India on Sunday called for immediate de-escalation of the situation between Israel and Palestine at a United Nations Security Council meeting. The statement came as violence continues in the region that began this month following weeks-long tension between the two sides.
At the meeting, India’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations TS Tirumurti asked the two countries to immediately resume direct dialogue and said that New Delhi supports the two-state solution.
“The events of the last several days has resulted in a sharp deterioration of the security situation,” Tirumurti said. “The indiscriminate rocket firings from Gaza targeting the civilian population in Israel, which we condemn, and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza, have caused immense suffering and resulted in deaths, including women and children.”
India’s envoy urged both sides to show “extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions”, and refrain from trying to change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood. “Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of millions of Indians, who visit the city every year,” he said. “The Old City also houses the Al Zawiyya Al Hindiyya – the Indian Hospice, which is a historic place associated with a great Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid and located inside the Old City. India has restored this Indian Hospice” he added.
Tirumurti said that India believes every effort should be made to create conducive conditions for the resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine. “In conclusion, I reiterate India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution.”
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres told the security council that hostilities in Israel and Gaza were “utterly appalling” and called for an end to fighting, reported the Hindustan Times. Guterres said the UN is “actively engaging all sides towards an immediate ceasefire”.
At least 192 people, including 58 children and 34 women, have been killed in the Gaza Strip since the latest series of violence began, reported Al Jazeera. Israel has reported 10 dead, including two children.
The violence, which has resulted in the worst conflict between Israel and Palestine since 2014, escalated on May 7. On that day, the Israeli police stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam, and fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers during Ramadan. Israel’s actions were seen as a retaliation to the protests by Palestinians against attempts to forcibly evict a number of families from their homes.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, set a 10.30 pm IST deadline for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah. Soon after, the Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem.
At the heart of the conflict is an Israeli Supreme Court hearing, which was due on May 10, in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.
As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.
The renewed tensions due to the case in the Supreme Court, was an extension of the long-standing conflict as Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, sees all of the city as its Capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is largely unrecognised internationally.
The neighbourhood is also home to Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, as well as the Dome of the Rock and Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest place in Islam.
The latest conflict does not seem to be nearing an end immediately as Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on May 15 said that the country would continue the attack as long as they were necessary. Hamas also said they would continue with their cross-border firing.
Since the conflict began this month, Israel has levelled a number of Gaza’s tallest office and residential buildings, alleging they house Hamas military infrastructure. On May 15, it turned to the 12-storey Al-Jalaa building, where the offices of the Associated Press, Al-Jazeera and other media outlets were located, along with several floors of apartments.
A day later, the owner of the building, Jawad Mehdi, denied charges that it had contained assets of Hamas intelligence agency and said no evidence for the claim was provided by Israeli authorities, Al Jazeera reported.