UN chief calls for calm after Middle East flare-up

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a joint statement
Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (right) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon made a joint statement

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has warned against any misuse of force as he met Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem in a bid to calm nearly three weeks of Palestinian unrest.

Ban told reporters yesterday that any misuse of force "may breed the very frustrations and anxieties from which violence and tensions erupt."

Israeli security forces have faced accusations of excessive force against Palestinians in the current wave of violence, but Netanyahu strongly rejected the accusations.

Ban warned Israelis and Palestinians they were at a "dangerous abyss" and must act quickly to restore calm before the unrest spirals further out of control.

The stark comments came as the UN secretary general made his unannounced visit to Jerusalem to try to ease tensions.

Violent protests and a wave of Palestinian gun, knife and car-ramming attacks against Israelis have raised fears of a full-scale Palestinian uprising.

Even as Ban arrived, another stabbing and a car attack occurred in the occupied West Bank, wounding three Israelis, with both alleged attackers shot dead.

Fresh clashes also erupted along the Gaza Strip border, leaving one Palestinian dead from Israeli fire and five others wounded.

"My visit reflects the sense of global alarm at the dangerous escalation in violence between Israelis and Palestinians," Ban told journalists after meeting Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

"If we do not act fast, the dynamics on the ground will only get worse."

He added that "it is not too late to avoid a broader crisis" and urged renewed peace efforts, with negotiations at a standstill for more than a year.

"Beyond the immediate tensions, what is missing is the resolve to restore a political horizon for talks, and a political process that delivers real results and peace," he said.

"We must, for the future of our children, come back from this dangerous abyss, safeguard the two-state solution, and lead people back to the road toward peace."

Ban met Netanyahu yesterday and is due to meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas this morning morning.

In a sign of growing international worry, US Secretary of State John Kerry will also meet Netanyahu in Germany this week and Abbas later at an unspecified location in the Middle East.

Yesterday's first attack saw an Israeli soldier stabbed during clashes near the flashpoint West Bank city of Hebron and the alleged 23-year-old Palestinian assailant shot dead.

Clashes had also erupted in Hebron earlier in the day as Israeli troops destroyed the home of a Palestinian jailed for a deadly knife attack last year.

Another attack yesterday saw an Israeli soldier and a civilian injured after a Palestinian attempted to ram his car into a group of pedestrians in the West Bank, then exited with a knife and was shot dead, officials said.

More than 40 Palestinians have been killed in the upsurge in violence that began at the start of the month, including alleged attackers.

Eight Israelis have died in attacks.