Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has led a chorus of United Nations calls for all sides in the Middle East to exercise maximum restraint after a day of clashes around the region in which at least a dozen people are reported to have died. Clashes took place today along the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon, in the occupied Golan after the breach of the disengagement line from the Syrian side, and in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The clashes followed demonstrations by Palestinians to mark the anniversary of Israeli independence in 1948.
“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned that a significant number of people have been killed or injured,” his spokesperson said in a statement. “He calls on all concerned to show restraint and refrain from provocations so as to prevent escalation of tensions and ensure civilians are not killed or injured.”
In the statement Mr. Ban said he was “acutely conscious of the unsustainable status quo in the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is only thrown into sharper relief by the profound political changes now under way in the region.”
The Secretary-General stressed “the urgent need for a just, lasting and comprehensive Arab-Israeli peace, which ensures dignity and security for all, including an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.”
He reiterated calls to resume Israeli-Palestinian negotiations towards a resolution that would allow two States to live side by side in peace and security, and “advance the broader goal of a comprehensive regional peace in the Middle East.”
Mr. Ban's call for restraint was echoed by Major-General Alberto Asarta Cuevas, the Force Commander of the UN peacekeeping operation in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL), following the clashes near the village of Maroun al Ras.
Maj.-Gen. Cuevas said he was in personal contact with the command of the Lebanese and Israeli parties as part of UNIFIL's efforts to prevent further casualties.
“Immediate concrete security steps on the ground are necessary,” he said in a statement.
Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Valerie Amos, currently visiting the occupied Palestinian territory, voiced extreme concern about today's clashes.
“The situation cannot continue in this way. It is innocent people who are losing their lives,” she said.
Ms. Amos met with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Prime Minister Salam Fayyad as she visited Ramallah, East Jerusalem and Area C of the West Bank.
The Under-Secretary-General visited a school in Area C that is scheduled for demolition because the Al Jahalin Bedouin community has not been able to obtain a building permit from Israeli authorities.
“Palestinians are utterly frustrated by the impact of Israeli policies on their lives. They can't move freely around their territory. They can't plan their communities. They are evicted from their homes. Their homes are regularly demolished,” she said.
“I don't believe that most people in Israel have any idea of the way planning policies are used to divide and harass communities and families. They would not themselves like to be subjected to such behaviour.”
Ms. Amos is slated to visit the Gaza Strip tomorrow, the third day of her four-day visit to the region.