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Every opportunity must be used, if we are to move from statements and conflict management to a sustainable two-state solution in line with relevant #UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law. #Israel #Palestine

26/08/2020 Leave a comment

On August 25th I briefed the UN Security Council, following the agreement that was reached between Israel and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that stops Israeli annexation plans over parts of the occupied West Bank and includes the normalization of relations between the two countries.

The Secretary-General has welcomed this agreement, hoping it will create an opportunity for Israeli and Palestinian leaders to re-engage. 

Israel’s commitment to suspending annexation removes an immediate threat that had the potential to upend the peace process and regional stability. The Secretary-General has consistently called for Israel to abandon these plans. Annexation would constitute a most serious violation of international law, effectively close the door to a renewal of negotiations and destroy the prospect of a viable Palestinian State and the two-State solution itself.

The Israel-UAE deal also has the potential to change dynamics across the region.

It creates new opportunities for cooperation at a time when the Middle East and the world face grave dangers from the Covid-19 pandemic and radicalization. It will create economic opportunities and opportunities for peace.

I expressed my hope it will inspire leaders on all sides to re-engage constructively in meaningful negotiations to resolve the Israeli Palestinian conflict. The terms of reference of resolving the conflict have not changed — they are based on the relevant UN resolutions, bilateral agreements and international law. Only a two-State solution, in which Israel and Palestine live side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition, can lead to sustainable peace.

Today is not the time to despair about the Palestinian cause. Annexation plans have been stopped. In fact, today is the time to redouble efforts, to reach out more actively than ever to leaders in the Middle East, and for the Palestinian and Israeli leadership to re-engage constructively.  

Regrettably, we continue to confront a series of multi-layered challenges on the ground as the resurgence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) and in Israel continues to be a major concern.

The UN and its partners have continued to support Palestinians in responding to the pandemic, including by addressing critical gaps in medical supplies and equipment. 

Meanwhile, the Palestinian economy is in freefall. Now that the imminent threat of annexation has been removed, the Palestinian leadership should resume accepting its clearance revenues and provide some breathing space for the battered economy. 

The security situation in Gaza has also deteriorated; a trend which soon may become irreversible.

It is essential that the ceasefire agreement brokered by Egypt and the UN, which has proved effective since August 2018, be reaffirmed. Mediation efforts will continue; however, I spoke of my concern that militant activity, incendiary balloons, rockets and a deteriorating humanitarian situation inside the Strip are rapidly eroding existing arrangements.

During the past months, Gaza’s economy has deteriorated dramatically. Compounding the impact of continued closures, intra-Palestinian division and more than a decade of Hamas rule, COVID-19-related restrictions have halted the crossing of workers and traders into Israel and inhibited revenue transfers to Gaza’s exporters. The current absence of cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel has also slowed implementation of critical infrastructure projects and jobs have been lost.

UNSCO continues to work with the UN Country Team (UNCT), donors, and the parties to address the needs in Gaza and the occupied West Bank. On 28 July, the UN Country Team released its COVID-19 Development System Response Plan, outlining critical interventions that the United Nations will implement in the coming 12 to 18 months in support of the Palestinian Government. I encouraged Member States to support these efforts.

The UN is deeply engaged in efforts to mitigate the economic and humanitarian consequences of the PA’s decision to halt all coordination with Israel in response to the threat of annexation. 

As reported last month, the UN reached agreements with the Palestinian government to facilitate vital deliveries of humanitarian aid and related equipment. Agreements were also reached with Israel to streamline its administrative procedures for these imports in light of the COVID-19 crisis.

I was pleased to report that coordination between the UN and all sides on the importation of humanitarian supplies is proceeding well. But coordination levels between Israel and the PA remain far below normal. This has impacted the delivery of assistance as well as the provision of services to the Palestinian population. 

Fortunately, after minor delays, a mechanism that supports the transfer of patients requiring medical treatment outside of Gaza has also been established.

Let me reiterate that any increased responsibilities for the UN should be limited and time-bound and not designed to replace the roles and responsibilities of the Palestinian Authority or of the Government of Israel.

I remain very concerned that the suspension of coordination and revenue transfers cannot be sustained for much longer without severe humanitarian and economic consequences.

Over the reporting period, militants fired some 20 rockets towards Israel and launched some 270 balloons carrying incendiary devices, causing hundreds of fires and forcing some civilians to be evacuated from their homes.

Shrapnel from rockets intercepted by the Iron Dome damaged a car and two houses in the Israeli town of Sderot. Six civilians were lightly injured while running for shelter.

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) responded by striking Hamas targets and agricultural fields, firing some 80 missiles and shells, with five people reported injured, including four children and one woman. Following one of these strikes, an unexploded Israeli missile was found in an UNRWA school in the ash-Shati refugee camp. The IDF has classified this as an accident that is under review.

I reiterated that the indiscriminate launching of rockets and incendiary devices towards Israeli population centers violates international law and must cease immediately.  Likewise, children and schools should never be targeted by any party, nor should children be exposed to violence.

In response to the sharp rise in the number of incendiary balloons, on 11 August, Israel limited the transfer of some goods and halted the transfer of construction materials through the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza. On 12 August, Israeli authorities stopped all fuel deliveries until further notice, including donor-funded fuel. As a result, the Gaza Power Plant has shut down, sharply reducing electricity provision to three hours per day. This is severely impacting critical infrastructure, including sewage treatment and provision of clean drinking water. It is also affecting health facilities, schools, and conditions at some of the quarantine centers that are critical to efforts to prevent an outbreak of COVID19 in the Strip, particularly concerning given reports yesterday of the first identified cases of COVID-19 outside of quarantine centers in Gaza. Additionally, on 16 August, Israel closed the Gaza fishing zone completely.

The day before, after hearing the news of the new COVID19 cases in Gaza, the UN asked Israel to reinstate the delivery of Qatari funded fuel for the Strip in order to help prevent a major health crisis. 

This latest escalation has once again demonstrated the urgency of implementing long-term solutions for Gaza.

The Israeli population in proximity to the Strip live in constant fear, watching their lands burn and their children run for shelter. The Palestinian population in Gaza endure unbearable economic conditions, no freedom of movement and political isolation. Closures and rounds of escalation have defined their lives for over a decade. 

There is a moral imperative to end all militant activity in Gaza, restore Palestinian national unity and lift Israeli closures.

But the political solutions that must be provided by leaders are nowhere in sight. Instead, we have a day-to-day, month-to-month, year-to-year patchwork of crucial humanitarian efforts to prevent war and to try and sustain the lives of two million desperate Palestinians in Gaza.

I then turned to the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, three Palestinians, including one child and one woman, were killed and 47 injured, including two children and one woman, in clashes, attacks, search and arrest operations, and other incidents. Seven Israelis, including two soldiers and one child, were injured during the reporting period.

In one tragic incident, a 23-year-old Palestinian woman was killed by live fire in her home in Jenin during an ISF operation and ensuing clashes with local Palestinian residents. There are contradictory claims over responsibility for the shooting, with ISF and local residents denying the use of live ammunition.

On 13 August, Israel’s prosecution authorities filed an indictment against five Border Police officers on 14 counts of serious abuse, including assault and robbery. A video subsequently released showed unacceptable, vicious beatings and humiliation of Palestinian detainees.  

On 16 August, an 18-year-old Palestinian was shot and injured by ISF while reportedly attempting to throw a Molotov cocktail at Rachel’s Tomb near Bethlehem. The following day, another Palestinian man was shot and killed in Jerusalem’s Old City while carrying out a stabbing attack against an Israeli Border Police officer, who was moderately injured.

In another unfortunate incident involving a disabled person, on 17 August, ISF shot and injured a 60-year-old Palestinian man with hearing and speech impediments at the Qalandiya checkpoint when he did not respond to their calls to halt.

On 20 August, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy died after reportedly being shot by ISF near the village of Deir Abu Mash’al, west of Ramallah. Two other Palestinians were reportedly injured. The ISF stated that the three were preparing to throw Molotov cocktails and set alight tires to attack passing vehicles.

I reiterated that lethal force should be used only as a last resort, against an imminent threat of death or serious injury and in accordance with the principle of proportionality. I called on the Israeli authorities to investigate these incidents.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, there has been a concerning increase in violent crime within Palestinian communities across the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, as well as violent incidents involving Palestinian Security Forces (PSF) and civilians, with several people shot dead in recent weeks.

Palestinian organizations, meanwhile, focused on gender-based violence (GBV) in the West Bank have also reported a sharp increase in femicides. I urged Palestinian authorities, in line with their obligations, to enhance the protection of women and girls from GBV.

Meanwhile, settlers perpetrated 20 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in four injuries and damage to property.

On 12 August, settlers attacked Israeli Security Forces during an operation to demolish structures at an outpost near the settlement of Yitzhar.

Palestinians carried out 27 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians in the West Bank, resulting in five injuries and property damage.

During the reporting period,

Israeli authorities demolished 72 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem,

displacing some 89 people, including 32 women and 40 children, and affecting 20 others. In addition, 11 Palestinians self-demolished their structures to avoid additional fines.

On 10 August, Israel’s High Court of Justice overturned an order to punitively demolish the home of a Palestinian accused of killing an Israeli soldier in May 2020. The Court emphasized that the rights of the perpetrator’s wife and children would be disproportionately harmed if the demolition were to proceed.

I also spoke briefly about the region. In Lebanon, over 180 people are dead following the explosion in Beirut port on 4 August, with 30 persons still missing and several thousand injured. Almost 300,000 people are in need of shelter. A Lebanese investigation into the explosion is ongoing, with the assistance of experts from France, Russia, Turkey and the United States. Following the 9 August international donors’ conference co-convened by France and the United Nations, at which nearly $300 million in aid was pledged, a UN Flash Appeal launched on 14 August raised another $565 million to help address humanitarian and recovery needs.

Popular protests continued, while informal consultations on the formation of a new Government are ongoing, following the resignation of Prime Minister Hassan Diab’s Government on 10 August. At the same time, the COVID-19 outbreak has worsened, prompting a nationwide lockdown in Lebanon. On 18 August, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon delivered its verdict in the Ayyash et al case, concerning the 2005 attack that killed former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others, convicting Ayyash, while acquitting the three other defendants for lack of evidence.  

While the situation in the UNIFIL area of operations remained generally stable, tensions have been observed along the Blue Line, including a breach of the cessation of hostilities on 27 July. UNIFIL continues to maintain stability and defuse tensions, including through its liaison and coordination efforts with the parties.

On the Golan, tensions between Israel and Syria heightened on 2 and 3 August. On 2 August, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) carried out a strike killing four individuals from the Bravo side in the vicinity of the ceasefire line. The IDF informed UNDOF that they had carried out an attack on targets east of the Israeli technical fence to thwart an attempt to place explosives in that area. The following day, at the request of Syrian authorities, UNDOF facilitated the retrieval by the ICRC Syria of the remains of the four individuals that were killed. The IDF, on 3 August, also fired missiles from a helicopter across the ceasefire line onto the Bravo side, informing UNDOF that the IDF struck Syrian armed forces targets in response to the attempted IED attack the night before. UNDOF continues to engage with both parties to prevent an escalation of the situation and to remind them of their obligation to respect the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement.

In closing, I urged that we not lose sight of the deteriorating dynamics on the ground. Gaza is teetering on the brink of another major escalation with Israel, the occupied West Bank is fracturing under a multitude of economic and political pressures, settlement expansion and demolitions continue, and the COVID-19 pandemic continues to have a devastating impact on Palestinian and Israeli societies.

Without resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, regional peace will not be complete.

The legitimate national aspiration of five million Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and Gaza cannot be ignored.

It is well beyond time that we all work together with the parties for peace before it is too late. That is why every opening must be explored, every opportunity must be used, every idea must be discussed and debated if we are to get out of the cycle of statements, preventive diplomacy and conflict management and work towards a real solution that is sustainable and in line with relevant UN resolutions.

As we deal with the crisis in #Jerusalem, we must not lose track of ongoing crisis in #Gaza

25/07/2017 Leave a comment

My remarks as delivered here, or you can watch the video here.

After the closed session of the UN Secuirty Council yesterday on Jerusalem, today the Council convened the regular debate on the Middle East and the Palestinian question. The risks of escalation and violence in the region continue to increase, despite the emergence of a newfound agreement among a number of countries of the need to stand united against terrorism and radicalism. As societies continue to fracture along ethnic or religious lines and non-state actors continue to control large territories, recent events in Jerusalem resonate across the Middle East. For nearly a century, despite a myriad of peace efforts, one conflict has evaded solution. Some say it is irresolvable. Others challenge the basic premises of international consensus on how it can be resolved.

The Palestinian – Israeli conflict is not only about land and peace. It is about two peoples who both have legitimate national aspirations for statehood and recognition. Two nations, whose histories are intertwined, and whose future is forever intricately linked. Fortunately until now, Israelis and Palestinians have not succumbed to the torrent of violent upheaval that has engulfed the region in recent years. But half a century of occupation have produced tens of thousands of casualties and left deep psychological scars on both sides.

Developments over the past 11 days at the holy sites of the Old City in Jerusalem, however, have demonstrated the grave risk of dangerous escalation that exists, a risk of turning the Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious one and dragging both sides into the vortex of violence with the rest of the region.

On 14 July, two Israeli policemen were killed by three assailants at the Lion’s Gate entrance of the Holy Esplanade. The attackers fled inside the compound before being shot by police. According to the Israeli authorities the assailants had initiated the attack from within the compound. In the immediate aftermath, the Palestinian President condemned the attack, while the Israeli Prime Minister committed to upholding and respecting the status quo at the holy sites in the Old City of Jerusalem. Citing security concerns, the Israeli authorities closed the compound to all, including, for the first time since 1969, to Muslims for Friday prayers, and restricted entrance to the Old City in order to secure the area of the attack, search for further threats and conduct an investigation. Two days later, on Sunday 16 July, the compound was reopened, first for Muslim worshippers, and later for visitors, placing metal detectors outside its entrances. The Islamic Waqf immediately rejected this move as a change in the status quo and called on worshippers not to enter the compound through the metal detectors but to pray outside the entrance and in the streets of Jerusalem. Palestinian factions also immediately rejected the security measures. Hamas and Islamic Jihad issued a joint statement warning that this is a red line that would lead to an escalation and Fatah called for “a day of rage”.

Starting on 16 July, prayers and peaceful protests were conducted at Lion’s Gate, followed by clashes with the Israeli police. Tensions rose by Friday 21 July, as the Waqf announced the closure of all Jerusalem mosques for Friday prayer, directing worshippers to pray outside the compound. In response, Israel announced a restriction of entry for all Muslim men under 50 into the Old City. Clashes that evening and the next turned fatal. Later on Friday evening, three Israelis were killed in a brutal terror attack at their home in the settlement of Halamish by a 19-year-old Palestinian assailant who in his last will made a clear connection between his act and the events in East Jerusalem. Overall in clashes since 14 July attack, at least four Palestinians have been killed and over 300 injured. I asked Member States to unequivocally condemn the violence of the last few days. Our thoughts and prayers must go out to their families of the victims. On 21 July, President Abbas announced that the Palestinian Authority was freezing all contact with Israel, including high-level security coordination.

Let us make no mistake that while events in Jersualem may be taking place over a couple of hundred square meters in Jerusalem, they affect hundreds of millions of people around the world.

Therefore, I welcomed last night’s decision by the Israeli security cabinet to remove the metal detectors, while ensuring the security of visitors and worshippers to the holy sites. I hope that the cabinet decision will lead to a calming of the current tensions and will enable a return of worshippers to the Holy Esplanade. It is expected that President Abbas will convene the Palestinian leadership later night to discuss these development.

As we have seen over these past 11 days, it is vital that the status quo, established since 1967, be preserved while security be maintained for worshippers and visitors to the holy sites. I encouraged Israel to continue its intense contacts with Jordan, recognizing the special and historic role of the Hashemite Kingdom.

All parties must refrain from provocative actions, show restraint, and bring a conclusive end to this crisis in the next few days. In these efforts, constant discussion with the Islamic religious authorities in Jerusalem and the Palestinian leadership can greatly contribute to maintaining calm in East Jerusalem and the rest of the occupied West Bank.

As this crisis has unfolded I reflected briefly on the views of residents of East Jerusalem, who have been in the midst of events in the last few weeks. They often tell us that for many years they have felt that religious and ethnic identity is under threat; that their very livelihood in their own city is at risk while living under occupation; their children live in fear of security operations and house demolitions. They want to pray in peace and live in security and freedom. Many of them feel alone. They talk of the ‘special status’ that United Nations Resolution 181 (1947) had bestowed on Jerusalem, yet they see the reality around them. This is why often they come to us appealing for protection. It is critical that any decision made at the highest political and religious levels, if it is to be sustainable, take into consideration the fears and hopes of the people.

Jerusalem remains is a final status issue that needs to be decided and negotiated between the two sides. As the occupying power, Israel has a responsibility to uphold its obligations under International Human Rights Law and Humanitarian Law, and must show maximum restraint in order to avoid further loss of life and an escalation of the situation. At the same time, Palestinian leaders also have a responsibility to avoid provocative statements that further aggravate an already tense environment. I am particularly concerned by statements made over the past weeks by some factions that have sought to fan the flames of violence. Such provocations are dangerous and I call on all to condemn them.

This crisis has diverted us from the real tasks ahead, namely how to restore a political process in order to find a solution that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians; a solution that is based on United Nations Resolutions and is achieved through negotiations. A solution, whose ultimate goal is two states living side by side in peace and security.

These latest incidents have taken place have taken place against a backdrop of other developments in the Israeli – Palestinian conflict.
In July alone, plans were advanced for over 2,300 housing units in East Jerusalem – 30 per cent more than were advanced during all of 2016. This includes plans for 1,600 units expanding a ring of settlements in northern East Jerusalem, as well as plans in Sheikh Jarrah, which may involve demolition of Palestinian houses. I once again emphasized that settlement activity in occupied territory is illegal under international law, and undermines the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous, sovereign Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution.

On a positive note, some constructive steps have been taken that are in line with the recommendations of the Middle East Quartet report. On 10 July, an interim power purchasing agreement was signed, energizing the first Palestinian-owned and operated substation in Jenin. This will increase electricity supply in the northern West Bank and help the Palestinian Authority take control of the energy sector. Both sides should now move to negotiate a comprehensive Israeli-Palestinian power purchasing agreement that would be a landmark achievement towards Palestinian energy independence.

On July 13th, with United States facilitation, the Palestinian Authority and Israeli Government also reached an agreement allowing for an increase in water supply for Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. Under its terms, the Palestinian Authority will purchase some 32 million cubic meters of water from Israel, 22 million cubic meters for the West Bank and 10 million for Gaza. The water will come from a desalination plant to be constructed in Aqaba, Jordan.

The implementation of such agreements is instrumental in rebuilding trust between Palestinians and Israelis. They are, however, put at risk by the freezing of contacts between the Palestinian Authority and Israel. Without resolution to the current crisis, these hard won gains will swiftly evaporate.

I then turned to the situation in Gaza with a heavy heart, where two million people have been taken hostage in the political standoff between Fatah and Hamas.

The humanitarian impact of the punishing measures taken against Gaza is appalling. In some parts of Gaza people have experienced electricity cuts of 36 hours. No electricity means no drinking water. Hospitals are struggling to survive. An environmental crisis is in the making.

Whatever the political differences between the Palestinian factions, it is not the people of Gaza who should pay the price.

Mr. President,
The UN will not give up on Gaza and its people. Despite the odds, we will continue our intense mediation efforts to resolve the standoff.
I want to thank Egypt for stepping in at a moment of need and facilitated the entry of badly needed fuel to increase electricity supply. Egyptian fuel, along with the nearly 900 thousand liters of fuel per month provided by the United Nations for the most essential services, provide a temporary lifeline to the residents of Gaza.

In this environment the continued functioning of the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism is more than ever critical for the people of Gaza. Recently, too, Qatar has signed contracts for eight more residential buildings as part of their commitment to reconstruction.

Today Gaza and the West Bank are further apart than ever. Palestinian leaders must make some hard choices about the future of their people. They can work to overcome their ideological divisions, or they can continue along the path that will guarantee Gaza’s complete collapse. They can work to unite Palestinians in pursuit of the goal of statehood, or they can oversee the demise of the Palestinian national project. They can resolve the current crisis, or preside over the radicalization of their population and see it fall into the hands of extremists with even more destructive agendas.

I know that this is not the future that the majority of Palestinians want for their country. I know that they want to build a state in which human rights are respected; a state that is achieved on the basis of negotiations — not violence; one that lives in peace and security with the State of Israel.

For ten years, however, the population in Gaza has lived in a state of chronic vulnerability. At what point will people say enough is enough? At what point will we say enough is enough?

Since violently seizing control of Gaza, Hamas has tightened its grip on power and suppressed dissent. The fact that no presidential or legislative elections have been held in Palestine since 2006 has also created a democratic deficit that undermines the legitimacy of institutions. Two different legal systems have emerged and diverging laws have been enacted in Gaza and the West Bank.

I once again called on Palestinian leaders to address the destructive consequences of the split. I encourage them to reach agreement that would allow the legitimate Palestinian authorities to take up their responsibilities in Gaza, as a step towards the formation of a national unity government on the basis of the PLO platform, and agree to hold elections. Meanwhile Hamas must ensure that calm is maintained by ceasing militant buildup against Israel and by maintaining security at the border of Egypt. At the same time, I encouraged Israel to step-up measures to lift the closures and facilitate development in Gaza as overall calm persists in the Strip, in line with Security Council resolution 1860

Turning to Lebanon, I refer to the briefing by the Special Coordinator for Lebanon a few days ago who briefed the Council in detail on developments and risks under UN Security Council Resolution 1701.

Meanwhile the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic has been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment. I am alarmed by the recent spike of military activities in Syria, which has resulted in several spill-over fire incidents across the Disengagement Line and Israeli retaliatory actions. I join the Secretary-General in welcoming the announcement by the Governments of Jordan, the Russian Federation and the United States of a de-escalation zone and arrangements to support a ceasefire and delivery of humanitarian assistance in southwest Syria.

In closing, I emphasised that the events we have witnessed over the past weeks are a reminder of how easy it is to reach the precipice of a dangerous escalation in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory. We are not yet over this crisis, but I hope that the steps being taken by Israel will enable a return the relative calm before the violent events of 14 July, and that, with agreement between Israel and Jordan and the positive engagement of the religious authorities, we will avoid a cycle of violence that would destroy all peace efforts for the foreseeable future.

We must not lose focus on the need to restore a political perspective, on the need to bring Palestinians and Israelis back into an environment that is conducive to negotiations on a final status arrangement and avoids turning the national Israeli-Palestinian conflict into a religious conflict.

#Gaza faces dire power crisis, health services deteriorate, untreated sewage pouring into the sea

27/05/2017 1 comment

On May 26th I briefed the UN Security Council on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question. This is a regular monthly briefing, which updates the Security Council on what has been happening on the ground in the past month. Last month it was focused on a broader overview of developments in the region. This month most of it was focused on the situation in Gaza, where we are walking into another crisis with our eyes wide open. I warned the Security Council that unless urgent measures are taken to de-escalate, the crisis risks spiraling out of control with devastating consequences for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

Since Hamas established an Administrative Committee in March, a parallel institution to run governmental affairs in Gaza,

the intra-Palestinian political tug-of-war has led to a significant deterioration in relations between Fatah and Hamas.

The result is a significant worsening of the humanitarian crisis which risks exploding into another conflict that can only begin to be resolved by compromise, by the implementation of intra-Palestinian agreements and an ending of the closures.

In April, the Palestinian Government upheld its decision to reduce salary allowances to nearly 60,000 public sector employees in Gaza. While the Government needs to ensure its fiscal sustainability under increasingly difficult economic conditions, it is important that reforms or decisions to reduce expenditures are fairly distributed and made with consideration to the harsh conditions in Gaza.

Gaza is also in the midst of an unprecedented energy crisis. The power plant, that supplies 30 per cent of Gaza’s electricity, stopped functioning on 16 April, due to a dispute between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas over taxation on fuel.

The lines supplying power from Egypt into Gaza are often down for technical reasons. This leaves Israeli power lines, which provide some 60 per cent of Gaza’s electricity, as the only reliable energy source. Meanwhile the Palestinian Government has decided to cap its purchase of electricity from Israel for Gaza. If implemented, this decision will further reduce electricity supply to Gaza by some 30per cent, plunging its population into a spiral of a humanitarian catastrophe.

Since April, the majority of Palestinians in Gaza are receiving about four hours of electricity per day. How long do you think they can survive if this is further reduced to two hours of electricity per day? Who will pay the price of the ensuing violence and escalation? It will certainly not be those who live a life of exemptions and privilege.

The price will be paid by poor Palestinians, by women and children, by people already traumatized by conflict, who have been held hostage for a decade now. They are the ones who will not have access to electricity, to water, to health services and sanitation.

No one has interest in another conflict in Gaza.

And everyone has a responsibility to avoid it. For months, the UN has warned that without addressing the structural problems of Gaza’s electricity supply we would face a humanitarian crisis. Those warnings are now a reality. I illustrated what that reality looks like.

Hospitals are now forced to postpone elective surgeries and have already reduced 80 per cent of cleaning, catering and sterilization services. Had it not been for the timely UN humanitarian intervention on April 27 to provide emergency fuel for generators some 51 surgical and obstetric operation theaters, five hemodialysis centers and a number of emergency departments would have had to close.

Since mid-April desalination plants are functioning at 15% of their capacity and drinking water is supplied for a few hours every 2-4 days.

100,000 cubic meters of raw sewage are discharged into the Mediterranean Sea on a daily basis. This is the equivalent of 40 Olympic-size swimming pools of sewage. Untreated. Daily. An environmental disaster for Israel, for Egypt and Gaza is in the making.

Food prices are soaring as the price of water for irrigation has gone up by 65per cent. The manufacturing sector is grinding to a halt and over half of private industry workers have been suspended.

The UN is working determinedly to mitigate the humanitarian impact of this crisis.

A UN-managed emergency fuel operation is delivering fuel to essential services for water, health and sanitation – but our reserves will run-out in the coming weeks. It can only temporarily alleviate the suffering of the most vulnerable, but is no substitute for a sustainable solution. Defusing the current energy crisis will require compromise on all sides, including tax concessions on fuel for the power plant and a profound reform of how energy is supplied in Gaza.

The Palestinian Authority, Hamas – which has controlled Gaza for a decade – and Israel, all have obligations for the welfare of Gaza’s residents and must live up to their responsibilities to address the crisis and overcome political impasse.

Over the past weeks, I have engaged with the parties and our international partners to find both a solution to the immediate electricity challenges, but also to address the broader political challenge of returning Gaza to the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities.

In another troubling development, allow me to join the High Commissioner for Human Rights in condemning yesterday’s executions of three men in Gaza in contravention of international law. These executions bring to 28 the number of death sentences carried out since the Hamas takeover in 2007, with nine just in the last year.

Turning to the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I noted that in recent weeks we have seen more tragic examples of the human toll that this conflict inflicting, with 6 Palestinians killed in various acts of violence.

I expressed my concern at the ongoing hunger strike by Palestinian detainees protesting against their conditions in Israeli jails, which, on the eve of the Ramadan, has now entered its 40th day. According to reports, the Israel Prison Service has evacuated at least 60 hunger-striking prisoners to hospitals because their medical condition had worsened, while another close to 600 prisoners have been moved to infirmaries set up in the prisons.

Reports of punitive measures against the hunger strikers, including restricted access to lawyers and the denial of family visits, are alarming. The right of detainees to access a lawyer is a right that should never be curtailed.

I am glad that a day after my briefing to the Security Council,

it was confirmed by the ICRC that the hunger strike has ended.

On 4 May the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee met in Brussels to discuss the key socio-economic challenges faced by the Palestinian Authority. Regrettably, a number of key issues remained unresolved between the parties on access and movement, energy, water and fiscal sustainability. While many of the solutions are technical, ultimately, the decisions to implement them are political.

I encouraged that in recent weeks the Israeli and Palestinian Ministers of Finance have come together in an effort to move these issues forward. Their fruitful consultations, the first meeting of the Joint Water Committee in seven years and the progress in the implementation of last year’s landmark Electricity Agreement are positive steps that need to be encouraged and supported.

I also took note of recently announced Israeli measures designed to help the Palestinian economy in the West Bank. These steps reportedly include the proposed zoning of land in Area C adjacent to several Palestinian cities, for their residential, industrial and agricultural use; development of industrial zones in Tarkumiya and Hebron; as well as expanding the hours of operation of the Allenby Bridge Crossing. These are positive steps that also need to be substantially expanded if they are to achieve the desired effect.

Before closing, I turned very briefly to Lebanon and the Golan. Regrettably,

the Lebanese Parliament has not yet reconvened

following its one-month adjournment of 12 April. Agreement on an electoral law remains elusive, less than a month before Parliament’s tenure ends on 20 June. Hopefully negotiations can be finalized in time to avoid institutional instability and to allow for the holding of elections in accordance with the Constitution.

In the Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic has been maintained, albeit in a volatile environment attributable to the ongoing conflict in Syria and against the backdrop of continued military activity across the ceasefire line. This has included incidents of spillover and retaliatory fire as well as Israeli air strikes in Syria targeting Hizbullah.

Both Israel and the Syrian Arab Republic have stated their continued commitment to the Disengagement of Forces Agreement and support for the full return of UNDOF to the area of separation, conditions permitting.

In closing, I said a few words on efforts to advance the prospects for peace. As the conflict has ebbed and flowed, the key messages to both sides from the United Nations, including through its role in the Quartet, and the broader international community, have remained clear, consistent and firm.

Above all, Israel’s almost 50-year occupation and settlement enterprise are untenable and must end through meaningful negotiations that address all final status issues. Their perpetuation is sending an unmistakable message to another generation of Palestinians that their dream of statehood is destined to remain just that, a dream, and to Israelis that their desire for peace, security and regional recognition also remains unattainable.

Still, much can and must be done. Israel can undertake transformative steps to improve the daily lives of Palestinians, to empower the Palestinian leadership, and to move meaningfully towards a negotiated resolution of the conflict, in accordance with international law and Security Council resolutions.

Palestinians, too, should heed the repeated calls to combat violence and incitement. Internally, they must also rise to the challenge of forging a genuine reconciliation – critical to advancing peace and fulfilling their national aspirations.

This summer will mark ten years since the 2007 Hamas violent take-over of the Gaza Strip. The past decade has seenGaza’s infrastructure, its basic services and private sector gradually debilitated, its economy weakened with real GDP per capita and employment decreasing, and the gender gap continuing to grow. Gaza faces a downward spiral of de-development. The widening socio-economic gap between Gaza and the West Bank further highlights the need to end the drivers of this inhumane and volatile situation. Deteriorating conditions only fuel anger and instability, strengthen extremists and undermine chances for a serious political process.

If Israelis and Palestinians hope to extract themselves from the immeasurable burden this conflict has wrought, they must be willing to take the painful steps that will ultimately lead to peace. Neither side can afford another missed opportunity.

You can read the remarks as delivered here

UN News Centre summary here