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UN Security Council to hold new meeting on Palestinian crisis Friday

A file photo of a UN Security Council meeting.

United Nations: Tunisia, Norway and China have requested another emergency UN Security Council meeting be scheduled Friday on the worsening situation in Palestine, despite ongoing US resistance for the body to take a role in the conflict.

The session would be public and would include participation by Israel and the Palestinians, diplomats told AFP Wednesday.

The Council has already held two closed-door videoconferences since Monday, with the United States — a close Israel ally — opposing adoption of a joint declaration, which it said would not “help de-escalate” the situation.

According to a diplomat speaking on condition of anonymity, the idea of a third meeting in less than a week was pushed by the Palestinians.

The goal of a new meeting is “to try to contribute to peace… and to have a Security Council able to express itself and to call for a ceasefire,” stressed another diplomat speaking anonymously.

Israel has refused to allow the Security Council to get involved in the conflict, a demand Washington has so far agreed to, diplomats told AFP.

According to several sources, 14 of the 15 members of the Council were in favour of adopting a joint declaration earlier Wednesday aimed at reducing tension.

However, the United States saw the Security Council meeting as a sufficient show of concern, calling a statement “counterproductive,” diplomats told AFP on condition of anonymity.

– ‘Act with immediacy’ –

In Washington, chief diplomat Antony Blinken announced that a US envoy would travel to the Middle East to seek to calm tensions between Israel and the Palestinians.

But in a sign of frustration after the US move to block a Security Council statement, four Council members from Europe — Norway, Estonia, France and Ireland — issued their own joint statement later Wednesday.

“We condemn the firing of rockets from Gaza against civilian populations in Israel by Hamas and other groups which is totally unacceptable and must stop immediately,” the statement said.

“The large numbers of civilian casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and of Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza, are both worrying and unacceptable.

“We call on Israel to cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, including in East Jerusalem,” they wrote.

And Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour published a letter to the organization’s top officials Wednesday in which he pleaded with them to “act with immediacy to demand that Israel cease its attacks against the Palestinian civilian population, including in the Gaza Strip.”

– Violence risks spiraling –

He also called for them to demand that Israel “cease all other illegal Israeli actions and measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, including a halt to plans to forcibly displace and ethnically cleanse Palestinians from the City.”

When asked about the inability of the Council, the body in charge of world peace, to speak out on the Israeli-Palestinian clashes, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric expressed hope for a turnaround soon, and added that “any international situation will always benefit from a strong and unified voice from the Security Council.”

UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland had warned Wednesday’s meeting that the “situation has deteriorated since Monday… there is a risk of a spiral of violence,” according to a diplomatic source.

During a first emergency meeting on Monday, the United States also refused to back a text proposed by Tunisia, Norway and China calling on all parties to refrain from provocation.

Renewed rocket fire and rioting in mixed Jewish-Arab towns has fuelled growing fears that deadly violence between Israel and Palestinians could descend into full-scale war.

At least 65 Palestineans have been killed, including 16 children, in Israeli airstrikes in Gaza since Monday.

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