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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.

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.

Sarajevo 2014

27/07/2011 Leave a comment

The European Parliament has called on the EU to award the title of European Capital of Culture exceptionally to Sarajevo in 2014

In May the European parliament adopted a resolution, which calls upon the Council and the Commission to award the title of European Capital of Culture, exceptionally, to Sarajevo in 2014 when we will commemorate one hundred years since the terrible events in Sarajevo that plunged Europe in the Great Wars of the 20th century.

Back in 1914 the founding fathers of European unity — Robert Schuman and Jean Monnet, were in their late twenties, while Paul Henri Spaak was just 15. He would later spend 2 years in a prison camp during the “war to end all wars”… Their common dream of a united Europe, founded on shared values and interdependence, can easily be traced back to that summer day in Sarajevo. The European Union’s commitment to the Western Balkans today stems from our shared historic responsibility to make war impossible in the Balkans.

I believe that it is in Sarajevo in the summer of 2014 that Europe should demonstrate that a new European century has arrived. This is why I have written to all EU Foreign Ministers and the European Commission to support the idea of awarding the title of a European Capital of Culture, exceptionally, also to Sarajevo in 2014.

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