RAMALLAH, West Bank – Visiting U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Saturday that Israeli settlement building anywhere on occupied land is illegal and must be stopped, while a Palestinian teenager was killed in clashes with Israeli troops elsewhere in the West Bank.

The death of Mohammed Qadus, 16, who Palestinians say was shot in the chest by Israeli security forces, comes amid heightened tensions between Israelis and Palestinians after Israel announced plans recently for 1,600 new homes for Jews in disputed east Jerusalem.

The settlement announcement has sparked protests by Palestinians, as well as condemnation from Israel’s closest ally – the United States – and the U.N. secretary-general.

From a hilltop observation post on the outskirts of the Palestinian city of Ramallah, Ban got a closer look Saturday at some of the Israeli enclaves scattered across Palestinian-claimed territories.

The panorama included the sprawling West Bank settlement of Givat Zeev, home to 11,000 Israelis who live in rows of red-roofed houses, and Jewish neighborhoods in traditionally Arab east Jerusalem, the Israeli-annexed sector of the city that Palestinians claim as a future capital.

The brief geography lesson came a day after Ban, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and other major Mideast mediators, including George Mitchell, special U.S. envoy for Mideast peace, met in Moscow to try to find a way to restart Israeli-Palestinian peace talks.

The mediators, known as the Quartet, urged Israel to halt all settlement construction. Israel has agreed to curb settlement construction in the West Bank, but not in east Jerusalem, claiming the entire city as Israel’s eternal capital.

On Saturday, Ban rejected Israel’s distinction between east Jerusalem and the West Bank, noting that both are occupied lands.

“The world has condemned Israel’s settlement plans in east Jerusalem,” the U.N. chief said after his brief tour. “Let us be clear: All settlement activity is illegal anywhere in occupied territory and must be stopped.”

Ban also expressed concern about what he said was a worsening humanitarian situation in blockaded Hamas-ruled Gaza.

Speaking later Saturday in Jerusalem alongside Israeli President Shimon Peres, Ban repeated the Quartet’s call for a resumption of talks and for the establishment of a Palestinian state within two years.

Clinton suggested Friday that a way could be found to renew negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, which were put on hold after Israel announced its new settlement plans. Clinton has asked Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for specific gestures, including canceling the most recent housing plan, and is to hear from the Israeli leader in a meeting in Washington early next week.

Senior U.S. officials in Washington say Netanyahu apparently has put in writing the pledges he made to Clinton during their telephone conversation on Thursday.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity to describe a private diplomatic contact between Clinton and Netanyahu.

Clinton reportedly asked Israel to revoke its recent building decision, roll back plans for new Jewish homes and make goodwill gestures such as releasing Palestinian prisoners and lifting some West Bank roadblocks.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has said he will not negotiate with Israel directly unless it freezes all settlement construction, including in east Jerusalem.


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