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UN Human Rights Chief Says Fears Drive Mideast Violence

FILE - U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein says both sides are at fault in the recent surge in Israeli-Palestinian violence.

Violence between Israelis and Palestinian is turning into a catastrophe, the United Nations' top human rights official said Wednesday.

Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein told the Human Rights Council in Geneva that "people who fear each other, who fear the corresponding motives of each other," will fear the future, and that these fears are driving the violence. If such fears are not checked, he said, they "become in time so raw, so stark [that] many considerations of humanity will become secondary."

Hussein laid blame for the violence on both sides. He accused Israel of excessive use of force against the Palestinians, and he noted violence carried out by Jewish settlers. But he said the Palestinian knifings, shootings and car attacks against Israelis must stop, as well as the incitement by Palestinian authorities.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also addressed the Human Rights Council, calling on the world community to set up what he called a "special regime" to protect his people from the Israelis.

Israel's Foreign Ministry dismissed Abbas' comments as more "propaganda and incitement" instead of a desire to hold talks.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who met separately last week with the Israeli and Palestinian leaders, has also avoided directly blaming one side or the other for the strife. He said Wednesday in Washington that both sides have to show "firm and creative leadership."

"It is absolutely vital for Israel to take steps that empower Palestinian leaders to improve economic opportunities and the quality of life for their people on a day-to-day basis," he said. "And it is equally important for Palestinian leaders to cease the incitement of violence and to offer something more than rhetoric. Instead, propose solutions that will contribute in a real way ... to the improvement of life ... and to the safety and security of Israelis."

More than a month of Palestinian violence has killed 11 Israelis and 58 Palestinians. Israel said most of the Palestinians were killed while attacking or attempting to shoot or stab Israeli civilians, police or soldiers.

The violence erupted when rumors swept through Palestinian neighborhoods that Israel was planning to take over an East Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews. Israel has constantly denied the rumors.