UN Security Council to hold 3rd emergency meet on West Bank violence since new gov’t

Top UN panel to hold private session on Tuesday at behest of UAE and Palestinians; no resolution or joint statement currently being planned

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

An aerial view of a scrapyard where cars were torched overnight in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank, February 27, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
An aerial view of a scrapyard where cars were torched overnight in the Palestinian town of Huwara near Nablus in the West Bank, February 27, 2023. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

The UN Security Council will convene an emergency session on Tuesday, in light of the deadly violence that took place over the weekend in the northern West Bank town of Huwara, a senior diplomat for a country on the panel told The Times of Israel.

It will be the Security Council’s third such urgent meeting since the establishment of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s new right-religious government two months ago. The previous sessions were called after far-right National Security Minister Itamar Ben Gvir visited the flashpoint Temple Mount, and after a deadly IDF raid in the Palestinian city of Jenin.

These meetings can be accompanied by a vote on a resolution or the issuing of a joint statement by council members, though such steps are rare. Neither initiative was being readied as of late Monday morning, according to a second UN diplomat familiar with the matter.

The closed-door meeting was requested by the United Arab Emirates — the Arab League’s representative on the Security Council — following a formal appeal submitted by the Palestinian Mission to the United Nations.

The UAE request came hours after a series of attacks in Huwara, a flashpoint Palestinian town intersected by a highway that is also used by Israelis traveling to northern West Bank settlements.

On Sunday morning, a Palestinian gunman opened fire on a vehicle with Israeli license plates that was making its way through the town, killing brothers Hallel and Yagel Yaniv. In response to the attack, hundreds of settler youth staged an evening rally in the city that descended into a violent rampage. Amid the rioting, 37-year-old Sameh Aqtash was killed and four other Palestinians were badly injured, while dozens of homes and vehicles were torched.

Brothers Hallel (left) and Yagel Yaniv, who were killed in a terror attack in the West Bank town of Huwara on February 26, 2023. (Courtesy)

On Monday evening, an Israeli man died after being critically hurt in a terror shooting near the West Bank city of Jericho.

Earlier in the day, the UN’s Mideast envoy Tor Wennesland issued a statement again expressing concern over the deteriorating situation in the West Bank, noting that security forces have a responsibility to “prevent individuals from taking the law into their own hands.”

“There can be no justification for terrorism, nor for arson and acts of revenge against civilians. All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable. Violence, provocations, and incitement must stop immediately and be unequivocally condemned by all,” he said.

The UN envoy did make a point to note reasons for optimism though, following a rare regional meeting held Sunday in Jordan and was attended by Israeli, Palestinian, Jordanian, Egyptian, and American officials, who issued a joint communique in which they committed to taking steps to deescalate tensions.

Sameh Aqtash, who was killed in the settler rampage of Huwara on February 27, 2023. (Courtesy)

The decision to hold the emergency session was blasted by Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan who claimed in a statement that the Security Council “continues to ignore the murderous terrorist attacks and the Palestinian incitement.”

“Council members close their eyes to the daily and incessant terrorism that claims the lives of innocent Israelis and deal obsessively — like puppets on a string — only with the demands of the Palestinians.

“How many more Israelis need to be murdered by despicable terrorists for the Security Council to hold a discussion on Palestinian terrorism and incitement?” he added.

Erdan’s predecessor, Likud MK Danny Danon struck a similar tone, claiming the Security Council was “ignoring the cold blooded murder of two innocent Jews,” instead discussing “a local disturbance in response to the brutal murders by a few young people.”

“The hypocrisy cries out to high heaven. It’s an absolute disgrace!” Danon said.

The Tuesday meeting will not only be focused on the settler violence though, the senior UN diplomat said, explaining that Wennesland will be briefing members on all of the attacks that have recently taken place.

The Security Council has engaged heavily on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict over the past several months, with the PA pushing the body to intervene to provide protection for Palestinians.

Last week, its members issued a rare Presidential Statement condemning Israeli settlement activity, after the Netanyahu government announced that it would be legalizing nine West Bank outposts and advancing plans for nearly 10,000 new settlement homes.

A United Nations Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on February 20, 2023. (Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

The statement was non-binding though, and only advanced after the PA agreed to withdraw its support for a more forceful resolution due to pressure from the Biden administration. Still, it was condemned by Netanyahu, whose office specifically called out the US for supporting the statement.

At Sunday’s Aqaba summit, Israel agreed to hold off on advancing new settlement homes for four months and on advancing outpost legalizations for six months. But Netanyahu later insisted that the joint communique Israel signed did not amount to a settlement freeze, noting that the Defense Ministry body that authorizes settlement construction only convenes on a quarterly basis anyway.

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