Ban meets Palestinians in bid to quell wave of violence

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Ramallah (dpa) – Ban Ki-moon Wednesday called on Palestinians to stop stabbing Israelis, and on Israel to stop harsh security responses that only added to Palestinian desperation.

But the worst spell of street violence in years showed no signs of abating, despite emergency talks by the UN secretary-general in Jerusalem and the nearby West Bank city of Ramallah.

Israeli security forces said they shot dead a Palestinian outside Jerusalem, as she stabbed a female Israeli soldier in the neck, seriously injuring her.

A second suspect was apprehended at the roadblock near the Jewish settlement of Adam, north-east of Jerusalem.

Earlier, a teenage Palestinian girl was shot and injured outside another settlement on the northern West Bank, as she allegedly approached soldiers with a knife.

Israeli soldiers called on her to halt and fired warning shots in the air, but they opened fire on her when she failed to comply, a military statement said.

Palestinians have launched well over 30 knife attacks against Israelis since October 3, succeeding in killing some nine Israelis.

An estimated 51 Palestinians have been killed over a three-week period, but well over half were assailants shot dead as they tried to stab Israelis or directly afterwards.

The others were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces, who have used tear gas, rubber bullets, but also live ammunition to keep at bay protesters storming the Gaza-Israel border. Others have thrown petrol bombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers and civilians, including at motorists, in Jerusalem and the West Bank.

“I have come to Ramallah because I’m very concerned about the dangerous escalation in violence in the occupied territories, Israel and of course Jerusalem,” Ban told Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas during a meeting in Ramallah.

“I have been dismayed, as we all should be, by young people taking up weapons and seeking to kill,” he said.

“I understand the frustrations,” he said, but “violence is not the way,” and would only make matters worse for the Palestinians.

Abbas responded by saying that Palestinians do not want violence. “But the lack of a political horizon and no hope for the future as well as economic difficulties have led to this situation of mutiny,” he said.

He asked for “international protection,” adding that Palestinians are “unable to protect” themselves.

Ban welcomed “Israel’s repeated assurances that it has no intentions of changing the historic status quo” at a disputed Jerusalem shrine, sacred to both Jews and Muslims, which has been at the centre of the recent wave of violence.

“Of course Israelis should not have to live in constant fear of the next attack,” Ban said, but warned that some of Israel’s retaliatory measures could be counter-productive if they only added to the Palestinians’ sense of oppression.

He also blamed Israel’s ongoing settlement activity for “reinforcing the sense that the viability of the two-state solution is disappearing.”

“We cannot ignore this strong sense of desperation that comes with the slow evaporation of hope,” he warned. “I urge Israelis and Palestinians alike to show courage and find their way back to a meaningful peace process.”

“There can be no de-escalation of violence without a re-emergence of hope,” he told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem late Tuesday.

Ban also condemned radical Muslim leaders for urging Palestinians to stab Jews to “defend” the Noble Sanctuary/Temple Mount in Jerusalem, which houses al-Aqsa Mosque, but also the ruins of the Biblical Jewish Temple.

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