UN Security Council to meet on Jerusalem violence in 4th emergency session in months

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The United Nations Security Council will hold an emergency session on Thursday to discuss the recent violence in Jerusalem in which Israeli police clashed with Muslim worshipers at the Temple Mount, later battling rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and against IDF countermeasures.

Thursday’s session will be held behind closed doors and was called by the United Arab Emirates – the Arab League’s representative on the council – and China, two UN diplomats for countries on the panel told The Times of Israel on Monday Wednesday.

This will be the fourth emergency session of the Security Council regarding tensions between Israel and Palestine since the establishment of the hardline government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu just over three months ago.

Similar urgent meetings were held after National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the Temple Mount flashpoint and after deadly IDF raids in Nablus and Jenin. The Security Council also held three of its mandated monthly meetings on Israel-Palestine during that same period.

The emergency meeting will take place less than two days after the clashes in Jerusalem ended the first calm fortnight of Ramadan.

Police said they entered the mosque after masked youths barricaded themselves inside the place of worship atop the Temple Mount with fireworks, clubs and rocks and refused to come out peacefully. Officials apparently believed the group intended to attack Jews visiting the mountain on Passover Eve.

Palestinians say it is traditional to stay in mosques overnight during Ramadan.

Footage released by Israel showed Palestinians inside the mosque shooting fireworks at police in intense tension.

Clips uploaded to social media showed troops beating Palestinians who were already trapped inside the mosque.

The Temple Mount is the holiest site in Judaism and is famous for being the site of the two ancient Jewish temples. The compound is Islam’s third holiest site and is managed by Jordan, as part of a sensitive arrangement with Israel.

Police said they tried to persuade rioters inside the mosque to leave but the group refused to comply, leaving security forces with no choice but to enter the building.

About 350 suspects were detained by police. All but 57 were released Wednesday afternoon, police said.

As a result of the clashes, Israel fired 16 rockets from Gaza early on Wednesday. Sderot Municipality said one of the rockets hit a factory in the industrial area, causing damage. No one was injured.

In response Israel carried out airstrikes in the Strip, hitting several Hamas facilities.

The fighting raised fears of a wider conflagration. Similar clashes two years ago led to a bloody 11-day war between Israel and Hamas.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland, who will be briefing Security Council members on the latest developments at Thursday’s session, said in a statement on Wednesday that he was “disturbed by the images of violence within al-Qibli mosque” on the Temple Mount compound known as the Noble Sanctuary for Muslims.

“The Israeli security forces are apparently harassing the Palestinians and the large number of arrests. I also strongly reject the stockpiling and use of fireworks and rocks by Palestinians inside the mosque,” Wennesland said, pointedly criticizing both sides for their behavior in the clashes that took place overnight Tuesday-Wednesday .

“This holy period and places of worship should be a safe and peaceful religious meditation, noting that almost 600,000 people have visited the Holy Sites in Jerusalem since the beginning of Ramadan. I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to reject incitement, inflammatory rhetoric, and provocative actions,” Wennesland said.

A meeting of the United Nations Security Council regarding the situation in the Middle East, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on February 20, 2023. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

“The historical status quo of the Holy Sites must be maintained, in line with the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. The role is [Jordan-backed Islamic] Waqf is vital and must be empowered to fulfill its vital duties,” he said. “Leaders on all sides must act responsibly and refrain from steps that could raise tensions.”

“The indiscriminate firing of rockets from Gaza is unacceptable and must stop,” Wennesland added. “The UN remains in close contact with all parties concerned to de-escalate the situation.”

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was “shocked and horrified” by images he saw of Israeli security forces beating people at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, his spokesman said on Wednesday.

Spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Guterres had viewed images of “violence and beatings” inside the holy site, and was all the more upset because it came “at a time in the calendar that is holy for Jews, Christians and Muslims that should be a time for peace. and non-violence.”

Ambassador Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, speaks during an emergency meeting of the UN security council regarding the situation in Palestine, at the UN headquarters in New York City on January 5, 2023. (TIMOTHY A .CLARY/AFP)

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US is “deeply concerned” about the violence at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem and “calls for all parties to avoid further escalation.”

“More than ever, Israelis and Palestinians must work together to reduce these tensions and restore calm,” Kirby said.

The US Office of Palestinian Affairs also weighed in, saying that “violence has no place on a holy site or during a holy season.

[We’re] frightened by the terrible scenes in the Al-Aqsa Mosque and rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel, “said his statement, similar to the condemnation of Israeli and Palestinian-initiated violence. “We call for restraint and de-escalation to allow peaceful worship and for the sanctity of protect sacred sites.”

The Arab League was set to meet for its own emergency session on Wednesday on the Jerusalem violence.

Turkey on Wednesday condemned the clashes at the mosque, and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel had crossed a “red line.”

“Turkey cannot remain silent in the face of these attacks. Our red line is to trample on the Al-Aqsa Mosque,” ​​Erdogan said during a dinner for those who break the daytime fast, a practice for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Erdogan’s comments followed earlier criticism from his Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

“We condemn these attacks,” Cavusoglu said on the sidelines of a NATO meeting in Brussels. “Normalization with Israel has begun, but our commitment cannot be at the expense of the Palestinian cause and our principles.”

AFP contributed to this report.

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