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China's UN envoy calls for end to Middle East violence

By LIU YINMENG in Los Angeles | China Daily Global | Updated: 2021-05-13 08:48

Zhang Jun, China's permanent representative to the UN. [Photo/Xinhua]

China calls on relevant parties to immediately end all acts of violence and refrain from any actions that may lead to further escalation, the nation's permanent representative to the United Nations said Wednesday about the latest situation between Palestinians and Israelis.

Ambassador Zhang Jun made the statement after the UN Security Council held emergency consultations on the situation, the second such meeting the international organ convened this week after a conference Monday. The meeting was called at the request of China, Tunisia and Norway.

Zhang chaired the meeting as president of the Security Council, as China holds the rotating council presidency for May. He elaborated on China's position in his national capacity.

Recent days have seen a continued deterioration of the situation in the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories; escalating violence and tensions in East Jerusalem; conflict on the Gaza Strip; and many civilian casualties, the ambassador said.

He noted that the Palestinian side has written many times to the Security Council to ask council members to pay more attention and to take action.

China is deeply concerned about the situation in Palestine, the envoy said. China strongly condemns violence against civilians and calls on all relevant parties, especially Israel, to exercise restraint.

"China urges all parties to immediately end all acts of hostilities, abide by relevant UN resolutions and obligations under international law and refrain from taking actions that may lead to further escalation," Zhang said.

The ambassador stressed that the historic status quo of the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem should be upheld and respected.

The tit-for-tat air strikes between Palestinians and Israelis have escalated in recent days.

At least 65 Palestinians, including 16 children, have died in the clashes as of Wednesday afternoon, according to Gaza's Ministry of Health. More than 300 others have been wounded.

Israeli health officials said at least seven people, including one child, have been killed and more than 100 injured.

Around 1,500 rockets have been fired by Palestinian militants, Israel said. Israel carried out hundreds of airstrikes on Gaza, destroying high-rise buildings and killing Hamas senior officials.

Tensions have been mounting between the two sides since confrontations Monday between Israeli security forces and Palestinian worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem. The mosque is revered both by Muslims, who call it Noble Sanctuary, and Jews, for whom it's known as Temple Mount.

Palestine worshippers had gathered at the compound to observe the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. Many stayed to protest an impending Israeli evacuation of Palestinian families from their homes in East Jerusalem.

Video footage showed Israeli police firing stun grenades and tear gas at the protesters. Israeli police said in a statement that "thousands of Palestinians rioted" and hurled stones and other objects from the mosque compound at police officers.

The latest conflict is the most intense between Israel and Hamas since a 2014 war in Gaza. It is prompting international concern that the situation might spiral out of control.

Zhang emphasized that in the current situation, all efforts must be made to calm tensions, protect the safety and rights of ordinary civilians and prevent a full-scale crisis.

China supports the UN having a wider role in reducing tensions, the envoy said.

"Shouldering the primary responsibility of maintaining international peace and security, the Security Council should speak with one voice, reaffirm the commitment to the two-state solution and deliver on its mission of maintaining international peace," he added.

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