UN chief condemns synagogue arson in Gush Etzion

Ban Ki-moon calls on all sides to refrain from “inflammatory actions or statements” following Givat Sorek synagogue arson.

Ben Ariel ,

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday condemned the arson attack on a synagogue in the town of Givat Sorek in Gush Etzion, and called for a thorough investigation to quickly bring the perpetrators to justice.

At the same time, he also called “on all sides” to refrain from “inflammatory actions or statements”.

In a statement issued by his spokesperson, the UN chief condemned the attack, in which a makeshift tent being used as a synagogue and the scrolls inside were destroyed.

“The Secretary-General also calls on all sides to respect the sanctity of all holy sites, refrain from any inflammatory actions or statements and reject the extremist elements that are pursuing a political agenda seeking to transform the current situation into a religious conflict,” the statement said.

The town of Givat Sorek is located on a strategic hill that overlooks the location where the three teenage boys Eyal Yifrah, Gilad Sha'ar and Naftali Frenkel were kidnapped in 2014.  

Residents of the nearby town of Karmei Tzur claim that the arsonists piled up prayer books in the center of the room and lit them on fire. The resulting fire caused the entire structure to burn down.

Sheikh Mohammed Kaiyuan Abu Ali, the chairman of the council of Muslim religious leaders in Israel, spoke with Israel's Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau on Sunday after the arson. 

During their conversation, the Sheikh condemned the arson, particularly the burning of holy books, noting, "In my name, and on behalf of all imams, we condemn this act and hope another disaster like this doesn't happen again in any holy place." 

"We hope the perpetrators will be caught and that they will be punished to the fullest extent of the law," he added. 

Ban’s statement condemning the arson came hours after Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon wrote an official letter to the UN chief, demanding that he take back his recent statements that grant legitimacy to terrorism in Israel.

"Palestinian terror is using your words as justification for its actions," wrote Danon, citing comments by the Jerusalem spokesperson of Palestinian Authority (PA) chairman Mahmoud Abbas's Fatah faction, who recently cited Ban in justifying the attack on the Old City's Damascus Gate in which Hadar Cohen was murdered.

"Your words have created two categories of terror - against Israel and against the rest of the world," added Danon.

Ban's statements have raised ire in Israel and among the wider Jewish community. On Saturday he was scheduled to speak at Park East Synagogue in New York City for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, but while speaking there he was booed over his recent justification of Palestinian terror.