The United Nations has warned that a deadly surge in violence between Israelis and Palestinians is leading them towards a “catastrophe”.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, said on Wednesday that the latest flare-up in the six-decade-old conflict was “dangerous in the extreme”.
In Washington, US Secretary of State John Kerry said the bloodshed “is yet another indication of the folly of believing that efforts at permanent peace and reconciliation are somehow not worth pursuing”.
“The current situation is simply not sustainable over time.”
In the latest violence, two Palestinians were shot and killed during alleged stabbing attacks on Israeli soldiers in the southern West Bank city of Hebron on Thursday.
Israeli troops shot dead 19-year-old Farouk Abdel Qader Omar Sidr on Thursday afternoon, just hours after fatally shooting 23-year-old Mahdi Mohammad Ramadan al-Muhtasib in front of the nearby Al-Ibrahimi Mosque in the Old City.
Speaking to the local Ma’an News Agency, Palestinian eyewitnesses said that neither of the killed men had tried to stab soldiers.
Clashes between protesters and Israeli forces broke out after the incident in Hebron, where tension between Palestinians and Israeli settlers is high. About 20 Palestinians have been killed in the city this month after allegedly attacking Israelis – a narrative that in many incidents has been disputed by Palestinians.
World leaders want to revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations that collapsed in April 2014, to avoid a deeper slide into violence that many fear could lead to a third Palestinian Intifada.
Call for protection
But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said: “It is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations” and warned a continuation of the violence could “kill the last shred of hope for the two-state-solution-based peace”.
Abbas called for “international protection” for the Palestinian people as the death toll in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories continues to rise.
Clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinians were triggered last month by Israeli incursions into Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site for Muslims.
The human rights situation in Israel and the Palestinian territories is “the worst and most critical since 1948”, Abbas said, referring to the establishment of Israel and displacement of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians.
Israeli forces have responded harshly to the growing unrest, using live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets, tear gas and sound grenades.
Since October 1, Israeli forces or settlers have killed 66 Palestinians – including unarmed protesters, bystanders and alleged attackers – across Israel, the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the Gaza Strip.
Nine Israelis have been killed by Palestinians in stabbing or shooting incidents.
“It is no longer useful to waste time in negotiations for the sake of negotiations. What is required is the end of the occupation in accordance with international legitimacy,” Abbas said.
Accusing Israel of “extrajudicial killings” and calling for an end to its ongoing occupation, Abbas told the UN council: “Protect us. Protect us. We need you.”
‘Extreme and unlawful measures’
As tensions continue to rise, rights groups have slammed Israel for its harsh measures as it continues to crack down on Palestinians.
On Wednesday, Amnesty International’s Philip Luther said that Israeli forces “have ripped up the rule book” and implemented “extreme and unlawful measures”.
“Intentional lethal force should only be used when absolutely necessary to protect life,” Luther said.
“Instead, we are increasingly seeing Israeli forces recklessly flouting international standards by shooting-to-kill in situations where it is completely unjustified.”