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UN rights body to host Palestinian president Abbas next week

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Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas will next week address the United Nations’ top human rights body, the UN said today, as a wave of violence in Israel continues despite international calls for calm.

“We expect that on October 28, here is Geneva, the Human Rights Council will hold a special meeting, (which) will feature an intervention by president Mahmud Abbas from Palestine on the situation in the region,” UN spokesman Michele Zaccheo told reporters.

He stressed that the event would not be a special session of the council, but rather a “meeting” lasting about one hour, including a speech by Abbas, but with no room for subsequent questions or debate.

Such a special meeting has been called only once before by the UN’s top rights body, when Chilean President Michelle Bachelet spoke to the council in 2007, Zaccheo said.

The announcement came as UN chief Ban Ki-moon was expected to make an unannounced visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories today to try to calm nearly three weeks of escalating violence.

Young Palestinians have defied an Israeli security crackdown and calls for non-violence from Abbas by carrying out repeated knife and other attacks on Jews.

At least 41 Palestinians have been killed in the upsurge in violence that began at the start of the month, including alleged attackers. Eight Israelis have died.

The mounting death toll has prompted fears of a new Palestinian intifada, or uprising, like those of 1987-1993 and 2000-2005, when thousands were killed in near-daily violence.