Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Reconciliation’

My briefing to the #UN Security Council in November focused on the precarious calm in #Gaza and the necessary next steps

19/11/2018 Leave a comment

Today I briefed the UN Secuirty Council on recent developments, starting with the dangerous escalation of violence in Gaza that risked unleashing an armed conflict with catastrophic consequences for two million impoverished Palestinian people who live under the control of Hamas and have endured three wars and crippling Israeli closures.

The Secretary-General warned that a new war in Gaza would bring forth another unbearable tragedy and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint.

My team and I worked closely with Egypt and all concerned parties to ensure a return to the 2014 ceasefire

arrangements. Thankfully, a precarious restoration of calm has now been achieved. We must all work to ensure that this calm is maintained.

The period of 11-13 November saw one of the fiercest exchanges of fire since the 2014 Gaza conflict. The escalation was triggered by an operation by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) insidethe Gaza Strip in which a local commander of Hamas’ al-Qassam Brigades and six other Palestinians were killed. One IDF officer was also killed and a second was injured in the incident.

In the following two days, militants in Gaza launched some 450 rockets and mortars at Israel, including at the towns of Ashkelon, Sderot and Netivot, killing one Palestinian civilian and seriously wounding one Israeli civilian. An IDF soldier was also seriously wounded by a targeted anti-tank guided-missile strike on a bus transporting military personnel in K’far Aza.

The IDF responded in turn with a series of airstrikes on 160 militant targets, including a Hamas- affiliated TV station and a hotel, resulting in the killing seven Palestinians – at least four identified by the Israeli Army as members of armed groups.

The fragility of the situation underscores the urgency to fundamentally change the dynamics on the ground, that address the underlying political issues.

Two million Palestinians in Gaza cannot be held hostage to political grandstanding and brinkmanship. Their lives matter and they deserve real leadership that addresses the real problems of Gaza.

The latest outbreak of violence came just as the United Nations and its partners were intensifying efforts to alleviate Gaza’s deepening humanitarian and economic crises, and, critically, to provide space for ongoing Egyptian-led efforts to advance intra-Palestinian reconciliation. This is essential to ending the occupation and resolving the wider political conflict.

Significant headway has already been made on the implementation of the package of urgent interventions endorsed by the September Ad Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC) meeting in New York.

In October, the United Nations started importing and monitoring the delivery of donor-funded fuelto Gaza’s power plant. This resulted in the greatest supply of electricity since March 2017, a minimum of eleven hours per day. I reiterate the United Nations sincere gratitude to the Government of the State of Qatar for its generous funding to this end.

The impact has been immediate: water supply has increased, the risk of sewage overflow has been reduced; hospitals are less dependent on precarious generators; street lights are on again; children can study and play more; and families have more cash in hand to meet their daily needs.

These improvements however are temporary. They provide much needed relief, but can do little to reverse the longstanding, structural problems affecting Gaza, driven by years of crippling closures and Hamas control.

Implementation of the other urgent humanitarian interventions in Gaza must also be expedited. My team and I will continue to engage with the Palestinian Government, with donors and partners on the ground, to support several initiatives. These include finding a sustainable solution to Gaza’selectricity and health problems, increasing the supply of potable water, medical supplies and sewage treatment. These should take place alongside concerted efforts to rescue the economy through cash-for-work and other emergency measures.

Yet, the international community cannot bear the burden of addressing Gaza’s problems alone. The primary responsibility falls on the parties themselves.

The clock on intra-Palestinian reconciliation is ticking.

I urge all Palestinian parties to not waste time and engage in earnest and achieve visible progress in the coming six months. This is in the interest of the Palestinian people. It is in the interests of peace. The success of international efforts in Gaza depends on the parties’ willingness to confront the inevitable hurdles, withstand the internal political consequences, and stay committed to the reconciliation process over the long-term.

If any side fails, every side fails.

Hamas and militant groups must stop all provocations and attacks,

Israel must significantly improve the movement and access of goods and people to and from Gaza as a step towards the lifting of the closures, in line with UNSCR 1860; and the Palestinian Authority must strengthen its engagement in Gaza, which is an integral part of the Palestinian territory.

In earlier incidents, before the most recent escalation on 26-27 October, 34 rockets were launched by Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) towards Israel. In response, the IDF targeted 95 Hamas and PIJ military sites across the Strip; a hospital in the vicinity of one of the targets was damaged as were several homes in Gaza City.

On 28 October, the IDF struck and killed three Palestinian children aged 13 to 15 in the southern Gaza Strip, who they said were placing an improvised explosive devices at the security fence, a claim refuted by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights. Protests the next day saw some 3,000 participants, with one Palestinian killed and another 15 injured by IDF live fire.

I remain very concerned by Israel’s persistent use of live fire against protestors. I call on the authorities to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from using lethal force, except as a last resort.

I urge Hamas and other Palestinian militants to end the indiscriminate firing of rockets into southern Israel,

and to stop all violence near the fence, including attempts to breach it.

Overall in the reporting period, the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) killed 31 Palestinians Gaza, including four children. One IDF soldier was killed during the 11 November operation in Gaza.Meanwhile, in the occupied West Bank, ISF killed four Palestinians.

On 22 October, ISF shot and killed a Palestinian man in Hebron, after he was reported to have stabbed and injured an Israeli soldier. Three other attempts against Israeli civilians or ISF personnel were reported near the Kiryat Arba and K’far Adumim settlements on 5 and 6 November, and in Jerusalem on 14 November.

On 24 October, a 21-year-old Palestinian man was shot and killed by the IDF during clashes following an IDF weapons search near Tubas in the northern West Bank. On 26 October, in the context of clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians near Ramallah, ISF shot and killed a 33-year-old Palestinian and injured nine others; another 28-year-old Palestinian subsequently died of his wounds later in November.

Israeli settlement activity continued to advance, eating away at the viability of a contiguous future Palestinian state. I reiterate that all settlement activities are illegal under international law, and an obstacle to peace and must immediately cease.

On 5 November, Israeli authorities advanced two plans for a total of 264 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlement of Ramot. Demolition and confiscation of Palestinian-owned structures also continued with a total of 31 structures demolished or seized by the authorities, citing lack of building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain in Israeli-controlled Area C and East Jerusalem. As a result, some 25 people were displaced and, according to OCHA, the livelihoods of 200 others were affected.

Meanwhile, on 4 November, the Israeli authorities informed the High Court of Justice of their decision to demolish an illegal outpost comprising some dozen Israeli families that had been established in recent months in an abandoned military base in the Jordan Valley.

I welcome the announcement by the authorities on 21 October to delay the demolition of Khan al Ahmar-Abu al Helu and reiterate the call by the international community for plans for the demolition of this community and all others facing similar pressures to be annulled.

On 28 and 29 October, the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) Central Council (PCC) held its 30th session in Ramallah. In its final statement, the PCC reaffirmed recent decisions taken to suspend recognition of the State of Israel until the latter recognizes the State of Palestine on the June 4, 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, end security coordination in all its forms, and disengage economically from Israel. A follow-up committee chaired by President Mahmoud Abbas was established to discuss implementing these decisions.

The situation in Lebanon will be considered by the Council this week. Political actors have yet to find agreement on a national unity government. The delay hampers Lebanon’s abilityto address issues essential to its stability, including the economy. We again encourage all stakeholders to put the national interest first and expeditiously reach an agreement that preservesLebanon’s stability and its ability to deliver on its international commitments.

In closing I made two important points.

First on Gaza. It is vital that all stakeholders work to de-escalate the deteriorating situation and seize the current window of opportunity to advance urgent humanitarian and economic interventions in line with the AHLC conclusions. I would also like to reiterate the importance of sustained support to UNRWA and extend our gratitude to the State of Kuwait for the swift disbursement of its USD42 million contribution to the Agency.

Palestinian factions must seize the opportunity to engage in earnest with the Egyptian-led efforts to bring Gaza back under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Government.

We in the international community must do all we can to support these efforts. Israel must also recognize that Gaza is about to explode, and to prevent such an explosion, people must also see a normalization of their lives, for which the closures need to be relaxed and ultimately lifted.

We cannot stand idle and allow the division between the West Bank and Gaza to be further entrenched.

The Palestinian people are demanding that their leadership finally re-unites Gaza and the West Bank and advances their goal of peacefully ending the Israeli occupation and establishing a viable Palestinian state based on relevant UN resolutions.

This is what people desire, and this is what they deserve.

Second on the broader peace efforts. It is essential that we prevent further collapse of the foundations that must underpin any future agreement. We must continue to consistently push back against the entrenchment of the military occupation and the erosion of the international consensus on the final status issues.

Together, we must work with determination and with vigilance to establish an environment conducive to the return to negotiations that will end the Israeli -Palestinian conflict, in line with the 2016 Middle East Quartet report recommendations. The United Nations remains firmly committed to advancing all efforts towards a just and lasting Israeli- Palestinian peace based on relevant United Nations resolutions.

If talks between Fatah and Hamas fail, the risk of conflict in #Gaza increases

21/11/2017 Leave a comment

On Monday November 20th I briefed the UN Secuirty Council on the situation in the Middle East and the Palestinian question. The session came as critical intra-Palestinian talks were scheduled to open in Cairo on the next day (ie today).  The United Nations, the Middle East Quartet and the international community continue our support for Egyptian efforts to sustainably implement the recent intra-Palestinian agreement and return Gaza under the control of the legitimate Palestinian Authority.

By signing the Cairo agreement on 12 October, Palestinians embarked on a long road that could lead to reconciliation. First, however, they must solve the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and return the Strip under the full civilian and security control of the Palestinian Authority. If success is to be achieved the failed policies of the past must be avoided, security for Palestinians and Israelis must be preserved, and all sides must be willing to compromise in the interests of peace.

There are good news. On November 1st we witnessed

a landmark step as the Palestinian Authority regained control over Gaza crossings.

And for the first time in more than a decade, on 18 November, the Rafah crossing opened under PA control. The handover has eased access at the crossings for Palestinians with permits and ended illegal taxation imposed by Hamas at the crossings since June 2007.

This handover, if translated into the full civilian and security control by the Palestinian Authority of Gaza, could be a step towards the normalization of movement in and out of the Strip.

Another important step happened on November 2nd when the Palestinian committee tasked with rationalizing and integrating Gaza’s public sector, held its first meeting.

Meanwhile, the transfer of responsibility at Gaza-based public institutions is slowly proceeding. As well Ministers of Education, Health, Transport and Environment, among others, as well as technical teams from ministries in Ramallah, have travelled to Gaza to begin restoring Government control. Some 150 PA-employed teachers have returned to work for the first time since 2007. A ten-day registration period for all PA employees in Gaza began on 12 November, to determine staffing numbers, based on an evaluation of qualifications against needs. The process is proceeding in an organized manner.  Some ministries with low numbers of employees have already accomplished the task and the others are expected to finish within the set time-frame.

I encouraged all sides to use the forthcoming Cairo meeting to reinforce their commitment to a gradual process of implementing it, and to ensure that positive momentum is sustained through upholding commitments and ensuring follow-up.

Regrettably there are also some not-so-good news. Despite progress in implementing the Cairo agreement,

Gaza residents have not seen any improvements to their daily lives.

The lack of electricity has been devastating for basic services. Power outages of 18 to 20 hours a day continue; most of the population has access to piped water for only 3-5 hours every five days; untreated sewage continues to flow into the Mediterranean Sea at catastrophic levels; 45 per cent of essential drugs and medical supplies have now reached zero stock in Gaza.

Only the most critical health, water and sanitation facilities are functioning thanks to donor-funded emergency fuel distributed by the United Nations.

As the Palestinian Government seeks to return to Gaza, it should take immediate action to reverse measures that add to the burden of Palestinians living there.

The UN 2017 Gaza Humanitarian Appeal called for $25 million in new funding to meet the most critical priorities – $10.8 million remains unmet. I urge donors to support this appeal to save lives.

Last week Norway, as Co-Chair of the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee (AHLC), convened a donor meeting in Ramallah to discuss how to support returning Gaza under PA control.

The discussion focused on three themes. First, the need to immediately alleviate the humanitarian situation on the ground, namely, by increasing electricity supply to at least pre-crisis levels, and accelerating the delivery of projects that have direct impact on the lives of Gaza’s residents. The Quartet Envoys have already tasked the Office of the Quartet with producing a list of projects that can be expedited. I encouraged donors to do the same. These actions are necessary to sustain support for the Cairo-led process on the ground.

The donors also discussed the need to see a realistic plan by the Palestinian Authority on how it intends to take up its responsibilities in Gaza, which the international community can support financially and technically.

Our common goal remains the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. Difficult issues, including security and putting all weapons under Government control, rule of law and the functioning of the judiciary, civil service reform and other complicated challenges, will have to be dealt with in step-by-step manner.

Turning to broader dynamics on the ground, I welcomed the restoration of full security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority, publicly announced on 8 November. This is a positive as coordination is critical to the security of Israelis and Palestinians alike.

In a very worrying development, on 30 October the Israeli Defense Forces uncovered yet another tunnel that extended from Gaza into Israel. During the operation, at least 12 Palestinian militants were killed underground.

According to statements by a spokesperson for Islamic Jihad, the group’s aim in constructing the tunnel was to “kidnap Israeli soldiers” and it also stated that it will continue to pursue this goal.

I called on the international community to

join the UN in condemning the continued construction of tunnels

and such reckless statements. At a time when Palestinians in Gaza – who have lived with closures for a decade, who have survived three conflicts, and have had to struggle to merely exist – are seeing hope for the future, such actions and statements risk a dangerous escalation that could destroy the prospects for intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

In other developments, on 31 October, a 25-year-old Palestinian man was shot dead by Israeli Security Forces while in his car near a West Bank settlement. The Israeli authorities launched an investigation after an initial IDF probe indicated that the driver did not appear to have been attempting a vehicular attack when he was killed.

On 17 November, two Israelis were injured in a ramming attack in the West Bank; the Palestinian driver was shot and injured also by the security forces.

Violence and incitement remain one of the hallmarks of the conflict and need to be addressed in order to rebuild trust between both sides.

Turning to the question of settlements, Israeli planning authorities approved building permits for at least 418 housing units in the East Jerusalem settlements of Gilo and Ramat Shlomo.  They also issued a conditional approval of 178 housing units in the settlement of Nof Zion located in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Jabel Mukaber.

On November 10th, the Israeli Prime Minister pledged to advance $226 million for the construction of infrastructure in the occupied West Bank that improves the connectivity of settlements to Israel potentially facilitating their expansion.

The UN considers all settlement activities illegal under international law. They constitute a substantial obstacle to peace and should cease.

Legislative action that undermines the viability of the two-state solution also continues, as the Knesset considers a legislative amendment that would require a majority of 80 out of 120 members for any transfer of territory currently included in Israel-defined municipal boundaries of Jerusalem to a “foreign entity”.

Against this background, Israeli authorities demolished or seized 30 Palestinian structures, displacing 53 persons, including 31 children across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. Three Bedouin herding communities in Area C, including Ein al Hilwe, Um al Jmal, and Jabal al Baba, are at risk of having a total of 520 structures demolished after receiving “removal of property” orders in recent weeks.

Of particular concern are donor-funded structures serving as schools threatened with demolition.

Turning very briefly to Lebanon, Prime Minister Hariri’s resignation, while on a trip to Saudi Arabia on 4 November, shocked Lebanon and the region. While new uncertainties have arisen, the people of Lebanon have united behind President Aoun’s call for Hariri to return. Following the Secretary-General’s statement of 5 November, international statements of support for Lebanon’s security, stability, sovereignty and independence has been issued at the highest levels. Prime Minister Hariri is now in Paris and expected to return to Lebanon this week.

Officer-in-Charge of the Office of the UN Special Coordinator for Lebanon, my colleague Philippe Lazzarini, is scheduled to brief the Council on 29 November.

The security situation on the Golan remains of concern. Fighting between the Syrian Arab Armed Forces and armed groups, as well as between different armed groups, in parts of the areas of separation and limitation on the Bravo side continued. In recent weeks, there were reported incidents of spillover fire from the Bravo to the Alpha side and retaliatory fire across the ceasefire line. These developments undermine the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement and have the potential to escalate tensions and jeopardize the long-standing ceasefire between Israel and Syria.

I closed with a few observations on Palestinian unity efforts and commend Egypt for its leadership throughout the process. Many previous attempts to bridge the Palestinian divide have failed. We cannot allow this current effort to become another missed opportunity.

From the outset, I have consistently engaged with Egypt, the Palestinian Authority, the region and all stakeholders. Everyone understands that failure today will destroy hope for the foreseeable future. That division damages the Palestinian cause for statehood.

Two million Palestinians in Gaza have high hopes that the Government’s return will improve their lives. After living in abject misery under Hamas control and locked in by the closures, their situation is close to exploding.

With all the difficulties inherent in the Egyptian-led process and concerns about the timing and modalities of the Palestinian Authority’s assumption of full civilian and security control of Gaza, the process must not be allowed to fail.

If the Cairo process fails, it will most likely result in another devastating conflict.

Whether that conflict would be triggered by a meltdown of law and order in Gaza, by the reckless action of extremists or by strategic choice the result will be the same – devastation and suffering for all. This cycle must be avoided at all costs.

All of us, especially Palestinian leaders, Israel and the international community, have an important responsibility to advance the peace efforts. In this context, I am concerned about the implications of the latest developments related to the PLO representative office in the US. Only through constructive dialogue can we hope to advance peace and I call on all parties to remain engaged in the peace efforts.

I believe and hope that a genuine change in Gaza, including full security control by the Palestinian Authority, would contribute to restoring confidence in the feasibility of a comprehensive peace agreement. This is a Palestinian-owned process. All Palestinian factions must seize this opportunity to open a new page for their people.