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Asharq Al-Awsat
Asharq Al-Awsat
Washington - Ali Barada

UN Focuses on Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Sanctity amid Fears of Escalation

The United Nations logo is displayed on a door at UN headquarters in New York. REUTERS/ Joshua Lott

Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa Mosque and other holy sites in Jerusalem were the key focus of the United Nations Security Council’s monthly session on Monday.

Speakers called on the need to uphold the historic and legal status quo to avoid escalation.

The Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, urged the conflicting parties to maintain calm through the final week of Ramadan so that Muslims can celebrate without interruption.

Wennesland made his remarks via videoconference from Jerusalem, underlining the need to end the occupation and advance towards a two-state reality.

He expressed the UN’s determination to support Israelis and Palestinians in moving towards that future.

“In Jerusalem, the situation remains relatively calm despite inflammatory rhetoric and violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that have taken place at the holy sites,” he noted.

Wennesland further stressed that the launching of rockets in Gaza undermines the fragile stability that has prevailed since May.

He reiterated that political, religious and community leaders on all sides must continue do their part to reduce tensions, uphold the status quo at the holy sites, and ensure their sanctity is respected by all.

The UN official pointed out that daily violence escalated sharply in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel.

He said that 23 Palestinians, including three women and four children, were killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, and other incidents in the occupied West Bank, while 541 Palestinians, including 30 women and 80 children, were injured.

On the other hand, 12 Israelis, including two women, as well as three foreign nationals, were killed and 82 Israelis, including some six children and four women, as well one foreign national, were injured by Palestinians in shooting, stabbing and ramming attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents.

He called for holding perpetrators of all acts of violence accountable and brought swiftly to justice, adding that he is particularly appalled that children continue to be killed and injured.

Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine Riyad Mansour, for his part, said the “Palestinian people ask you: how come Israel gets away with murder, in broad daylight, while everyone is watching?”

Stressing that there can be no equation between a colonial power and a colonized people, he added that a rules-based multilateral order does not mean that one party gets to set the rules while others must observe them.

Israel’s representative Gilad Erdan said Israel will not allow any radical group to violate the status quo and incite violence.

Meanwhile, Jordan’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Sudqi Omoush said the Jordanian Administration of the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf is the only entity authorized to manage the affairs of the Aqsa Mosque compound in its entirety, calling for a genuine political solution that will fulfil the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.

He urged Israel to allow free access to the Aqsa Mosque compound and lift the restrictive barriers.

Osama Abdelkhalek of Egypt linked the current incidents to those that took place in 2021 and led to hundreds of deaths and injuries.

He pointed out that the continued attempts to “Judaize” East Jerusalem portend a dangerous escalation, underscoring the need to respect the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem.

The UAE’s deputy representative called for taking advantage of all available diplomatic means to restore calm.

For his part, the Arab League Permanent Observer, Maged Abdelfattah, called on the Security Council to take several urgent steps aimed at restoring Arab confidence in the UN and the peace process.

While the Charge d'Affaires of Saudi Arabia’s Mission to the UN Mohammed Alateek condemned the violence that took place in the prayer halls of the Aqsa Mosque compound during the sacred month of Ramadan.

He called on the international community to hold the Israeli authorities accountable for such aggression against Palestinians, their territories and holy sites.

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