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U.N. Chief Blames Arson Murder on Occupation and Stalled Peace Process

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned on Friday the killing of a Palestinian child in the West Bank, saying the absence of a peace process and Israel’s illegal settlement policy had sparked violent extremism by Jews and Palestinians.

Jewish settlers were suspected of torching a Palestinian home in the occupied West Bank on Friday, killing an 18-month-old child and seriously injuring his parents and brother, an act that Israel’s prime minister described as terrorism.

“Continued failures to effectively address impunity for repeated acts of settler violence have led to another horrific incident involving the death of an innocent life. This must end,” Ban’s spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.

Though Israel has promised to crack down on such extremists, only a handful of indictments have been handed down.

The Israeli military boosted forces to search for the suspects in Friday’s attack, described by a spokesman as “two masked terrorists,” and to prevent any escalation in violence. The Palestinian Islamist group Hamas called for revenge.

Ban urged all parties to ensure that tensions do not escalate further.

“The absence of a political process and Israel’s illegal settlement policy, as well as the harsh and unnecessary practice of demolishing Palestinian houses, have given rise to violent extremism on both sides,” he said.

Palestinians seek a state in Gaza, the West Bank and East Jerusalem, lands Israel captured in 1967. Settlements that Israel has built on territory captured in 1967 are considered illegal under international law.

Israeli police said Friday’s attack appeared to be retribution by a settler group that opposes Israeli government curbs on the expansion of settlements.

The last round of U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians broke down in 2014.

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