UN chief to visit Israel

Jerusalem, Oct 20 (IANS) United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will arrive in Israel on Tuesday and meet with Israeli leaders during the visit, an Israeli foreign ministry official said.

Israel’s new ambassador to the UN, Danny Dannon, will accompany the UN chief during the two-day unannounced visit, Xinhua news agency quoted the anonymous official as saying.

Ban will meet Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel and later with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank, he said, declining to give further details.

It is widely believed, however, that Ban is here to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians in a bid to help put an end to the latest round of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which has left dozens of people dead on both sides.

In a video message to Israeli and Palestinian people ahead of his arrival, Ban warned of the “dangerous escalation of violence in the occupied Palestinian territories and Israel.”

“I get shocked when I see young people trying to kill,” he said, referring to the wave of Palestinian knife attacks.

“Violence only undermines the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people to an independent state under Israeli aspirations for security,” he added.

Ban said he understands Palestinians’ frustration and anger in the face of the continued occupation and settlement expansion, as well as their disappointment with their leaders and the international community.

Ban told Israelis that he understands their concerns for security, “but walls, checkpoints, harsher responses by security forces and house demolition cannot sustain the peace and safety that you need.”

“There is no so-called ‘security solution’,” Ban said.

Ban called on both the sides not to allow extremists to further escalate the conflict and to maintain the status quo in the al-Aqsa mosque compound, a site holy to both Muslims and Jews.

The visit comes amidst a wave of Israeli-Palestinian violence, which has so far seen the death of at least 40 Palestinians and eight Israelis.

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