The United Nations and Russia warned Friday that an outbreak of violence could follow Monday’s opening of the US Embassy in Jerusalem.
“I’m particularly worried about today and the coming days with the US embassy move to Jerusalem on Monday and with planned protests in Gaza,” said UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov.
He spoke in Moscow at the start of a meeting with Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov.
“All countries have expressed grave concern as the situation is becoming increasingly explosive and can detonate any minute. There are casualties already,” Lavrov said.
On Friday Palestinians executed vehicular attacks against two Israeli soldiers at different location in the West Bank, lightly wounding one.
Israeli troops killed a Palestinian and wounded at least 170 protesters on the Israeli Gaza border as part of the Great March of Return. Palestinian medical workers said, 44 Palestinians have been killed during a six-week protest at the Gaza-Israel border that often involves Molotov cocktails, burning kits, tires and attempted infiltration into Israel.
Some 15,000 Palestinians participated in Friday’s demolition. Fear is high continued violence at the Gaza border and the embassy relocation could spark a renewed war in Gaza or a sharp rise in terror attacks against Israelis.
“Security incidents can bring us back to another confrontation on the ground,” Mladenov said.
“I take this opportunity again to call on Israel to be very careful and calibrated in how it uses force in addressing the protestors in Gaza. But I also call on Hamas and the leaders of the protests in Gaza to prevent friction and to prevent situations in which provocations can happen,” Mladenov asid.
“Nobody in the Middle East now needs another war and we need to make everything that we can possible to prevent such a conflict and to find the political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian track just as every other conflict in the Middle East; be that Yemen or Syria or elsewhere, demands a political rather than a military solution,” Mladenov said.
The Israeli-Palestinian peace process has been frozen since April 2014. Since entering office US President Donald Trump has spoken of making a deal between the two parties. There is some speculation that Trump may unveil his plan after Monday’s embassy opening.
The Palestinians would prefer the UN or another international mediator to a US brokered peace process, particularly in light of the embassy opening which they view as a crossing of a red line in their relations with the US.
Russia has long wanted to be a broker for that process and has called for a peace conference in Moscow. As one of the Quartet members it has also worked to bring the parties together under the auspices of the Quartet.
“The Quartet,” Lavrov told Mladenov should be “as proactive as possible. Unfortunately, this has not been the case so far.” He talked with Mladenov about ways to ensure that the Quartet would be the intermediary and that UN resolutions on the conflict would not be forgotten.
“Developments around the Israeli-Palestinian settlement are a matter of grave concern for Russia. The situation there has hit an impasse that is becoming increasingly apparent, especially in light of the decision by the United States on Jerusalem,” Lavrov said.
It is important not to let other conflicts in the Middle East obscure the need for an immediate resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Lavrov said.
US officials, Israeli leaders and politicians have spoken about the embassy relocation as a celebratory event. It is the first time since the creation of the state of Israel that the US has recognized that Jerusalem is the country’s capital and placed its embassy there.
Likud Minister Gilad Erdan tweeted: “This is an historic event that will correct injustice and advance a real #peace. Threats of #terror must never deter us from doing what is right.”
US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman tweeted, “Just a few days before the historic opening of the beautiful United States Embassy in Jerusalem, Israel. So excited for the ceremony and proud of all the Embassy staff who worked so hard to make this event happen. Eternally grateful to President Trump for his courage and vision.”
Israeli Foreign Ministry Director-General Yuval Rotem, “Festive days in our capital as beautiful #Jerusalem adorned with the colors of the American flag.”