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UN Mideast envoy calls for de-escalation of Temple Mount tensions

Special Coordinator Nickolay Mladenov says ‘moderate voices’ should speak up against those trying to fuel unrest.

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Nikolay Mladenov
UN Special Coordinator Nikolay Mladenov, February 9, 2015 (CC BY-SA Ottokars, Wikipedia)

The United Nations’ special coordinator for the Middle East peace process Nickolay Mladenov expressed concern on Thursday regarding the “recent surge in tensions and violence” at the Temple Mount.

The statement comes nearly a week after a deadly terror attack at the holy site by three Arab Israelis who killed two Israeli policeman, setting off days of unrest in the Israeli capital.

“I am deeply concerned by the recent surge in tensions and violence around the holy esplanade in the Old City of Jerusalem,” Mladenov said in a statement, calling on “all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation.”

The UN envoy said he welcomed repeated Israeli assurances that the status quo at the Temple Mount would be upheld — amid Palestinian accusations that the Israeli government was trying to change the delicate balance at the site where Israel controls access and the Waqf Islamic trust set up by Jordan administers activities inside the compound. Non-Muslims are allowed to visit but are prohibited from prayer.

“I welcome the commitment of Israeli Prime Minister [Benjamin] Netanyahu to uphold and respect the status quo at the holy sites, and Palestinian [Authority] President [Mahmoud] Abbas’ firm condemnation of violence, specifically the deadly attack on two Israeli policemen on 14 July,” he said.

Abbas denounced the attack but also slammed the Israeli government for its two-day closure of the site — known to Muslims as the Haram al-Sharif compound, which includes the Al-Aqsa mosque and the Dome of the Rock sanctuary — following the attack and Israel’s subsequent security installations including metal detectors and cameras when it reopened Sunday. The Temple Mount is the holiest place for Jews, as the site of the biblical temples, and the third holiest for Muslims, as the site of Al-Aqsa Mosque.

The increased security measures were taken after police said the three Arab Israeli attackers who emerged armed from the compound and shot dead two police officers just outside on Friday had stashed their weapons on the holy site.

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Border police officers guard near metal detectors placed outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, July 16, 2017 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

On Thursday, police released video footage showing how the killers and an accomplice got the guns into the Temple Mount compound.

Muslim worshipers have been protesting the new security measures, saying the move breaks the status quo agreement between Jerusalem and Amman, a charge Israel has rejected.

Abbas’s Fatah party also organized a “Day of Rage” on Wednesday against the move, with rioters clashing with Israeli police at sites around Jerusalem.

Waqf officials have boycotted the site in protest and have called on other Muslims to do the same. Several clashes have broken out following protest prayers next to the metal detectors.

Officials are worried that tensions may come to a head on Friday — the Muslim holy day — should the metal detectors remain in place.

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions' Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem's Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Muslim worshipers shout slogans at the Lions’ Gate, outside the Temple Mount, in Jerusalem’s Old City, on July 19, 2017. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

Mladenov, however, said Thursday he hoped Netanyahu’s and Abbas’s “affirmations will contribute to resolving the concerns of all parties and put an end to the provocative rhetoric that has added to the escalation over the past week.”

He also made special note of the role of Jordan “and the historical role of King Abdullah II, as custodian of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem” in helping to de-escalate tensions.

Tensions between Israel and Jordan, who signed a peace treaty in 1994, have been high since the attack amid an Israeli investigation into suspicions the three terrorists who carried out the attack last week received help from Waqf officials. Israel has also strongly rejected a statement by the Jordanian parliament speaker who praised the terrorists — all from the northern Israeli town of Umm al-Fahm — saying they had “sowed and watered the pure land” and hailing “the sacrifice of the young Palestinians who are still fighting in the name of the nation.”

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Master Sgt. Kamil Shnaan, left, and Master Sgt. Haiel Sitawe, right, the police officers killed in the terror attack next to the Temple Mount complex in Jerusalem on July 14, 2017. (Israel Police)

Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein lashed out at the Jordanian official in a video message this week, saying: “It’s inconceivable that such a senior figure from a country we have peace with would dare encourage the murder of Israeli citizens. If you’re unable to condemn terror attacks, just keep quiet.”

The Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi, meanwhile, said the key to restoring calm is to have Israel respect the “historic and legal status” at the shrine. Safadi told ambassadors from Europe and Asia that ending tensions is in the hands of Israel which he said should immediately reopen the shrine without any hindrances, according to a report in the Jordanian news agency Petra.

Mladenov said he called “on all concerned parties to de-escalate the situation and on moderate voices to speak up against those who try to fuel tensions.”

Source : The Times of Israel

Middle East

Gaza protests : 4 killed, 618 injured

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

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Gaza protests

Jerusalem, June 9 (IANS) Four Palestinian protesters were killed and 618 others wounded by Israeli soldiers on Friday during clashes near the Israel-Gaza border, officials said.

Ashraf al-Qedra, the Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said Zeyad al-Briem, 25, and Haytham al-Jammal, 15, were killed in east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, while Emad Darabieh, 26, was shot dead in east of Jabalia in northern Gaza.

Meanwhile, Yousef al-Faseeh, 29, was killed in east of Gaza City, Xinhua reported.

Among the injured Palestinians, 117 were hit with live gunshots, 60 with tear gas inhalation, and 77 by bullets shrapnels or tear gas canisters, said al-Qedra.

The clashes, which broke out on Friday afternoon, were part of the 11th Friday “Great March of Return” held by Palestinians in Gaza since March 30. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed so far.

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The Palestinian organisers called the latest rally “the Friday of the One-million-men March for Jerusalem”.

Local media reported that thousands of Palestinian demonstrators joined the protests at five different spots in eastern Gaza.

Hundreds of kites carrying Molotov cocktails flown by demonstrators landed on Israeli agricultural fields and caused large fires.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

Five journalists were injured, including AFP photographer Mohamed al-Baba, who was shot in his right foot, and a cameraman working for the al-Aqsa Radio of Hamas, who was hit with a tear gas canister in his back, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

The Ministry also accused Israeli soldiers of firing tear gas at the medical workers who were treating the injured protesters.

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Middle East

Israel begins building marine barrier with Gaza

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

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Avigdor Liberman

Jerusalem, May 28 (IANS) Israel’s Defence Minister on Sunday announced that construction had begun on a marine barrier with the Gaza Strip extending into the Mediterranean Sea.

Avigdor Liberman said in a statement that the barrier aimed to prevent any attempts by Palestinians in Gaza to enter Israeli territory through the sea, Efe news reported.

“This is an additional setback for Hamas, which has lost another strategic capability that it has invested massive amounts in developing. We will continue to protect the citizens of Israel with might and sophistication,” Liberman said.

The barrier is to consist of three layers, one of which is to be underwater, and is expected to be completed within a year, the statement added.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, members of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, managed to swim to Israeli territory and launch an attack on a Israeli army installation before being killed.

Israeli authorities are also constructing an underground barrier beneath the Gaza-Israel boundary to stop Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

An independent inquiry into the 2014 war in Gaza by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF (Israeli army) positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

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Middle East

US drone strikes kill 11 IS militants in Afghanistan

The drone strikes were launched on Sunday. Two IS militants were also wounded and three vehicles were destroyed after the raids.

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Kabul, May 28 : At least 11 Islamic State (IS) militants were killed after US and NATO-led coalition forces launched airstrikes in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province, authorities said on Monday.

“The drone strikes were launched on Sunday. Two IS militants were also wounded and three vehicles were destroyed after the raids,” an Army statement said.

Also on Sunday, Afghan Army helicopters struck and destroyed two heroin factories in Khogyani district, reports Xinhua news agency.

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