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India has strongly condemned all acts of violence and provocation in the Gaza conflict and called for immediate de-escalation while urging Israel and Palestinian authorities to immediately resume dialogue to find a lasting solution.
TS Tirumurti, India’s ambassador to the UN, outlined the country’s position during an open debate at the UN Security Council early on Monday, saying both sides should show extreme restraint and desist from actions that exacerbate tensions.
India has found itself treading a cautious line as the conflict escalated in recent days, given its strong relations with both Israel and Arab states as well as its traditional support for a two-state solution, which was reiterated by Tirumurti.
Palestinian officials have described Sunday as the deadliest day since the current fighting with Israel began, with 42 people killed in Israeli air strikes on Gaza. Israel’s army claimed Hamas militants fired more than 3,000 rockets over the past week.
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“We reiterate our strong condemnation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction. Immediate de-escalation is the need of the hour so as to arrest any further slide towards the brink,” Tirumurti said while addressing the open debate at the UN Security Council, of which India is a non-permanent member.
“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,” he said.
Noting that recent events had resulted in a sharp deterioration of the security situation, Tirumurti said: “The indiscriminate rocket firing from Gaza targeting the civilian population in Israel, which we condemn, and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza have caused immense suffering and resulted in deaths, including women and children.”
The historic status quo at the holy places of Jerusalem, including Haram al-Sharif or Temple Mount, must be respected, Tirumurti said. Both sides should “refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in east Jerusalem and its neighbourhood”.
India supports the diplomatic efforts of the Quartet and other members of the international community, particularly the countries in the region, to calm the situation, end the violence and seek a durable peace, Tirumurti said.
“These incidents have once again underscored the need for immediate resumption of dialogue between Israel and Palestinian authorities. The absence of direct and meaningful negotiations between the parties is widening the trust deficit between the parties,” he said.
“This will only increase the chances for similar escalation in the future. We believe that every effort should be made to create conducive conditions for resumption of talks between Israel and Palestine,” Tirumurti added, while reiterating “India’s strong support to the just Palestinian cause and its unwavering commitment to the two-state solution”.
Tirumurti also highlighted India’s direct connection to the situation – he pointed out that an Indian national, care-giver Soumya Santosh, had died when rockets hit the Israeli coastal city of Ashkelon, and that Jerusalem is revered by millions of Indians who visit the city every year.
Referring to Santosh, he said, “We deeply mourn her demise along with all other civilians who have lost their lives in the current cycle of violence.”
He added, “[Jerusalem] also houses the Al-Zawiya al-Hindiya, the Indian Hospice, which is a historic place associated with a great Indian Sufi saint, Baba Farid, and located inside the old city. India has restored this Indian Hospice.”
The Indian Hospice is run by the descendants of a man from Uttar Pradesh, who still hold Indian passports.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has pleaded for an immediate end to the “utterly appalling” violence and warned that further fighting could plunge the region into “uncontainable crisis”.
The overall death toll in Gaza now stands at 188, including 55 children and 33 women, while another 1,230 have been injured, according to local authorities. BBC cited local reports as suggesting that Hamas has offered some kind of ceasefire for several days but has been rebuffed by Israel, which wants to inflict as much damage as it can on the militants before the fighting is finally brought to a close.