A crisis over new Israeli security measures at Jerusalem’s Temple Mount must be resolved by Friday to avoid an escalation of violence, the UN envoy to the Middle East said Monday.
“It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday this week,” said Nickolay Mladenov after briefing the UN Security Council.
“The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution to this current crisis,” he warned.
The Security Council met behind closed doors to discuss ways to defuse tensions at the Temple Mount, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif (Noble Sanctuary).
Last Sunday, Israel placed metal detectors at gates to the Temple Mount in response to a shooting attack by three Arab Israelis who killed two Israeli policemen just outside the compound. They used weapons they had smuggled into the site. Israel introduced additional security equipment at entrances to the holy site overnight Saturday.
The Palestinians have denounced the measures as a bid by Israel to assert control over the holy site. Israel strenuously denies this.
Since Friday, five Palestinians have been killed and hundreds injured in riots over the new security measures.
Late Friday night, a Palestinian terrorist stabbed to death three members of the Salomon family at their Shabbat table in the Halamish West Bank settlement.
Egypt, France and Sweden requested the council meeting as US President Donald Trump’s envoy Jason Greenblatt was in Israel and Jordan for talks on easing the situation.
Mladenov said he urged council members to use their influence with Israel and the Palestinians to encourage them to deescalate tensions and to preserve access for worshipers.
“It is critically important that the status quo is preserved in Jerusalem,” he said.
While the violence is taking place “over a couple of hundred square meters… they have the potential to have catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself,” he warned.
Before the council met, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations Danny Danon told journalists that Israel is working to calm the situation in Jerusalem, but will do whatever it deems necessary to maintain security at the Temple Mount.
“We will enable everybody to come and pray on the Temple Mount, but at the same time we will do whatever is necessary to maintain security,” he said.
Danon showed a photograph of the terror attack Friday night in Halamish.
“The Salomon family had gathered for the most joyous occasion, the birth of a new grandson. Instead, the night ended in a massacre,” he said, standing alongside a picture of the bloody floor of the family’s home. “They sat down to eat the Sabbath meal when the terrorist entered their home. He stabbed his victims to death, murdering Yosef, the 70-year-old grandfather, his daughter Haya, and his son Elad, all while the children were hidden in a room.”
Danon blamed Palestinian incitement for escalating the situation.
“This attack is not an isolated incident. It is part of a wave of terror sweeping the free world by those brainwashed by hateful teachings,” he said. “They are taught that violence and coldblooded murder is holy. The Security Council must demand that [Palestinian Authority President] Mahmoud Abbas and the PA act immediately to end the terror and incitement before the lives of more innocent victims are lost.”
Palestinian ambassador Riyad Mansour accused Israel of “putting obstacles in the path of worshipers” and said the council must demand that the metal detectors and cameras be removed “completely and without conditions.”
The council will meet again on Tuesday for its regular monthly debate on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which is expected to be dominated by talk of the flareup in violence.