United Nations Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov warned today that a solution was needed by Friday to the Al-Aqsa Mosque crisis, which he said threatens to have “potential catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City.”
Israel installed metal detectors at entry points to Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem on 16 July triggering the bloodiest clashes between Israelis and Palestinians in years.
Incensed at what they perceive as a violation of delicate decades-old access arrangements at Islam’s third-holiest site, Palestinians have refused to go through the metal detectors, holding street prayers and protests. Friday prayers have not been held in the mosque for two weeks.
Israel has responded heavy-handedly, shooting stun grenades, rubber coated bullets and live munitions at protesters. Seven Palestinians have been killed in the ten days of unrest and a further 1,090 have been injured, according to figures from the Palestinian Red Crescent Society.
“It is extremely important that a solution to the current crisis be found by Friday,” Mladenov told reporters after briefing the UN Security Council behind closed doors.
The dangers on the ground will escalate if we go through another cycle of Friday prayer without a resolution.
He also warned that the crisis was not a localised event.
“[It has] the potential to have catastrophic costs well beyond the walls of the Old City, well beyond Israel and Palestine, well beyond the Middle East itself,” Mladenov said.
The 15-member Security Council met on the crisis at the request of Sweden, France and Egypt.
Sweden’s Deputy UN Ambassador Carl Skau posted on Twitter after the meeting that Security Council members “agree on need for de-escalation, condemnation of violence and urgent dialogue to calm tensions in Jerusalem.”
— Carl Skau (@CarlSkau) July 24, 2017
The Security Council is due to hold its quarterly Middle East briefing tomorrow. Mladenov appealed to member states to “avoid further inflaming the situation” when they address the public meeting.
“We will enable everybody to come and pray on the Temple Mount, but at the same time we will do whatever is necessary to maintain security of this important site,” Israeli UN Ambassador Danny Danon said ahead of the meeting, referring to Al-Aqsa Mosque by the name used by Israelis.
Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters: “We are against violence … and we want the Security Council to have the political will to protect the Palestinian people against such violence from the Israeli occupying authority.”