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World

France: Israel's Ban on Palestinians Could Escalate Violence

Israel imposed travel restrictions Thursday on Palestinians and sent hundreds of additional troops into the West Bank

In this photo provided by the United Nations, Jean-Marc Ayrault (C) Minister for Foreign Affairs and International Development of France, addresses the United Nations Security Council, Friday, June 10, 2016 at United Nations headquarters, Photo: The United Nations/Rick Bajornas, via AP
2 years ago

UNITED NATIONS — France’s foreign minister warned Friday that Israel’s ban on Palestinians entering its territory following the “abominable” attack on a popular cafe in Tel Aviv could escalate violence instead of focus attention on the need to pursue peace.

Jean-Marc Ayrault reiterated France’s condemnation of the attack, which killed four civilians, but was critical of Israel’s response.

Israel's police commissioner Roni Alsheich (C) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem's Old City as Palestinians mark the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on the nearby compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount June 10, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

Israel’s police commissioner Roni Alsheich (C) visits the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City as Palestinians mark the first Friday of the holy fasting month of Ramadan on the nearby compound known to Muslims as Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as Temple Mount, June 10, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Amir Cohen

Israel imposed travel restrictions Thursday on Palestinians and sent hundreds of additional troops into the West Bank. On Friday, the military announced it was closing the West Bank until the end of the Jewish holiday of Shavuot on Sunday due to security concerns, except for “humanitarian and medical” cases and for Palestinians to worship at al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

“The decision by the Israeli authorities today to revoke tens of thousands of entry permits could stoke tensions which could lead to a risk of escalation,” Ayrault told a small group of reporters. “We must be careful about anything that could stoke tensions.”

France currently holds the presidency of the U.N. Security Council and Ayrault was at U.N. headquarters to preside over an open council debate on the protection of civilians in peacekeeping operations.

Last Friday, France hosted an international meeting in Paris attended by more than two dozen Western and Arab countries to try to come up with a new strategy for Mideast peace and revive Israeli-Palestinian negotiations which have been all but dead for two years. The participants welcomed the “prospect” of a conference with both parties later this year.

“There must be a political initiative from the international community to create conditions to appease the situation and return to negotiations,” Ayrault said.

“We need intense mobilization to start something new to force the parties, who will all be invited in the second part of the year to our conference, to talk to one another again,” he said.

Relatives and friends carry the body of Ido Ben Ari, one of four Israelis killed in a Palestinian shooting attack in Tel Aviv, during his funeral in Yavne, Israel, June 9, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Relatives and friends carry the body of Ido Ben Ari, one of four Israelis killed in a Palestinian shooting attack in Tel Aviv, during his funeral in Yavne, Israel, June 9, 2016. Photo: Reuters/Ronen Zvulun

Ayrault told a news conference later he plans to set up working groups to see what incentives can be offered to the Israelis and Palestinians to come back to the negotiating table.

Earlier, he urged a halt to Israeli settlement building which he called a “serious provocation.”

Israel captured the West Bank, Gaza Strip and east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast War. It withdrew from Gaza in 2005, but nearly 600,000 Israeli settlers remain in east Jerusalem and the West Bank.

The Palestinians claim all three areas for a future state, a position that has wide global support. Similarly, the international community widely sees Israeli settlements as illegal or illegitimate, and a major obstacle to peace.

EDITH M. LEDERER

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