Increased West Bank violence between Israelis and Palestinians could spark another Gaza war, UN Special Coordinator for the Peace Process Tor Wennesland warned on Tuesday.
“If left unchecked, I am concerned that not only may the situation in the West Bank further deteriorate, but these dynamics could also impact the security situation in Gaza and undermine the cessation of hostilities that has held since May 2021,” Wennesland told the United Nations Security Council during his monthly briefing to the 15-member body.
Israeli and Palestinians could be facing “another destructive and bloody round of violence,” Wennesland said as he addressed the New York meeting virtually from Jerusalem.
“We must act now to prevent that from happening,” he added.
He provided data on the violence that occurred between September 29 and December of this year that included all the Palestinian territories.
During that time, he said, 12 Palestinians, including one woman and four children, were killed by Israeli security forces and 306 were injured “during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, and other incidents” across the Palestinian territories.
Separately in that same period, 39 Palestinians were “injured by Israeli settlers or other [Israeli] civilians, who also perpetrated 121 attacks resulting in damage to Palestinian property,” Wennesland said.
He also provided data on Palestinian violence against Israelis in that same period.
“Two Israeli civilians were killed and 39 Israelis – 30 civilians, including two women and two children, and nine members of the Israeli security forces – were injured by Palestinians in clashes, shooting, stabbing and ramming attacks, as well as incidents involving the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails and other incidents. Palestinians perpetrated 105 attacks resulting in damage to Israeli property,” Wennesland said.
After addressing the monthly meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict other envoys also spoke out about their concerns regarding the increased violence.
The Biden administration tacitly called on Israel to respond proportionally and equitably to Palestinian violence against Israelis in the West Bank, when US Deputy Ambassador Richard Mills addressed the UNSC.
“We urge the authorities to condemn acts of violence and also to respond to attacks in a proportionate and reasonable manner that seeks to avoid the unnecessary loss of life,” Mills said.
“Such episodes risk precipitating an even greater escalation of violence,” he added.
He spoke in the aftermath of tense month in the West Bank and Jerusalem, in which Palestinian terrorists killed Yehuda Dimentman, 25, in the West Bank last week and stabbed an Israeli man in Jerusalem, moderately wounding him.
In the latter incident, Border Police immediately shot and killed the assailant.
Mills did not name Israel when calling for a proportional response, but it is a phrase that is solely used against the Jewish state by its critics.
He also seemed to be criticizing Israel for not doing enough to halt nationalistic crimes against innocent Palestinians, including by settlers when he issued this statement at the UNSC: “We also call on authorities to hold those responsible for violence fully accountable for their actions. All perpetrators should face equal justice under the law.”
He did not specifically condemn Dimentman’s killing, although State Department spokesman Ned Price had done so immediately after the attack.
The US is “deeply concerned about rising tensions in the West Bank and in and around Jerusalem, especially violence perpetrated against ordinary civilians attempting to go about their lives as best they can,” Mills said.
“We call on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from any actions that add to the already tense situation,” he added.
In describing acts that increase tensions, he took issue with steps that Israel takes, such as demolitions of illegal West Bank Palestinian homes and settlement expansion. Mills also listed issues typically attributed to the Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority, such as incitement to violence and the PA policy of providing monthly financial stipends to “individuals imprisoned for acts of terrorism.”