Israel’s decision to expand firearms licensing for Israelis will only escalate tensions and further violence with Palestinians, Volker Türk – the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights – has warned.
“Plans by the Government of Israel to expedite and expand the licensing of firearms, with the stated intention of adding thousands of (Israeli) civilians carrying firearms – coupled with hateful rhetoric – can only lead to further violence and bloodshed,” Türk said in a statement.
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“We know from experience that the proliferation of firearms will lead to increased risks of killings and injuries of both Israelis and Palestinians. Therefore, the Israeli authorities must work to reduce the availability of firearms in society,” he added.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that more Israelis would be permitted firearms licenses last week.
The move comes amid rising tension in the Palestinian territories following an Israeli military operation in the West Bank city of Jenin last week that left 10 Palestinians dead. Seven Israelis were also killed in a shooting attack in occupied East Jerusalem.
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“Rather than fueling a worsening spiral of violence, I urge all those holding public office or other positions of authority – indeed everyone – to stop using language that incites hatred of the other,” Türk said. “Such fomenting hatred is corrosive for all Israelis, Palestinians, and society.”
The U.N. commissioner noted that 32 Palestinians had been killed by Israeli army fire since the start of the year, while seven Israelis have also been killed.
“The people of Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory need their leaders to work – urgently – to create conditions conducive to a political solution to this protracted, untenable situation,” he added.