A Palestinian UN envoy complained to Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday that a top Israeli official had damaged Middle East peace prospects and could trigger violence by threatening to use helicopters and tanks against Palestinian unrest, reported The Associated Press.
“Clearly Israeli words and actions have prevented real progress in the peace process and contributed to the crisis atmosphere that is rapidly evolving in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including Jerusalem,” the agency quoted Somaia Barghouthi of Palestine's UN observer mission as writing to Annan.
“Such threats of extreme force cannot be taken lightly as the fragile and tense situation in the area could quickly destabilize and words could be quickly translated into action,” Barghouthi said in the letter circulated Thursday at UN headquarters.
Israeli army chief of staff Shaul Mofaz was reported as warning last week that the army might deploy helicopters and tanks to put down clashes predicted by military intelligence in the event a final peace treaty is not in place by the September target date.
Mofaz told Israeli soldiers in the Gaza strip, “Anyone who hurts Israeli soldiers will be hurt.”
“And if we need tanks, tanks will come. And if we need combat helicopters, combat helicopters will come,” he was quoted as saying.
The Israeli army later said in a statement that it had “prepared itself for all possible scenarios ... including increasing the defense of settlers” living in the 145 Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Gaza.
But it said it had “no intention of causing an escalation of the situation or confrontation with the Palestinians,” according to the AP.
The army said it was taking steps in light of nine days of clashes last month in which six Palestinians were killed, 1,000 wounded and 60 Israelis were wounded, and after “pronouncements by the Palestinian Authority.”
The agency quoted Palestinian Justice Minister Freih Abu Meddein as stating on Monday that the Palestinians were prepared to suffer thousands of casualties if violence erupted with Israel in the absence of a final peace deal.
The United Nations says Jewish settlements, built on land occupied by Israel in the 1967 Middle East war, are illegal and an obstacle to peace, said the agency –Albawaba.com
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