Avoid war, alleviate humanitarian crisis, support #Egypt to bring back the legitimate government to #Gaza. No other way forward. Enough words, time to act. My briefing to the #UNSC

18/10/2018 Leave a comment

Every month I brief this Council on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian Question.

Every month we speak of how continued settlement construction and the demolition of Palestinian structures in the occupied West Bank undermine the very foundations of the prospect of a sovereign Palestinian state. We condemn terror, violence and incitement that eat away at the trust between Israelis and Palestinians. We call for unity and reconciliation.

Every month we appeal to political leaders on both sides to find their way back to the table for negotiations, to reverse the negative trends on the ground and to restore hope that it is through peaceful negotiations, not violence that both Israelis and Palestinians will be able to live side-by-side, masters of their own fate. 

Day after day however we see the situation on the ground slipping in a different direction, we see it sliding into a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and violence that does not serve peace, we see the international consensus on how to resolve the Palestinian-Israeli conflict being challenged.

Yet we all understand that without a negotiated resolution based on the final status issues – as they have been defined by Israelis and Palestinians themselves – there can be no sustainable peace that realizes the national, historic, and religious aspirations of both peoples.

It is our shared responsibility to restore that prospect, to facilitate negotiations, to help the weaker party, to insulate the process from radicals and extremists and to show results. 

Before I turn to the most urgent questions related to the situation in Gaza, in my briefing to the Council today I wanted like to begin with developments in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where violence is on the rise and Israeli authorities have continued the demolition and confiscation of Palestinian-owned structures.

According to OCHA, 39 structures were demolished or seized in the West Bank, including five in East Jerusalem, displacing some 33 people and affecting the livelihoods of over 100 others. 

Thirty-four of the targeted structures were in Area C, including five installed in solidarity with Khan al-Ahmar – Abu al Helu, the Bedouin community at imminent risk of demolition and displacement.

On 23 September, the Israeli authorities requested the residents of Khan al-Ahmar – Abu al Helu to self-demolish their homes by 1 October or face demolition by the authorities, in line with the 5 September final ruling of the Israeli High Court.

On 8 October, the authorities extended the validity of land requisition orders for roadwork to enable the demolition. The community was given one week to object to the order. 

Khan al-Ahmar is among the 18 communities located in or adjacent to the controversial E1 area, where plans for new settlement construction would create a continuous built-up area between the Ma’ale Adumim and East Jerusalem, undermining the contiguity of a future Palestinian state. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, along with the European Union, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, the Arab League and others have called on Israel not to go ahead with its plan to demolish the village.

I once again joined this call to cease demolitions and other measures that run contrary to its obligations under international law.

All structures lacking permits from the Israeli authorities in Area C and East Jerusalem, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain, are potentially subject to demolition. And, while the rate of demolitions has declined since the beginning of 2017, over 13,000 demolition orders are pending against structures in Area C, three-quarters of which are on private Palestinian land.

Meanwhile, on 14 October the Israeli Government reportedly approved the allocation of USD 6 million for advancing the construction of 31 housing units in the Jewish settlement in Hebron, which would be the first new construction there in 16 years.

I reiterate the long-standing United Nations position that all settlement activities are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace.

Violent incidents also continued in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.

Among these, on 7 October, an Israeli man and woman were shot dead by a Palestinian man in the Barkan Industrial Area in the West Bank. The assailant fled the scene and Israeli Security Forces are currently carrying out widespread search operations in the area.

On 12 October, a Palestinian woman was killed, near a checkpoint south of Nablus, injured by stones allegedly thrown by Israeli assailants. 

I extend my condolences to the bereaved families. Such incidents must be condemned in the strongest of terms, and I call on everyone to stand up to violence and condemn terror. 

Settler-related violence is also a continuing concern. There were 23 attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians, resulting in one death, 12 injuries and property damage.

To date in 2018, according to OCHA over 1,600 Palestinian-owned trees were vandalized across the West Bank. As the annual olive harvest begins, concerns are particularly high. I call on the authorities to ensure smooth access of Palestinian farmers to their land and that sufficient measures be taken to protect farmers and their property from attacks.

In recent weeks, protests at the Gaza fence have expanded to include night demonstrations. Hamas and other militants continued to send incendiary kites and balloons across the border causing fires on the Israeli side. The Israeli Defence Forces have responded with riot dispersal means and live fire.

Thirty-three Palestinians, including nine children, were killed by Israeli Security Forces during demonstrations and other incidents. Three Israeli soldiers were meanwhile injured.

Intense clashes took place at the Gaza fence during Friday protests on 12 October in which an estimated 20,000 Palestinians participated. Seven people were killed and over 150 injured by live fire on this day alone. Incendiary kites launched from Gaza started fires, an IED detonated at the fence, and a group of protesters breached the fence and entered Israeli territory.

In addition, overall during the reporting period, Palestinian militants have fired two rockets which landed in Israel. Israel fired 45 missiles and shells at sites in the Gaza Strip. 

In the early hours of 17 October, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from central Gaza towards Israel that hit and significantly damaged a residential house in the Israeli city of Be’er Sheva. The city, some 40 kilometers from Gaza and well beyond the ring of communities in the immediate vicinity of the Strip, can be reached only by medium range rockets. After the 9 August Grad rocket that landed in the outskirts of Be’er Sheva, this was the second projectile to reach such a distance since the 2014 conflict. Three Israelis were reportedly injured. A second rocket landed in the sea southwest of Tel Aviv.

The Israeli Air Force responded with a series of airstrikes, firing at several locations, most of them identified as military sites around Gaza. One Palestinian militant was killed and at least two injured in a strike on a group that was in the process of launching rockets.

On 11 October, the Israeli Defence Forces announced that they had destroyed another tunnel extending from near the city of Khan Yunis in Gaza 200 meters into Israel territory. 

In response to violence at the fence, for the third time since March, on 7 October, Israel reduced the permissible fishing area off the Gaza coast from nine to six nautical miles. And again on 17 October, following the rocket attack in Be’er Sheva, Israel further reduced the fishing zone to three nautical miles, and closed all crossings between Israel and Gaza.

I briefed the Secuirty Council at a time when we enter a pivotal phase in Egyptian-led efforts to overcome intra-Palestinian divisions.

I conveyed two very clear messages to the Council.

The first is that the situation in Gaza is imploding. This is not a hyperbole. This is not alarmism. It is a reality.

The World Bank recently warned that the Gaza economy is in “free fall” with an official unemployment rate of 53 per cent, and over 70 per cent among the Palestinian youth. 

Every second person in Gaza now lives below the poverty line.

All key indicators – humanitarian, economic, security and political – continue to deteriorate.

We remain on the brink of another potentially devastating conflict, a conflict that nobody claims to want, but a conflict that needs much more than just words to be prevented.  

As I have outlined in detail in recent months, the United Nations and its partners have engaged, in response to requests from several UN Security Council members, in an extraordinary effort to stabilize the situation in Gaza and prevent an escalation. We have done so in full coordination with Egypt and in full transparency with both Israel and the Palestinian Authority.

The effort has aimed at avoiding war and facilitating a return to the informal understandings reached in 2014 to maintain calm. This will not only alleviate the suffering of two million Palestinians but will give political leaders time to achieve progress in reconciliation. Since the beginning of this process, the UN has firmly held that we need to make every effort to return Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian Government.  

But let me assure this Council that, barring substantial steps to reverse the current course, this precarious sense of calm is doomed to give way under the mounting pressure. 

It is already beginning to fray.

Recent days have seen tensions and violent confrontations rising again.

This should be of great concern to all of us. The gravity of the situation compels us to take decisive action.

The latest rockets that were fired from Gaza towards Be’er Sheva are a dangerous escalation of the situation. Unfortunately, they also fit a pattern of provocations that seek to bring Israel and Gaza into another deadly conflict. It is our responsibility to do everything possible to avoid that outcome.

I am afraid that there is no more time for words. Now is the time for action. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that de-escalate the situation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone.

My second key message is cautiously more optimistic. There is a growing consensus and determination among key international and regional partners on moving forward to defuse the powder keg that Gaza is.

On 27 September, a ministerial Meeting on UNRWA was held on the margins of the high level General Debate. Member States contributed generously to the Agency, raising some USD 122 million. This has been a very impressive collective international effort that has prevented an immediate shut down of key UNRWA services, including in Gaza.

Nevertheless, a significant gap remains.

On 27 September, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) agreed on the implementation of an urgent set of humanitarian projects in Gaza. These interventions are aimed at addressing the immediate needs of the population in energy, water, sanitation, health care and economic conditions. The goals are concrete. They are realistic. And they are achievable. There is no discussion here of projects – such as airports or seaports or sea channels. 

I took this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Government of the State of Qatar for its swift and generous response to the AHLC call by providing USD 60 million for fuel to increase the supply of electricity in the Gaza Strip.

Relieving the humanitarian pressure on the ground will reduce the threat of escalation and give space for Egyptian-led efforts to return the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza.

The Middle East Quartet has also endorsed this approach.

Disengaging from Gaza, plunging it into another conflict or tightening the closures furthers the divide with devastating humanitarian and political consequences for the Palestinian national cause. 

I appealed to all Council Members and to all friends of Israel and friends of Palestine, to join the United Nations in calling on all sides to step back from the brink. 

All parties must maintain their continued commitment to the 2014 ceasefire arrangements.  

Hamas and other militant groups must immediately and effectively stop all provocations and attacks, including rockets and mortars, IEDs, attempts to breach the fence, incendiary balloons and kites, and tunnel construction, and rein in all violence at the fence.

Israel must restore the delivery of critical supplies to Gaza and improve the movement and access of goods and people; and Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live ammunition. 

The Palestinian Authority must not disengage from Gaza and must continue its engagement with the international community to help alleviate the suffering of its people in Gaza. 

Any effort by any party to block the provision of critical assistance designed to relieve humanitarian suffering must not be tolerated.

These steps are only temporary and aim at avoiding war. We must never forget that, at its heart, Gaza is not a humanitarian problem, it is a political problem.

The humanitarian efforts are taking place in coordination with, and in support of, Egyptian efforts to bring Gaza back under the full control of the legitimate Palestinian Government.

The Government’s return to Gaza and the lifting of the suffocating movement and access restrictions are necessary for addressing the humanitarian and economic needs of the population in a sustainable manner, but also addressing the important political challenges ahead.

In addition to the unification of all Palestinians under one single, legitimate democratic Palestinian national authority, the bigger picture must also be addressed: an end to the occupation; and the realization of the two-state solution based on relevant UN resolutions, with Gaza as an integral part. 

And make no mistake, the consequences of failure will be severe, just as the benefits of success will be profound.  

Briefly turning to Lebanon, the country has entered its fifth month without a government. Prime Minister-designate Hariri continues consultations for an agreement on a national unity government. I hope that political stakeholders will soon overcome their differences and provide Lebanon with a new government that can deliver on its commitments vis-a-vis its citizens and the international community. 

While the situation in South Lebanon and along the Blue Line remained calm, the rhetoric between Israel and Lebanon underpin risks of miscalculation. It is essential that the parties refrain from provocative actions and renew their commitment to resolution 1701 in word and in deed. Furthermore, I call on Lebanese authorities to complete the investigation into the 4 August attack on a UNIFIL patrol.

Turning also to the situation on the Golan, military conflict on the Bravo side ceased in late July, with the Syrian Government regaining control of parts of the area of separation that had previously been under the control of various non-State armed opposition groups. In recent weeks, low levels of military activity have been observed in the areas of separation and limitation on the Bravo side. UNDOF has assessed that this has been due to controlled detonations of explosive ordnance as part of the clearance by Syrian security forces.

I personally visited UNDOF facilities in the Israeli-occupied Golan on 4 October and was encouraged with the progress made in implementing the phased UNDOF plan for the continued return of forces to the Bravo Side. I welcome the re-opening on 15 October of the Quneitra crossing, which was facilitated by the parties to the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement.

In closing I reiterated that we must break out of the endless cycle of emergency responses and stop-gap measures. The Palestinian people – whether they live in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, whether they live in Gaza, or as refugees in the region – deserve sustainable and just solutions. Both deserve a chance to restore their dignity and build a better future for themselves and their families. Just as the people of Israel deserve to live in peace and security, Palestinians deserve to be masters of their own fate, to be governed by democratically elected institutions, to have a state of their own that lives in peace and security with the State of Israel, without the walls of occupation, without the fear of reprisal or displacement, and certainly without the fear that the entirety of their lives will be spent struggling with no end in sight.

Categories: Uncategorized

#UN and #Egypt efforts to difuse growing tensions continue as latest #Gaza rocket fits pattern of provocations that seeks to bring #Israel and Gaza closer to war

17/10/2018 Leave a comment

Earlier today I met with the President of Israel Reuven Rivlin. The meeting took place against the backdrop of escalation as in the early hours of 17 October, Palestinian militants fired a rocket from central Gaza towards Israel that hit a residential house in the city of Be’er Sheva, causing extensive damage. Three people were reportedly injured. A second rocket reportedly landed in the sea southwest of Tel Aviv. The Israeli Air Force responded with a series of airstrikes on a number of locations which they identified as military sites around Gaza and open fields. Media report two Palestinians killed and two injured in a strike on a group said to be launching rockets.

This is what I said at the start of the meeting: “Thank you very much, Mr President, for this important meeting. I look forward to briefing you on our efforts. I am afraid that the last 24 hours have been particularly complicated. The latest rockets that were fired from Gaza towards Beer Sheva are a dangerous escalation of the situation. Unfortunately, they fit a pattern of provocations that seek to bring Israel and Gaza into another deadly conflict and confrontation. It is our responsibility to do everything possible to avoid that confrontation and I want to assure you that over the last three months we have worked very actively with all parties – with the government of Israel, with the Palestinian Authority, with the regional players, particularly with Egypt and the international community  – to pursue three goals. Firstly, to avoid a war which would be devastating for the people of Gaza and for the Israelis who live across the border. Secondly, to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of the people who live in really terrible conditions. And thirdly, to support our joint efforts with Egypt to bring the legitimate Palestinian Authority back into control of Gaza. This is the only path forward and we need to make sure that in the next 48 hours we really see a de-escalation on the ground so that these efforts can continue in the interests of peace between Israelis and Palestinians and in the interests of peace in the entire region. I am afraid that there is no more time for words. Now is the time for actions. And we must see very clear actions on all sides that bring the situation to a de-escalation. Otherwise, the consequences will be terrible for everyone. I look forward to discussing with you what can be done in order to de-escalate this environment and to move forward in a constructive manner. “

Everyone in #Gaza needs to step back from the brink. The alternative to #Palestinian reconciliation is #fauda (chaos)

15/07/2018 2 comments

My statement to the media in Gaza today:”As I’m sure you will all agree, over the last few months the situation in Gaza deteriorated rapidly. This is the result of a combination of three factors:

First is the humanitarian factor. People’s life has become more difficult as people have limited money, the economy has collapsed, electricity and water are scarce. We can not stand idle when we see 2 million Palestinians in Gaza living in such terrible conditions as they do now.

Second, we have also seen the deterioration of the political situation with the stopping of the reconciliation process. I remember the enthusiasm here in Gaza in October of last year, when Fatah and Hamas were invited to Cairo to talk about reconciliation. I remember tears in people’s eyes that finally the Palestinian division was coming to an end. We need to do everything in our power to revive the reconciliation process and to restart the talks that would bring Gaza and the West Bank under one government, under one legal system, and establish one legitimate control of all weapons.You cannot have a Palestinian state without Gaza, and you cannot have a Palestinian state only in Gaza.

Thirdly, apart from the political and humanitarian deterioration we have also seen a very rapid deterioration in the security situation. I want to begin by expressing deepest condolences to the parents of all the children whose lives have been lost in the past few weeks; to all journalists and to all medical professionals, who have lost their lives in the line of duty. Even one child being killed is too much.

Too many children have been killed in the past few weeks.All these three factors— humanitarian, political and security, are coming together. Yesterday we were on the brink of war. And it is taken the concerted efforts of everyone to make sure that we step back from confrontation. A confrontation that nobody wants, nobody needs, and a confrontation from which everybody will lose.

For the last decade Palestinians in Gaza have lived through 3 conflicts. Israelis across the fence have lived with a constant threat of rocket attacks for the last decade. This cycle has to stop. It has to end.

I want to begin today by appealing first of all Palestinians in Gaza. I know the difficult conditions you live in. I know it is very difficult to believe the international community or anyone who comes and tells you that your lives will be improved.

But I appeal to all Palestinians, to all parents of all children in Gaza today to step back and keep the protests peaceful.  I appeal to the Palestinian factions to not provoke incidents at the fence, to stop the firing of rockets and mortars, to stop the incendiary kites and to give peace a chance.

I appeal to Israel, to be very restrained in its responses to the situation in Gaza. I appeal to snipers not to shoot children. I appeal to everybody to step back from the brink!But last if not least, I appeal to my colleagues in the international community not to forget the people of Gaza, not to forget the Palestinians who have lived for generations without a state. And to work with us the United Nations with everyone else who is trying to resolve the situation right now.

People in Gaza have had enough wars. The international community has the responsibility to move immediately and live up to the expectations of providing not just assistance to the people in Gaza, but charting a political way forward.Our allies in this are the Palestinian people in Gaza themselves. Our partners are in the Palestinian government and everybody who wants to see an end to this current escalation. There is only one way forward.

The first step is to restore call to end the shelling and to end the firing.

The second step is to resolve all humanitarian problems: create jobs, provide electricity, fix the health care system and provide water. The UN and our partners are working on a specific plan to immediately move on these priorities in coordination with the Palestinian government and in coordination with all regional and international factors whose support we need.

But even if we help fix the humanitarian problems of Gaza we will not be doing enough unless we fix the political problems. That means two things: improving access and moving for the people of Gaza, through Israel, through Egypt, and I welcome the recent efforts by the Egyptian government to keep the Rafah crossing open. We will continue working with Israeli authorities to improve access and movement for Gaza and to allow for more imports and exports. Without an economy, another escalation can come very quickly. The second step is to get back to the reconciliation process. And I take this opportunity to appeal to the leadership of both Hamas and Fatah and all Palestinian factions, to take Egypt’s initiatives very seriously.

The only alternative to the efforts to unity among the Palestinian people and factions is fauda (chaos).

The next step is for us in the international community to improve our coordination with all parties, to make sure that everybody steps back from the brink today. We are one step away from another confrontation. Everybody needs to take a step back.

I hope that within the next few days you will see the results of our efforts to contain the situation and to chart a political path forward. I am not interested in coming up with projects just for the sake of projects in Gaza. I am not interested in going to donors and asking them to continue funding initiatives here in Gaza only to provide more food and more water to people without a political perspective for the future. I am interested in building that perspective.

The only realistic perspective today is this: avoid war, fix the humanitarian problems of Gaza, and get back to the reconciliation process. If we are able to do this, we can achieve a lot. But we need and I hope we will have the full cooperation of all Palestinians and all Israelis who are sick and tired of war and conflict, who want to live in peace, and who want to see their lives not constantly threatened by rockets or air strikes.

I assure you that the UN will not leave Gaza. We will enhance our presence here to be more effective and more efficient in delivering the support to the Palestinian people. We continue working very closely with our colleagues in UNRWA, who as you know face very significant financial problems. But I want to assure you that the leadership of UNRWA is doing everything in its power to address the financial shortfall and to continue providing services to the Palestinians everywhere. Thank you!

Categories: Gaza, Israel, Middle East, Palestine, war

The cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end and the international community must step in to prevent another war

15/05/2018 Leave a comment

UN_Palestine_58245-780x520On 15 May the Polish Presidency of the UN Security Council called an emergency session on the situation in Gaza. For the people of Gaza the previous day was a day of tragedy. There are no other words with which to describe what actually happened. There is no justification for the killing. There is no excuse.  It serves no one. It certainly does not serve the cause of peace.

My heart weighed heavy as I had to brief the Council and began by expressing my condolences to the families of those killed yesterday and the last six weeks of demonstrations in Gaza. Who can possibly find words to console the mother of a child that has been killed? I called on all

join me in condemning in the strongest possible terms the actions that have led to the loss of many lives in Gaza.

Israel has a responsibility to calibrate its use of force, to not use lethal force, except as a last resort, under imminent threat of death or serious injury. It must protect its borders, but it must do so proportionally and investigate every incident that has led to a loss of human life.

Hamas, which controls Gaza, must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations; its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.

Tens of thousands of people in Gaza have been protesting for over six weeks now. People who live in abject poverty, who survive in prison-like conditions, who live with no prospect for the day after. These people want their voices heard; they want a future beyond mere survival. Their leaders have failed them. The promises they have made to them have not been delivered. And now the people are angry. But their anger, if not channelled in a constructive manner will lead to more destruction and suffering. Whatever we may think of their motivation, we have an obligation to hear their plight.

They have lived through three devastating conflicts. Their lives are marked by personal anguish, scarred by a national tragedy, marred by daily suffering caused by leaders, who use them for their own political ends. For ten years, they have lived under the control of Hamas, separated from their families in the West Bank, isolated behind crippling Israeli closures.

This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end,

for it to end we need everyone of us to prevent and explosion that will drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation.

The international community must step in and prevent war, we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have been discussed for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crisis of the population. We can only do this in coordination with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and Egypt. But before all that, the senseless violence needs to stop.

On 14 May, an estimated 35,000 people participated in demonstrations in Gaza and hundreds in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, and in East Jerusalem — all part of the “Great March of Return”, as well as in protest of the relocation of the United States Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. While no fatalities were reported in the West Bank, where limited clashes took place between demonstrators and Israeli security forces at several checkpoints, the situation in Gaza deteriorated throughout the day, particularly along the perimeter fence.

According to various reports at least 60 people were killed throughout yesterday, including six children, and more than 1,300 were reportedly injured by live ammunition and rubber bullets. One Israeli soldier was wounded and taken to hospital for treatment.

Since the beginning of the protests on 30 March, over one hundred people have been killed, including thirteen children, over half of whom yesterday alone. This constituted the bloodiest day in Gaza, with the highest death and injury toll, since the conflict of 2014.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad have acknowledged that among those killed were members of their organizations, and the Israeli Defense Forces claims that at least 24 had links to militant activities.

Under cover of the protests Hamas and other militants have also engaged in violent and provocative acts, including the placing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) at the perimeter fence and other attempts to breach it with the intent of perpetrating attacks. According to UNDSS, at least one IED reportedly detonated against an IDF vehicle during an incursion. Eighteen airstrikes and eight shelling incidents were also carried out by the Israeli security forces on 26 Hamas targets in retaliation for what Israel has classified as violent acts.

Against this backdrop, hospitals in Gaza report an unfolding crisis of essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment needed to treat the injured. The UN Humanitarian Coordinator, who is currently in Gaza, yesterday visited Shifa Hospital, where there is a shortage of beds for the number of wounded arriving from the protests at the fence. He witnessed first-hand patients being brought in on stretchers and left in the hospital’s courtyard, which was being used as a triage area.

I appealed to Israel, to Egypt, to the Palestinian authorities, to facilitate the exit from Gaza of the seriously wounded for medical treatment and I welcome steps reportedly taken in this direction by Egypt.

I took this opportunity to

salute the bravery of the medical staff who continue to put their own lives at risk,

such as those working for the Palestinian Red Crescent Society, who have endured casualties of their own. I am deeply saddened to note the death of another health worker yesterday during the demonstrations and I reiterate the inviolability under international law of health facilities and medical personnel. Journalists have also been among those injured in yesterday’s demonstrations.

The dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, about which I have reported time and again to the Security Council over the past year, has been compounded by the fact that the Palestinian Authority continues to withhold the payment of salaries to some 20,000 civil service employees in Gaza.

To further complicate a dismal picture, on the 4th and on the 11th of May, Palestinian demonstrators destroyed most of the facilities on the Gaza side of the Kerem Shalom crossing, the main point of entry for goods and materials into the Gaza Strip. Members of my team have conducted an initial assessment of the site and I can report that the damage is extensive and will hinder deliveries of fuel and much needed goods to Gaza for weeks ahead. As we speak, the United Nations is working with Israel and the Palestinian Authority and with Israel to bring in life-saving assistance, despite the destruction and extensive damage to the crossing. Whoever orchestrated that destruction shares in the responsibility of worsening the suffering of two million people in Gaza.

The Secretary-General and I have repeatedly called on

all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation and for all incidents to be fully investigated.

I have engaged with all sides to this effect. Public statements and messages by Hamas indicate the intention to use mass protests to infiltrate into Israel and attack Israelis. Such statements and action endanger the lives of both Israelis and Palestinians and cannot be justified.

It is imperative that civilians, particularly children, not be targeted by anyone, not be used as a cover for militant activity, or be put at risk or in danger in any way.

As the violence continues, technical problems have also resurfaced in further decreasing electricity supply and have currently caused some 22 hours of blackouts in Gaza. This is a critical reminder of the fragility of Gaza’s infrastructure.  Starting tomorrow, the United Nations, together with international partners will need to focus and redouble efforts to implement projects that will have an immediate impact on improving the electricity, water and health situation as a matter of urgency.

The developments in Gaza are a painful reminder, and extremely painful reminder, of the devastating consequences of the continued absence of peace between Israelis and Palestinians. I would like to reiterate this message, particularly as Palestinians commemorate “Nakba” day or “the day of the Catastrophe”, by which they remember the displacement during the war of 1948-1949, and as they continue to demonstrate in Gaza and the West Bank over the coming days. We must step up our efforts in support of a peaceful resolution to the conflict.

We must collectively call on all to refrain from unilateral measures that only steer us away from a peace process and instead work to end the occupation and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace, culminating ultimately in two states, Israel and Palestine – of which Gaza is an integral part – two states living side by side in peace, security and prosperity.

A conflagration of Middle East conflicts is raising tensions in Syria, Yemen, and on the Palestinian track

11/05/2018 Leave a comment

untitledOn May 11 I visited Moscow for discussions on the Middle East with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov. Here is what I said to the media at the beginning of our meeting:

“… We are very concerned that there is a conflagration of conflicts currently in the Middle East that are raising tensions on all levels, including the situation in Syria, the situation in Yemen, and most certainly on the Palestinian track.

On the Palestinian track, we feel that there [is a] combination of three very important factors coming together now. Firstly, is the lack of a political process that brings the Israelis and the Palestinians together on the basis of internationally recognized parameters for solving the conflict and for achieving the two-state solution. The Secretary-General has made it very clear that there is no Plan B except the two-state solution; for Israel and Palestine to live in peace and security together. Secondly, we have the problem with the humanitarian crisis in Gaza which is extremely dangerous. The economy has collapsed. We are seeing on a daily basis the suffering of people that needs to be addressed very quickly. Thirdly, there are the security incidents that can always bring us back into another confrontation on the ground.

We are working very hard to avoid all of these risks and to find a way to bring back the Middle East Quartet as the key forum in which we discuss both the political process and the perspectives for resolving the conflict. But also, to put the Israeli-Palestinian situation in a broader regional context that it is important today.

I’m particularly worried about today and the coming days with the US embassy move to Jerusalem on Monday and with the planned protests in Gaza and take this opportunity again to call on Israel to be very careful and calibrated in how it uses force in addressing the protestors in Gaza. But I also call on Hamas and the leaders of the protests in Gaza to prevent friction and to prevent situations in which provocations can happen.

Nobody in the Middle East now needs another war and we need to make everything that we can possible to prevent such a conflict and to find the political solution to the Israeli-Palestinian track just as every other conflict in the Middle East; be that Yemen or Syria or elsewhere, demands a political rather than a military solution. Thank you again and I look forward to our discussions with you later today.”

Link to video here

Leaders must confront anti-Semitism, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it

02/05/2018 Leave a comment

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas chose to use his speech at the opening of the Palestinian National Council to repeat some of the most contemptuous anti-Semitic slurs, including the suggestion that the social behavior of Jews was the cause for the Holocaust.

Such statements are unacceptable, deeply disturbing and do not serve the interests of the Palestinian people or peace in the Middle East.

Denying the historic and religious connection of the Jewish people to the land and their holy sites in Jerusalem stands in contrast to reality.

The Holocaust did not occur in a vacuum, it was the result of thousands of years of persecution. This is why attempts to rewrite, downplay or deny it are dangerous.

Leaders have an obligation to confront anti-Semitism everywhere and always, not perpetuate the conspiracy theories that fuel it.

Categories: statement, Uncategorized

Fifth report under #UN #SecurityCouncil Resolution 2334

27/03/2018 Leave a comment

IMG_1555On 25th march I presented, on behalf of the Secretary-General, the fifth report on the implementation of Security Council resolution 2334 covering the period from 18 December to 25 March.

I focused on developments on the ground in accordance with the provisions of the resolution, including on the regional and international efforts to advance the peace process.

These developments cannot be divorced from the broader context: continued military occupation of Palestinian territory, uncertainties about the future of the peace process and the two-state solution, unilateral actions that undermine peace efforts and continued turmoil in the wider region.

I expressed my continued concern over UNRWA’s USD 446 million funding gap. It must be bridged urgently to ensure that UNRWA can provide basic services to Palestine refugees, including to school half-a-million children across the Middle East until a just and lasting peace is achieved. I welcome the approximately 100 million dollars pledged at the recent Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome. I encourage Member States to consider urgently providing additional new funding for UNRWA’s critical work.

Resolution 2334 calls on Israel to “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem” and to fully respect all its legal obligations in this regard. No such steps were taken during the reporting period.

The United Nations considers all settlement activities to be a violation of international law and a major obstacle to peace.

Israel advanced 22 plans for some 1,500 housing units in Area C settlements.

Around a dozen units were approved for construction – significantly lower than the 1,200 units approved during the previous three-month period. Ten tenders for some 900 housing units in seven Area C settlements were also announced. Official figures released last week show that construction starts in Area C settlements declined in 2017 to nearly half the number in 2016, which was the highest in over a decade.

The plans include 15 temporary housing units near Gush Etzion, south of Bethlehem, in an area outside the jurisdiction of nearby settlements. These units are planned for residents of the Netiv Ha’Avot outpost whose homes are slated for demolition on 15 June.

In response to the January shooting attack on 4 February that killed a rabbi from the Havat Gilad outpost, the Israeli Government approved the establishment of a new settlement to absorb its residents. Havat Gilad is built almost entirely on privately owned Palestinian land.

 In related potentially significant legislative developments, in January, the Knesset passed an amendment to the “Basic Law: Jerusalem, Capital of Israel.” This change will make it more difficult for Israel to transfer territories that are currently within the Israeli-defined Jerusalem municipality boundaries to a future Palestinian state by requiring a super-majority of 80 votes in the Knesset. It also makes it somewhat easier to change Jerusalem’s municipal boundaries by lowering the required Knesset threshold to a simple majority.

On 7 March, the Knesset also approved an amendment to the “Entry to Israel Law” allowing the revocation of permanent residency status of Palestinians in East Jerusalem involved in terrorist activities, treason or espionage, as defined in Israeli law.

The Israeli Government, on 25 February, endorsed a bill transferring jurisdiction over certain categories of petitions related to decisions by Israeli authorities in the West Bank from the High Court of Justice to the Court for Administrative Affairs in Jerusalem. The sponsors of the bill have described it as a step towards equating legal processes and norms in the West Bank and Israel.

Demolition of Palestinian-owned structures by Israeli authorities continued across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, albeit at the relatively low rate which characterized the past year. Ninety-two structures, including 15 that were donor-funded, were demolished, including for a lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. Consequently, 104 Palestinians were displaced, including 42 children, affecting the livelihoods of over 360 people.

Particularly concerning was the demolition of two donor-funded classrooms serving 26 children in the Palestinian Bedouin community of Abu Nuwar. For at least three years now, the United Nations has been warning of steady Israeli pressure on Abu Nuwar residents to move. The community is in the strategic E1 area planned for the expansion of Ma’ale Adumim that would result in the creation of a continuous built-up area between the settlement and East Jerusalem, further dividing East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank.

Similarly, the Bedouin village of Umm al-Hiran also came under renewed threat on 21 March as Israeli authorities posted eviction notices on homes, indicating that evictions can take place between 14-29 April.

In late December in the Massafer Yatta area of Hebron, where most structures face demolition orders, the IDF blocked several access routes and issued a military order requiring Palestinians to obtain permits to cross, limiting access to services and livelihoods for some 1,400 residents in 12 communities.

The reporting period was also characterized by continuing demonstrations and clashes following to the U.S. announcement on 6 December recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and to the growing tensions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and along the Gaza fence.

Twenty-three Palestinians, including six children, were killed by Israeli security forces (ISF) in various incidents, including reported attacks against Israelis, demonstrations, clashes, or military operations in the occupied Palestinian territory.

Five Israelis – three civilians and two soldiers were killed by Palestinians in separate attacks in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. On 5 February, a resident of the Har Bracha settlement was stabbed to death at the entrance to the settlement of Ariel. On 9 January, a rabbi from the Havat Gilad outpost was killed in a drive-by shooting. Two of the three alleged perpetrators were killed by the ISF during subsequent search and arrest operations. On 18 March, an Israeli civilian was stabbed and mortally wounded in Jerusalem’s Old City. The alleged assailant, a Palestinian man from the West Bank town of Aqraba, was shot dead by Israeli Security Forces.

On 10 March, a Palestinian teenager was shot dead during clashes with Israeli security forces and settlers in the village of Urif, after confrontations between Palestinian villagers and residents of the nearby Yitzhar settlement turned violent.

There was a concerning escalation of violence in and around the Gaza Strip.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) placed by Palestinian militants near the Gaza fence exploded on three occasions, wounding four Israeli soldiers in one incident on 17 February. On each occasion, Israeli forces responded with airstrikes and shelling against Hamas targets. The Israeli military also announced that it had destroyed three tunnels either fully inside Gaza or leading from Gaza into Israeli territory. Prior to this escalation, on 13 January, the IDF also destroyed a tunnel extending from Gaza into Israel and Egypt under the Kerem Shalom crossing.

In addition, 33 rockets were fired from Gaza towards Israel, with 11 landing in Israel. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) retaliated against Hamas military sites in Gaza. No injuries were reported on either side.

On 13 March, an IED exploded in Gaza targeting the convoy of the Palestinian Prime Minister Hamdallah and the Head of Intelligence, lightly injuring six people. There were no claims of responsibility.

On 22 March, Hamas security forces conducted an operation in the an-Nuseirat Camp in Gaza, reportedly targeting the chief suspect in the 13 March bombing. During the operation, the suspect and an accomplice were critically wounded and later succumbed to their wounds. Two members of Hamas’ security forces were also killed during the incident.

Despite the call in Security Council resolution 2334 for the parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric, such statements continued.

Fatah’s official social media pages continued to feature posts glorifying perpetrators of past violence against Israeli civilians, including terror attacks that killed civilians and children. In addition, Palestinian officials continued to make statements denying the historical and religious connection of Jews to Jerusalem and its holy sites. One senior religious leader falsely claimed Jews had lived in historical Jerusalem for only 70 or 80 years. Others continue to describe Israel as “a colonial project.”

I urged the Palestinian leadership to continue to speak against violence and to condemn specific attacks against civilians.

Senior Israeli officials made provocative statements encouraging annexation of all or parts of the occupied West Bank and categorically rejecting the two-state solution. Some claimed that Palestinians are an “invented people”, others referred to Palestinians as “blood thirsty barbarians”, and one political leader called for more “injuries and deaths” in Gaza, complaining that Israeli military strikes responding to rocket fire were not producing enough casualties among militants.

I urged political leaders to refrain from provocative statements and actions that fuel an already tense environment.

Resolution 2334 reiterated the calls by the Middle East Quartet for affirmative steps to be taken to “reverse negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution.” The period has witnessed both positive and negative actions by the parties in this regard.

In January, after years of negotiations, Israel approved the operation of local Palestinian 3G service in the West Bank, allowing Palestinian telecom companies to offer higher speed data services and somewhat improve their competitiveness.

There were two high-level meetings between the Israeli and Palestinian Ministers of Economy on 15 February in Paris and between the Israeli Minister of Finance and the Palestinian Prime Minister and the Palestinian Minister of Finance on 19 February in Ramallah – to discuss a range of economic and infrastructure issues concerning the West Bank and Gaza.

On 18 February, Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation endorsed a bill which would allow Israel to withhold tax revenues that are collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority. The amount withheld would be equivalent to the money used for payments to the families of Palestinian perpetrators of attacks against Israelis or for prisoners held in Israeli jails. On 5 March, the Knesset advanced a more restrictive version of the same bill.

Meanwhile, implementation of the 12 October intra-Palestinian agreement between Fatah and Hamas has stalled. In February and March, Egypt hosted delegations from the two parties in an effort to advance the process of returning Gaza under the control of the Palestinian Authority. I also held multiple meetings with senior Palestinian and Egyptian officials in support of the process.

On 4 March, the Palestinian Government approved a USD 5.1 billion budget for 2018, while presenting the option that if it were empowered in Gaza, it could amend the budget and absorb up- to 20,000 Gaza civil servants in Gaza.

In Gaza, electricity supply remains far below needs, with cuts of up to 20 hours-per-day. Without emergency fuel, 55 sewage pools are at significant risk of overflowing and the functioning of 48 water desalination plants has been reduced to around 20 per cent of their working capacity. Water is piped to households for a few hours only every four-to-five days. Basic services continue to function thanks to UN-distributed, donor-funded fuel for generators, which is expected to last, at best, only until September 2018.

Over 40 per cent of essential medicines remain at zero stock due to a lack of funding.

After a ten-year delay, the Northern Gaza Emergency Sewage Treatment (NGEST) plant finally began operating on 1 March, albeit at minimum capacity. More sustainable energy supply and other infrastructure projects needs to be urgently pursued to allow it to function at full capacity. In addition to a rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, Gaza’s economy remains on the brink of collapse. Urgent interventions alongside increased commitment to short, medium and longer-term projects provided the basis for discussions at the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) on 20 March in Brussels. Two preparatory meetings in Cairo and Washington on 8 and 13 March, respectively, helped develop a series of priority engagements aimed at improving the electricity, water and health situations in Gaza.

An EU-hosted pledging conference for the Gaza Central Desalination Plant, also held on 20 March, saw Member States commit some USD 565 million, nearly 80 per cent of the project costs, enabling the tendering process to begin. This is a positive development for the people and infrastructure of Gaza. Nevertheless, it is only one, albeit important, project required to ensure that Gaza remains livable beyond the foreseeable future. In a welcome development, over the past two months, Israel approved thousands of pending residential cases, more than 130 private sector projects and over 1,200 requests for the import of items that Israel considers to be of dual civilian and military use.

On 14 February, at a trilateral meeting convened by the United Nations, Israel and the Palestinian Authority agreed to continue with the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism and conduct a joint review in order to improve its functionality, transparency and predictability.

Resolution 2334 calls upon all States to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967. There are two developments to report in this regard.

On 23 January, the Danish Parliament passed a resolution with reference to Security Council resolution 2334, and in line with European Union policy, urging that future agreements between Denmark and Israel clearly state their inapplicability to occupied territory and encouraging the Government to strengthen its guidance to private and public investors.

Also in January, the European Commission signed a financing agreement with Israel allowing the latter’s participation in the Joint Operational Programme “Mediterranean Sea Basin” under the European Neighbourhood and Partnership Instrument Cross-Border Cooperation Programme for 2014-2020. In continuation of an existing European Union practice, the agreement includes a territorial clause stating that “in accordance with EU policy the agreement shall not apply to the geographic areas that came under the administration of the State of Israel after 5 June 1967.”

Regrettably, the reporting period has seen

no progress towards advancing the goal of a lasting peace.

On 31 January, Norway and the European Union convened an extraordinary Ministerial meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, in which support for the two-state solution in line with relevant UN resolutions was reiterated. The participants stated their support to ongoing efforts to restore unity between the west Bank and Gaza under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority, by focusing, inter alia, on urgent projects that address urgent electricity, water and humanitarian needs.

Speaking at the Security Council on 20 February, Palestinian President Abbas called for an international peace conference to be held by mid-2018 that would form a multilateral mechanism in support of the parties to negotiate all permanent status issues within a specific timeframe, and attain full UN membership for the State of Palestine and mutual recognition of Palestinian and Israeli statehood on the 1967 lines.

On 23 February, the U.S. announced that it would move its embassy to Jerusalem on 14 May 2018 to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Israel’s declaration of independence.

In closing, I shared some broad observations concerning the provisions of resolution 2334 on the reporting period.

1) Israel’s settlement expansion and related activities continue further threatening the viability of the two-state solution and eroding the prospects for peace. The latest decision to establish a new settlement for the second time since the adoption of Security Council resolution 2334, following Amihai in May 2017, is particularly troubling

Meanwhile, Palestinian development remains extremely restricted. In Area C alone, there are nearly 13,000 outstanding demolition orders against Palestinian-owned structures, of which some 500 are ready for execution. Less than one per cent of Area C, comprising over 60 percent of the West Bank and critical for the contiguity of a future Palestinian state, is available for Palestinian construction under approved plans.

2) Violence and incitement continue to fuel hatred, division, distrust and fear. Continuing terror attacks on Israelis and the attempt on the life of the Palestinian Prime Minister illustrate the growing risk of destabilization and the empowerment of radicals and extremists.

The use of force by Israel must also be calibrated. Israel must uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law. Lethal force should only be used as a last resort, with any resulting fatalities properly investigated by the authorities. I once again, urged the security forces to exercise maximum restraint to avoid casualties.

I noted the developing Palestinian plans for a march on the Gaza fence on 30 March. I call on all sides to exercise restraint and to take the necessary steps to avoid a violent escalation. It is imperative that civilians, in particular children, not be targeted and that all actors refrain from putting children at risk at any time.

I also take this opportunity to reiterate my call to Hamas to provide full information on the two Israeli soldiers and two civilians who are being held in Gaza, as required by international humanitarian law.

3) Steps taken on the ground in Area C and Gaza are welcome, but far from transformative. The relaxation on the import of certain “dual-use” items and the increased number of permits issued to business people in Gaza are, nevertheless, important developments that need to be sustained and augmented. Economic development, critical as it is, is no substitute for sovereignty and statehood. Efforts aimed at achieving both must proceed in parallel.

4) The terrorist attack against the convoy of PM Hamdallah on 13 March in Gaza was a serious attempt to derail the Cairo process and its perpetrators must be brought to justice. In this respect, I call on Palestinian factions to engage earnestly with Egypt and move forward on the implementation of the Cairo agreement. This includes the paying of salaries for civil servants and the full empowerment of the government in Gaza. A fully empowered PA in Gaza remains key to lifting the closures, to alleviating the humanitarian and developmental crisis in Gaza, and to furthering national aspirations for statehood.

I commended the Prime Minister’s commitment to continue his efforts towards reconciliation and commend Egypt for its tireless efforts in this regard. The United Nations remains committed to supporting Egyptian efforts to advance this process and welcome the efforts of the international community for a more coordinated engagement in alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

I noted with concern however that, reports have emerged today, indicating that Hamas has set up a checkpoint outside Erez/Beit Hanoun crossing, controlling the entrance of national and international personnel into Gaza and the exit of all Gaza ID holders. As per the 12 October intra-Palestinian agreement, all checkpoints should be handed over to the Palestinian Authority.

5) I remain greatly concerned by the state of our collective efforts to advance peace. Long-held international consensus positions on final status issues, including on Jerusalem and refugees, and United Nations principles must remain the guiding framework of a negotiated process towards the ultimate goal of a two-state solution. Any deviation from these principles would be dangerous. UN Security Council resolution 2334 states that “it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations.” All final status issues should be resolved on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law.

As the Secretary-General repeatedly reminded this Council, the United Nations strongly urges Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to take concrete measures that will reverse the current course of the conflict and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace based on the two-state solution.

Generations of Palestinian and Israeli lives have been shaped by this conflict. It is time to begin constructing a different future, a future built on mutual respect, dignity, and the belief that even the deepest and most painful divisions can be resolved if there is a genuine desire for change.