She said Palestinians must have the “freedom” to practice their religion at Jerusalem’s Al Aqsa Mosque, which was a flashpoint of last year’s violence, where hundreds of Palestinians and a score of police officers were wounded.

Her comments echoed those from other council members, including US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who warned of “heightened religious sensitivities”.

UN peace envoy Tor Wennesland warned against “provocations” from leaders of rival groups.

Diplomats met in New York hours after Israeli troops killed two Palestinians in separate shootings in the occupied West Bank — 16-year-old Nader Haitham Rayan in the northern city of Nablus and Alaa Shaham in Qalandia, outside Jerusalem.

Also on Tuesday, an Arab-Israeli assailant killed at least four people in the southern city of Beersheba before he was fatally shot by a passer-by in one of the deadliest such attacks in Israel in years, local police and emergency services said.

Hady Amr, the US deputy assistant secretary of state, was in the region to help reduce simmering tension.

Israeli Foreign Minister Yair Lapid met Jordan's King Abdullah II last week in an effort to maintain calm during the religious holidays.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett has ruled out formal peace talks with the Palestinians during his tenure, but says he seeks better economic opportunities in the West Bank. Israeli officials say they hope to ease tension before the holy month.

The Palestinians seek an independent state in the West Bank, East Jerusalem and Gaza, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. Israel continues to build settlements on Palestinian land, which the UN and most countries say is illegal.

Updated: March 23, 2022, 6:18 AM