UN warns of ‘palpable’ risk of Israeli-Palestinian escalation

UN warns of ‘palpable’ risk of Israeli-Palestinian escalation

Senior official criticizes practice of ‘administrative detention,’ calls for terror suspects to be tried or freed

Jeffrey Feltman briefing the Security Council at its meeting on the situation in the Middle East on June 24, 2015. (Devra Berkowitz/UN)
Jeffrey Feltman briefing the Security Council at its meeting on the situation in the Middle East on June 24, 2015. (Devra Berkowitz/UN)

The United Nations political leader said Wednesday that the risk of escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict “is palpable.”

Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman told the UN Security Council that the past month has seen “unconscionable crimes of hatred by extremist elements, reprehensible retaliatory violence, provocations at Jerusalem’s holy sites, and a worrying increase in rockets launched from Gaza towards Israel.”

His comments follow Tuesday’s warning by opposition leader Isaac Herzog that a new Palestinian uprising could be looming after the recent spate of violence. Herzog called on both sides to reduce tensions and restart peace talks.

Feltman appealed to political, military, community and religious leaders on all sides “to work together to reduce tensions, reject violence and prevent extremists from escalating the situation and hijacking the political agenda,” Reuters reported.

Feltman criticized Israel’s use of “administrative detention” – detention without trial – against terror suspects, a practice the Israeli cabinet extended to Israeli citizens on August 2 in a bid to curtail a growing wave of Jewish terror attacks against Palestinians and churches around the country.

A deadly firebombing of a Palestinian home in a West Bank village last month by suspected Jewish terrorists came in the context of “a chronic lack of adequate law enforcement,” Feltman said.

“Such violence is possible because of the environment created as a result of Israel’s decades-long policy of illegal settlement activities,” he added.

The Knesset has also passed laws bolstering other anti-terror measures in recent weeks, including a law allowing district court judges to order the force-feeding of hunger-striking terror suspects, and a dramatic increase in maximum penalties — up to 20 years’ imprisonment — for stone-throwing that endangers lives.

“Careful consideration should be placed on addressing the underlying human rights concerns which lead prisoners to such extreme protests [like hunger strikes], including prolonged administrative detention,” Feltman said.

He said that the law on stone-throwing was “likely to affect children disproportionately.”

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