UN Security Council to meet Wednesday over Middle East unrest

United Nations (United States) (AFP) –


The UN Security Council will hold an urgent meeting on Wednesday over the deadly unrest playing out between Israel and the Palestinians, its second such session in three days, diplomatic sources said Tuesday.

The closed-door meeting has been requested by Tunisia, Norway and China. The first, held Monday, ended without a joint statement, with the United States expressing reluctance to adopt a draft statement proposed by Norway "at this point."

The text, seen by AFP, would call on Israel to "cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions" including in east Jerusalem.

In the statement the Security Council members also expressed "their grave concern regarding escalating tensions and violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem," which Israel annexed and considers part of its capital.

Asked Tuesday whether the United States had lifted its opposition to such a Security Council statement, State Department spokesman Ned Price refrained from directly addressing the question.

"We want to see to it that steps, whether they emanate from the Israeli government, the Palestinian Authority or the UN Security Council, serve, not to escalate or provoke, but to de-escalate," he said.

On Tuesday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the escalation must stop.

"Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force," he said in a statement, adding that "the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centers is unacceptable."

At least 28 Palestinians in the blockaded Gaza Strip and three Israelis have been killed in a sharp escalation of violence.

Several nights of clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police, particularly around the flashpoint Al-Aqsa mosque compound, spiralled on Monday night into a barrage of Islamist rocket fire from Gaza and deadly Israeli air strikes in retaliation.