UN Security Council
UN Security Council Reuters

A senior UN official warned the Security Council on Monday that violence in Israel and the Palestinian territories was likely to worsen without a quick return to peace talks, AFP reports Monday.

"Returning to negotiations has never been more important," UN Assistant-Secretary General Jens Toyberg-Frandzen told the 15-member council, during a meeting on the Middle East.

"Without a genuine commitment from the parties and an overall improvement in the lives of Palestinians, we should anticipate further deterioration of the security situation and an expansion of the current violence," he said.

It is unclear why the UN believes that the peace process will help rather than exacerbate violence in the capital. An Israel Security Agency (ISA) study revealed last year that terror only escalated since the latest round of peace talks began in 2013. 

The appeal followed a visit to the region last week by US Secretary of State John Kerry, who sought to ease tensions over Jerusalem, which has been wracked by violence. The capital has been subjected to months-long rioting on the Temple Mount, Judaism's holiest site, and to multiple terror attacks over the past several weeks. 

The flare-up in Jerusalem has been watched with growing concern just as efforts to consolidate a ceasefire in Gaza after a 50-day war have run into problems.

Toyberg-Frandzen told the council that there were "some signs of progress" over reconstruction but that "the overall state of affairs in Gaza remains volatile and fraught with potential pitfalls."

Israel has agreed to allow 800 truckloads of reconstruction material into Gaza, up from the current 350, but $62 million worth of UN construction projects are awaiting approval by Israeli authorities. Hamas, meanwhile, has threatened to begin another war if reconstruction does not begin shortly. 

There has been little to no progress in establishing a unity government between Palestinian Hamas and Fatah factions in Gaza - a move seen as a key to speeding up reconstruction, said the UN official.

Toyberg-Frandzen also condemned the recent firing of Hamas rockets in Gaza and in Israel and warned the launches risk re-igniting the conflict with Israel - blaming the "occupation" for the recent round of violence. 

"The continued reality of the close to 50-year long occupation and the lack of progress towards the two-state solution ensure that the next round of violence is never too far below the surface," warned Toyberg-Frandzen.

The 15-member council went into closed-door consultations following the report by the assistant-secretary general.