The UN Security Council on Tuesday expressed sadness over the recent deaths of civilians in violence in the occupied West Bank and urged all parties to “refrain from unilateral actions that further inflame tensions.”
In a statement adopted by the 15-member body, the Security Council “emphasized the obligations and commitments of Israeli and Palestinian authorities to fight and condemn terrorism in all its forms,” as violent clashes continued over the weekend.
Palestinians have described hundreds of Israelis attacking their villages in recent days, after Palestinian gunmen killed four Israelis near a West Bank settlement last week.
There were more reports Saturday of attacks on Palestinians, while Israeli police said they had killed a “terrorist” who opened fire on security forces.
“The members of the Security Council encouraged additional steps to restore a durable calm and de-escalate tensions, and called on all parties to refrain from unilateral actions that further inflame tensions,” said UAE Ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, whose country chairs the council in June.
The UN’s Middle East envoy, Tor Wennesland, said he was “gravely concerned by the escalating spiral of violence.”
“Unless decisive steps are taken now to rein in the violence, there is a significant risk that events could deteriorate further,” Wennesland told the council, noting the “constant risk” that the unrest could spill over into the Gaza Strip.
Israel has occupied the West Bank since the 1967 Six-Day War and, excluding annexed east Jerusalem, the territory is now home to around 490,000 Israelis who live in settlements considered illegal under international law.
The Palestinians, who seek their own independent state, want Israel to withdraw from all land it occupied in the Six-Day War and to dismantle all Jewish settlements.
Wennesland slammed what he called the “relentless expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, that fuels violence.”
“I am particularly alarmed by the extreme levels of settler violence, including large numbers of settlers, many armed, systematically attacking Palestinian villages, terrorizing communities, sometimes in the proximity of Israeli security forces,” he said.
“Israel, as the occupying power, has an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property.”
The deaths on Saturday added to a mounting toll which has cost four Israeli and 16 Palestinian lives across the territory over the past week.