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#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 1 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.