UN rights chief, Palestine's Abbas, warn of Holy Land strife worsening along religious lines

(UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré)United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein (R) and Mahmoud Abbas, President of the State of Palestine, at a Special Meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva on Oct. 28, 2015.

GENEVA - The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein has warned that the current wave of Holy Land violence could worsen along religious lines into a more terrible confrontation.

Zeid was speaking at a special session of the Human Rights Council on Oct. 28 and his warning about the conflict moving into a religious one was echoed by the President of the State Palestine Mahmoud Abbas.

The Palestinian leaders also lambasted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for exploiting the Holocaust to attack the Palestinians and turning the blame to them rather than Nazi German to the consternation of many scholars.

"The spate of stabbings and shootings, car attacks and deadly beatings - which are all fuelled by incitement from people on both sides – now simmers. But tensions are very high," said Zeid.

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"There is a growing possibility if this violence continues to sharpen, along religious lines, we will draw closer to the makings of a broader, and much more terrible, confrontation. The region, already imperilled, does not need this."

Israel's Ambassador to the United Nations in Geneva, Eviatar Manor, refused to attend the Abbas speech, but summoned dozens of diplomats afterward to decry recent "inflammatory" comments on Palestinian TV and elsewhere by Abbas, The Associated Press reported.

"The Human Rights Council is being used as a stage for propaganda," Manor said, according to a transcription of his remarks to the diplomats in a closed-door hearing.

"What we have witnessed today is the glorification of terror and violence. What the Council allowed today is the banalization of the spilling of Jewish blood."

In his speech, Zeid said the Middle East peace process must now be reactivated with an unprecedented sense of purpose.

He noted that the latest wave of violence has resulted in 58 Palestinian deaths, with 2100 wounded; and 11 Israeli deaths, with 127 wounded.

"Some of these people were stabbed, shot, and even beaten to death by members of the public, both Israeli and Palestinian. In the context of suspected attacks, several Palestinians have been killed by Israeli security forces, sometimes allegedly acting with disproportionate force, to the extent that extra-judicial killings are strongly suspected," said Zeid.

'EXCESSIVE USE OF FORCE'

In other incidents, Palestinians involved in demonstrations in the West Bank and along the Gaza fence have been reportedly shot by security forces using live ammunition – raising strong concerns again about excessive use of force.

Zeid said, "The stabbing and shooting and car attacks that have targeted Israelis are also totally unjustifiable. No matter what the grievances on both sides, violence cannot be the answer."

The U.N. rights chief cautioned that "a catastrophe becomes more likely" due to the "supremely sensitive issue" relating to occupied East Jerusalem, "and specifically the site that is known to Muslims as the Al Aqsa compound or the Haram Al Sharif, and to Jews as the Temple Mount."

Abbas spoke in Arabic noting he had repeatedly warned in recent years of what has happened in Jerusalem and its surroundings.

He said there was a "tightening the noose around the necks of the population" by successive Israeli governments to "systematically change the identity of Jerusalem and its historical and demographic character."

The Palestinian leader said there were "illegal excavations under Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Old City, setting up walls' to alienate Palestinian neighborhoods."

"I have noted over and over again that pressure will generate an explosion, and that the violations committed by settlers and extremist, protected by the Israeli occupation forces, against our Christian and Islamic holy sites in Jerusalem," said Abbas.

He said it "will turn the political conflict into a religious one that will have grave consequences on all of us, and we will never accept nor acknowledge that."

Turning to recent remarks by Netanyahu, Abbas said, "When the Israeli Prime Minister tries to absolve Adolf Hitler from his ugly crimes, against the Jews, and blame Palestinians for these crimes, he is trying thereby to justify the crimes committed against the Palestinian people."

"He prefers to blame Palestinians and always accuse them and now with the Holocaust," asserted Abbas. "You all know that this is false, untrue and baseless.

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