(This was originally posted in Hindustan Times)
Amid escalating tensions between Israel and Palestinian militants, India on Sunday strongly condemned all acts of violence, including “indiscriminate rocket firings” from Gaza and the “retaliatory strikes”. During an open debate on the Middle East situation, Ambassador T S Tirumurti, India’s Permanent Representative to the UN, told the United Nations Security Council that the ongoing violence has caused immense suffering and resulted in deaths, including of women and children.
“We urge both sides to show extreme restraint, desist from actions that exacerbate tensions, and refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood,” Tirumurti told the Security Council.
Indian also paid homage to her national, Soumya Santosh, living in Israel who was killed in a rocket attack by Hamas, the Palestinian militant group. The mortal remains of the 30-year-old woman were brought to her native place in Kerala on Saturday. The UN ambassador said that India “deeply mourn[s] her demise” along with all civilians who have lost their lives in the “current cycle of violence, provocation, incitement, and destruction.”
Tirumurti further called for resuming direct dialogue and creating conducive conditions for it, emphasising that immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour. He reiterated that India supports the just cause of Palestinians and a two-State solution. “Jerusalem has a special place in the hearts of millions of Indians, who visit the city every year. The Old City also houses the Al Zawiyya Al Hindiyya – The Indian Hospice, which is a historic place associated with a great Indian Sufi saint Baba Farid. India has restored this Indian Hospice,” he added.
The situation in the region has quickly deteriorated as the fresh spate of violence on Sunday killed 40 Palestinians, the worst death toll since the unrest broke out. The United Nations has warned that the fighting could plunge the region into an “uncontainable” crisis. While opening the Security Council session, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres voiced alarm at the rise of extremist Jewish movements to push Palestinians out of Jerusalem.
“In Israel, violence by vigilante-style groups and mobs has added a further horrendous dimension to an already deteriorating crisis,” Guterres said. “Leaders on all sides have a responsibility to curb inflammatory rhetoric and calm the rising tensions,” he added.