Friday

21st Jan 2022

EU and US urge Israel to defuse Jerusalem violence

The EU and US have voiced alarm over growing violence in Jerusalem, while urging Israel to curb settlement expansion.

Three nights of unrest in the city, which erupted on Friday (7 May), have left over 300 people and dozens of policemen injured.

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Rocket fire from Gaza on Sunday and Israeli air-strikes also indicated the violence was spreading.

The clashes broke out over Israeli plans to evict Palestinian families from the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods to make way for Jewish settlers.

And they could get worse on Monday, when Israeli nationalists plan to march through the Old City in a regular event which Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said should go ahead anyway.

"We will not allow any extremists to destabilise the calm in Jerusalem. We will enforce law and order decisively and responsibly", he said on Sunday.

"We emphatically reject the pressures not to build in Jerusalem," amid recent plans to build 540 new homes for Jewish settlers, on top of the eviction case.

The Middle East Quartet, an international club of mediators involving the EU, Russia, the UN, and the US called on "all sides" to stay calm.

But their statement placed the burden of responsibility on Israeli authorities to defuse the situation.

"We call upon Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and to avoid measures that would further escalate the situation during this period of Muslim Holy Days," they said in a joint statement.

The Jerusalem evictions "will only escalate the already tense environment", they added.

And an EU spokesperson struck the same note in a separate communiqué.

"The European Union calls on the authorities to act urgently to de-escalate the current tensions in Jerusalem," the EU said.

"The situation with regard to the evictions of Palestinian families in Sheikh Jarrah and other areas of East Jerusalem is ... of serious concern. Such actions are illegal under international humanitarian law and only serve to fuel tensions on the ground," the EU added.

The US criticism of Israeli authorities marked a change in tone from the previous White House of former president Donald Trump, which said settlements were legal and which endorsed Israel's unilateral claim to Jerusalem by moving the US embassy there from Tel Aviv.

But despite the change, there is no sign the US is planning to do a U-turn on the embassy move.

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