“I particularly urge Israel to exercise extreme caution with the use of force in order to avoid casualties. Civilians must be able to exercise their right to demonstrate peacefully,” the UN Chief stressed in a statement released Thursday.
The UN chief also highlighted the urgency to accelerate efforts to “return to meaningful negotiations that will eventually allow Palestinians and Israelis to live in two democratic states side by side in peace and within secure and recognized borders.”
Guterres reaffirmed the UN’s readiness to support these efforts.
Echoing the Secretary-General, Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process also called upon Israeli forces to exercise restraint and on the Palestinians to avoid friction at the Gaza fence.
“I am following with concern the continuing preparations and rhetoric for this Friday’s ‘Great Return March’ in Gaza,” he said, noting that demonstrations and protests must be allowed to proceed in a peaceful manner.
“Civilians, particularly children, must not be intentionally put in danger or targeted in any way,” he added.
The call by the United Nations follows clashes last Friday (March 30), during which thousands of Palestinians marched to Gaza’s border with Israel to protest the long-standing blockade of the enclave.
According to reports from the Palestinian Health Ministry, 15 Palestinians had been killed and more than 1,000 injured.
Some of the casualties were reportedly the result of live ammunition used by Israeli security forces during the March marking Land Day.
Other casualties followed armed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including the shelling of a Hamas observation point.
In the aftermath of the clashes the UN Secretary-General called for an independent and transparent investigation in the incident. The Security Council had also convened an emergency meeting on the clashes.