Israel: United Nations chief 'deeply concerned' with Gaza violence as security counsel meets

Diplomats say they are concerned after at least 15 people were killed during protests

Clark Mindock
New York
Saturday 31 March 2018 03:19 BST
Major clashes at Gaza-Israel border with Palestinians killed in the violence

The chief of the United Nations is "deeply concerned" with the clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces that have left at least 15 people dead along the Gaza fence, and has called on an independent investigation.

A spokesperson for UN Secretary-General António Guterres said that the top UN diplomat is concerned that violence might escalate, and urged nations to to avoid further casualties.

"The Secretary-General calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these incidents," Farhan Haq, the deputy spokesman for Mr Guterres, said in a statement.

"He also appeals to those concerned to refrain from any act that could lead to further casualties and in particular any measures that could place civilians in harm's way," he continued.

The statement came after calls for an emergency United Nations meeting Friday with the UN security counsel, where nations were expected to try and hammer out a response to the violence.

At least 15 were killed and more than 1,000 more were injured during the violence, which erupted Friday as Palestinians gathered along the Gaza fence for a sit-in to honour the anniversary of Palestinian "Land Day", which marks the start of a month and a half's worth of demonstrations over lost land in Gaza.

The Palestinian health ministry said that the injuries were sustained through a combination of tear gas, rubber-coated steel pellets, and live rounds. The demonstrations were called forby Gaza's militant Hamas rulers, prompting Israeli security forces to double its standard troop levels on the border with more snipers, special forces, and paramilitary border police units that specialise in riot control.

The violence marked the deadliest day of demonstrations there since conflict autumn of last year.

As Friday wore on, the closed-door security counsel meeting began to appear as though it would be unable to come to consensus on a response, leading Kuwait to call for a public forum on the issue.

One top UN diplomat said that they were concerned the situation in Gaza "might deteriorate in the coming days", according to Reuters.

"Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by authorities," Taye-Brook Zerihoun, the UN deputy of political affairs, said.

The timing of the meeting caused the United States to lament that Israel was unable to attend the Friday meeting because of the holiday Passover.

"We are deeply saddened by the loss of life today. We urge those involved to take steps to lower tensions and reduce the risk of new clashes. Bad actors who use protests as a cover to incite violence endanger innocent lives," US diplomat Walter Miller told the council.

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