Children must not be at risk during Palestinian protest: UN


United Nations (United States) (AFP)

The UN envoy for the Middle East urged restraint on Monday as he raised concern about children at risk during Palestinian protests starting this week near the Gaza-Israel border.

Palestinian families are planning to pitch hundreds of tents in the Gaza Strip near the border starting on Friday, launching a six-week show of support for Palestinian refugees.

"It is imperative that civilians, in particular children, not be targeted and that all actors refrain from putting children at risk at any time," Nickolay Mladenov told the council via videoconference from Jerusalem.

"I call on all sides to exercise restraint and to take the necessary steps to avoid violent escalation," he said.

The protest kicks off on Land Day, which commemorates the killing of six unarmed Arab protesters in Israel in 1976, and ends on May 15.

May 15 marks what the Palestinians refer to as the Nakba, or the catastrophe, marking when more than 700,000 Palestinians fled their land during the war that led to the creation of Israel.

The United States plans to open its embassy in Jerusalem on May 14, which coincides with the 70th anniversary of the creation of Israel.

The US decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital infuriated the Palestinians, who have broken off ties with the administration of President Donald Trump.

Mladenov told the council that Israel was pressing on with the building of settlements, defying the United Nations, which has branded the expansion of the Jewish outposts on occupied Palestinian land as illegal.

"Israel's illegal settlement expansion and related activities continue further threatening the viability of the two-state solution and eroding the prospects for peace," he said.

Over the past three months, Israel approved 22 plans for some 1,500 housing units in one area of the West Bank, with about a dozen units approved for construction -- but this is significantly lower than in the previous three-month period.

Ten tenders for 900 housing units in seven West Bank settlements were announced.

More than 600,000 Israelis live in settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.