UN deplores Israeli killing of Palestinian civilians around Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres speaks during a ceremony at the UN headquarters in New York on April 10, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he “deeply deplores” the killings of three Palestinians – one of whom was shot by a settler – as anger boiled over increased Israeli restrictions at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa compound.

Guterres condemned the killings and called for an investigation early on Saturday, hours after mass protests by Palestinians around the holy site turned deadly.

He urged Israeli and Palestinian leaders to refrain from actions that could further escalate the volatile situation in Jerusalem’s Old City, saying that religious sites should be spaces for reflection, not violence.

Citing Guterres, UN deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said the organisation understands “legitimate security concerns, but on the other hand it is important that the status quo at the site be retained”.

Israeli security forces violently clamped down on Friday’s demonstrations, firing live ammunition, tear gas and rubber-coated bullets at crowds of Palestinians protesting against the new measures, which include the barring of Muslim men under the age of 50 from the holy site and the installation of metal detectors.

Israel tightened its grip on the compound on July 14 after two Israeli security officers were killed in an alleged attack by three Palestinians, who were themselves killed by Israeli police following the violence.

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