UN condemns Gaza rocket fire, Israel’s response to Jerusalem riots

Spokesperson for organization’s rights chief urges Israel to allow ‘freedom of expression and assembly’ on Temple Mount; Rivlin holds an emergency briefing with EU ambassadors

Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)
Rockets are launched from Gaza Strip towards Israel, May 11, 2021. (AP Photo/Hatem Moussa)

The United Nations rights office said Tuesday it was “deeply concerned” by the escalation of violence between Israel and Gaza terrorists, as well as in Jerusalem.

The Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights appealed for calm after several days of violence.

Tensions in Jerusalem have flared into the city’s worst violence since 2017, with clashes between Palestinian rioters and police at the Temple Mount, Damascus Gate and Sheikh Jarrah leaving hundreds injured.

Additionally, since Monday, Gaza terror groups have fired hundreds of rockets at Israeli towns and cities, killing two Israelis, with Hamas saying that Israel’s retaliatory strikes on the Strip have killed at least 25 Palestinians, including minors. Israel says the majority of those killed in Gaza were terrorists, and others were killed by rockets from Gaza that failed to clear the border into Israel.

“We are deeply concerned at the escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, and Israel in the past days,” Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet’s office, told reporters in Geneva.

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet at the opening day of the 40th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, February 25, 2019. (Fabrice Coffrini/AFP)

“We condemn all violence and all incitement to violence and ethnic division and provocations.”

He urged Israeli security forces to allow “the right to freedoms of expression, association, and assembly.

“No force should be used against those exercising their rights peacefully.”

More than 200 rockets have been fired by Palestinian terrorists from the Gaza Strip toward Israel since Monday, killing two civilians and wounding dozens.

“The use of indiscriminate weapons, such as the rockets being fired into Israel, is strictly prohibited under international humanitarian law and must stop immediately,” said Colville.

Israel has responded with 130 strikes carried out by fighter jets and attack helicopters on military targets in the Gaza enclave.

“Israel must respect international humanitarian law,” said Colville, adding that any attacks should be directed at military objectives, with precautions taken to avoid civilian deaths.

Palestinians clash with Israeli security forces on the Temple Mount/al-Aqsa mosque compound on May 10, 2021. (Ahmad GHARABLI / AFP)

Meanwhile, the UN special rapporteurs on human rights in the Palestinian territories and on adequate housing, Michael Lynk and Balakrishnan Rajagopal, condemned the Israeli security forces’ response to violent protests centered on the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Shekih Jarrah.

Over 70 Palestinians in Sheikh Jarrah are set to be evicted in the coming weeks, to be replaced by right-wing Jewish Israelis. The Palestinians live in houses built on land that courts have ruled were owned by Jewish religious associations before the establishment of Israel in 1948. The neighborhood has seen nightly clashes between protesters and police.

“The immediate source of the current tensions in East Jerusalem are the actions of Israeli settler organizations, whose stated aim is to turn Palestinian neighborhoods into Jewish neighborhoods,” they said. “Neither short-term calm nor long-term peace will be accomplished as long as the national and individual rights of the city’s Palestinian population are routinely abrogated.”

Special rapporteurs do not speak for the UN but report their findings to it.

Meanwhile on Tuesday, President Reuven Rivlin held an emergency briefing for ambassadors of European Union member states in the country.

“We will not allow violence and disruption. Palestinian extremists have turned the Temple Mount into a cache for weapons, and a base for attacks. We cannot allow this holy site to be used for violent disorder that threatens both Jewish and Muslim worshipers,” Rivlin said, referring to the recent violence on the Temple Mount.

President Reuvin Rivlin holds an emergency briefing for ambassadors of European Union member states in Israel on May 11, 2021 ( Mark Neyman/GPO)

Monday saw fierce clashes between Palestinian protesters and police in Jerusalem. At least 300 people were wounded.

“The men and women of the Israel Police have acted heroically to restore order and to allow all Jerusalemites to live and pray safely,” he said, adding: “Yesterday, our capital city, Jerusalem, was attacked. Since then, hundreds of rockets have been fired on our cities and thousands of children have been taken by their parents to the bomb shelters. No country in the world would accept a situation like this. We will never accept this reality. We will protect our citizens by all means necessary.”

Palestinian terror groups in the Gaza Strip fired massive barrages of rockets at Israel since Monday evening, including seven projectiles that were fired by Hamas toward Jerusalem, in a major escalation of violence from the enclave signaling the possible start of a wider conflict.

Rivlin’s briefing was attended by the EU states’ ambassadors, headed by the EU Ambassador to Israel Emanuele Giaufret and ambassadors of Germany, Italy, Spain, France, and others.

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