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UN’s Middle East envoy appears to back Israeli account on recent Temple Mount unrest

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland briefs, over video conference, the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question  on January 26, 2021. (Daniela Penkova/UNSCO/File)
UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland briefs, over video conference, the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question on January 26, 2021. (Daniela Penkova/UNSCO/File)

The UN’s Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland appears to adopt the Israeli account of how major clashes between Palestinians and police on the Temple Mount sparked earlier this month.

“On 15 April, during the early morning hours, a large number of Palestinians gathered at the Al-Aqsa compound. Some Palestinians threw stones, fireworks, and other heavy objects towards Israeli Security Forces, and ISF used stun grenades, sponge-tipped bullets and batons, including against some bystanders,” Wennesland tells the UN Security Council during the forum’s monthly session on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Palestinians have claimed that the police breached the compound unprovoked and that the Palestinians only began clashing in response to the intrusion.

“In the midst of these clashes, several dozen Palestinians entered a mosque in the compound, with some continuing to throw stones and fireworks towards ISF. Following a standoff with those inside, Israeli police entered the mosque and arrested those barricaded inside. During the clashes, some damage was caused to the structure of the mosque.”

The account appears to justify the police decision to enter the mosque after Palestinians “barricaded” inside and threw stones.

However, he also notes the over 160 Palestinians who were injured during the clashes that day, saying the “conduct of Israeli forces has raised concerns about possible excessive use of force.”

“Despite the tensions, overall, hundreds of thousands of Muslims, Jews, and Christians have been able to celebrate the holy days in and around the Old City in relative peace and without further escalation.”

Wennesland also lauds recent statements from Israeli officials “reiterating Israel’s commitment to upholding the status quo and ensuring that only Muslims would be allowed to pray on the Holy Esplanade,” in praise not often heard from such a senior member of the international community.

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