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UN Chief To Begin Surprise Visit To Israel, Palestine

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon (file photo)

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to begin a surprise visit to Israel and the Palestinian territories on October 20 amid an upsurge in deadly violence there.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Malki told local media that Ban will meet with both Israeli and Palestinian leaders.

An unnamed UN official confirmed the two-day visit will begin on October 20 but didn't elaborate on the details.

The UN chief has issued a video message ahead of the visit, calling for calm on both sides. Ban said he understood the Palestinian frustration but that violence would only harm their legitimate aspirations.

He said he understood the Israelis' concerns due to the security deterioration, but added there was no military solution to the situation.

The violence was fueled by rumors that Israel was plotting to take over a hilltop compound in Jerusalem revered by Jews as the Temple Mount and home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam's third-holiest shrine and a key symbol for the Palestinians.

Israel denies the allegations.

Eight Israelis and more than 40 Palestinians, including assailants, have been killed in the violence.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP