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Posts Tagged ‘West Bank’

No Legal Acrobatics can Change the Fact that Settlements and Outposts Remain Illegal Under International Law

29/08/2016 1 comment

On August 29th I delivered my monthly briefing to the UN Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question. This month the focus was on the upsurge of settlement activity.

With no prospect for resuming negotiations in sight, developments on the ground continue to undermine an already precarious situation. Illegal settlement construction advances, Gaza remains beyond the control of the legitimate Palestinian authority and the political leadership on both sides continues to shy away from the steps that are necessary for peace. This is the reality which continues to erode trust in the prospect of a two-state solution, the constituency for which is dwindling both in Israel and Palestine.

Although the past month has been relatively calm

in terms of the frequency and intensity of violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory a number of security related incidents continue to cause concerns.

Firstly, the apparent extrajudicial execution by members of the Palestinian Security Forces in Nablus on 23 August of a man, while in custody. He was suspected of orchestrating the killing of two security personnel earlier in the week. I welcome the announcement by Prime Minister Hamdallah of an investigation and call for a thorough, independent and transparent process in line with international standards in order to bring to justice the perpetrators of this crime.

On 21 August, militants in Gaza fired two rockets, one of which landed in a residential area of Sderot, causing no injuries. Israel responded by directing some 60 missiles and shells at 30 suspected military installations in Gaza. Once again I reiterate that such rocket attacks and the response they elicit risk lives of both Palestinians and Israelis and do not serve the cause of peace.

On 26 August a Palestinian man, who was reportedly under psychiatric care, was killed by members of the Israeli Security Forces. A preliminary investigation has established that he was unarmed and did not pose a threat. I call upon Israel to ensure accountability and take all necessary measures protect against the unjustified use of force.

It is against such backdrop that preparations are advancing for the 8 October Palestinian local council elections. In a positive development, on 25 July, political parties signed an electoral code of conduct, to which all parties and candidates must adhere. These elections are expected to be the first simultaneous polls in the West Bank and Gaza since 2006.

Conducting the local elections in line with established international standards can contribute to advancing Palestinian reconciliation. The lack of unity however, or any attempt to influence the outcome of the elections, including through intimidation, threats, violence or coercion, risks widening divisions and undermining the Palestinian national cause. In this respect, the recent decision by Fatah to bring the party together, a decision welcomed by Jordan, Egypt and the region, is an important step towards laying the groundwork for national reconciliation and unity.

Turning briefly to Gaza, three days ago we marked the two-year anniversary of the ceasefire of the last Gaza conflict. While progress has been made on reconstructing the physical damage, sadly we are miles away from repairing the psychological damage of the conflict.

While Gaza remains locked away from the rest of the world, in the grip of militants, and dependent on aid and humanitarian assistance, the status quo will sadly prevail.

We need a radical overhaul of how we deal with the problems of Gaza.

Until the closures are lifted, the militant buildup has ceased, and Gaza is back under the control of the legitimate Palestinian authorities, international funding and an uninterrupted flow of aid are a lifeline to over one million Palestinians in the Strip, who are struggling to survive within a dire humanitarian situation. In this context, I commend the Government of Palestine for enabling a much-needed humanitarian payment to over 20,000 unpaid civilian employees in Gaza, made possible by the generous donation of the State of Qatar.

Separately however, I am very concerned about the recent Israeli indictments of two aid workers accused of diverting funds and/or material to Hamas. These are very serious and deeply troubling accusations that must be investigated thoroughly, quickly and proven in a court of law. I welcome the commitment of the United Nations Development Program and World Vision International to uphold the highest standards of accountability. It is important that the international community continues to enforce its policy of zero tolerance for any wrongdoing and assures partners that robust measures are in place to ensure that aid goes to whom it is intended to.

It has been nearly two months since the Middle East Quartet outlined spoke clearly of the threats to the two-state solution and offered practical recommendations to ensure an eventual return to meaningful negotiations to end the occupation that began in 1967.

Its recommendations continue to be ignored, including by a surge in Israeli settlement-related announcements and continuing demolitions.

Let me focus briefly on the expanding Israeli footprint in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, which Russia, the EU, United States and the UN Secretary-General — all part of the Quartet, clearly condemned.

We heard that settlement construction is not an impediment to a two-state solution; that “a few houses” are not a problem for peace. Let me ask in return

how will advancing the construction of over 1,700 housing units bring the parties closer to negotiated peace, 

how will it uphold the two-state solution, how will it create hope for the Palestinian people, or how will it bring security to Israelis?

Since 1 July, Israel has advanced plans for over 1,000 housing units in occupied East Jerusalem – in Pisgat Ze’ev, Ramot, Har Homa, and Gilo – as well as 735 units in Ma’ale Adumim and other settlements in the West Bank.

It has published tenders, some new, for 323 units in East Jerusalem settlements and reissued tenders for 42 units in Kiryat Arba, near Hebron, for which it also allocated over USD 13 million of new funding.

It is undertaking a new land survey to identify potential ‘state land’ in the sensitive E2 area. This step could enable the establishment of a new settlement on the outskirts of Bethlehem, further restricting that city’s development and contributing to the dismemberment of the West Bank.

It is also reportedly examining plans for new housing units for over 100 Israelis on a portion of a military compound in Hebron that it has allocated for this purpose.

Israel advanced the so-called retroactive ‘legalisation’ of the Horesh Yaron and Rechelim outposts and put forward a potentially precedent-setting proposal to relocate the illegal outpost of Amona – which is slated by Israel’s High Court of Justice for dismantling by the end of the year – onto nearby ‘absentee land’.

All of these plans would essentially create new illegal settlements and I call on Israel to cease and reverse these decisions.

No legal acrobatics can change the fact that all outposts – whether ‘legalised’ under Israeli law or not, whether located on state land, or absentee land, or private land – just like all settlements in Area C and East Jerusalem, remain illegal under international law

It is difficult to read in these actions a genuine intention to work towards a viable two-state solution. This appears to reinforce a policy, carried out over decades, that has enabled over half a million Israelis to settle in territory that was occupied militarily in 1967.

The Quartet highlighted that Palestinians living in Area C and East Jerusalem are also disproportionately denied Israeli building permits. The past two months have seen an increase in the enforcement of non-punitive demolition orders against Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem, with 43 structures demolished, affecting more than 340 people. According to our colleagues in OCHA, in Area C, in August alone, over 91 structures across 26 communities were demolished for the lack of Israeli building permits, displacing some 125 people and affecting the livelihoods of over 2,100.

The Bedouin in Area C are particularly vulnerable. Some communities, such as the herders in Susiya and those in the controversial E1 area around East Jerusalem, are particularly at risk, especially as settlement expansion plans move forward. Repeated rounds of demolitions of homes or livelihoods and restrictions on basic services are part of an environment that pressures these communities to move.

Susiya, for example, is built on private Palestinian land in the southern West Bank. It is sandwiched between a settlement and an outpost. For years, planning schemes submitted by the residents to the Israeli authorities have been repeatedly rejected, while the neighbouring settlement has been granted a generous planning scheme, and the nearby illegal outpost, is connected to water and electricity networks.

The demolition of this community would set a dangerous precedent for displacement and feed the perception that Israel aims at a de facto annexation of Area C.

I note a new plan for the occupied West Bank, announced recently, promoting differential treatment to areas of the occupied West Bank from which perpetrators or suspected perpetrators of attacks against Israelis originate. While

measures that generate economic opportunities for some Palestinians are helpful,

they cannot come at the cost of what may amount to collective punishment for others, or undermine the legitimate Palestinian institutions and aspirations for ending the occupation.

Turning briefly to the Golan, the situations remains volatile and continues to undermine the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement. Fighting between the Syrian armed forces and armed groups in the areas of separation and limitation continue with several incidents across the ceasefire line reported.

I take the opportunity to also draw attention to a nearly 100 million dollar shortfall in UNRWA’s core budget. This funding gap affects the Agency’s key services for vulnerable Palestine refugees throughout the region and compounds regional instability. It must be addressed with utmost urgency.

Let me say that more than 37 years ago, the Security Council determined that Israeli settlements in occupied territory have no legal validity and are an obstruction to achieving a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in the Middle East. That determination was true in 1979, and is equally true and even more urgent of a concern today.

For years we have been managing this conflict, while the occupation has continued, Palestinians have been dispossessed, and a one-state reality has been establishing itself on the ground. It is time for all of us — the leaders on both sides, with support from the region and the international community, to end the conflict on the basis of relevant UN Security Council resolutions, and in a manner that meets the legitimate national aspirations of both peoples.

Both sides should work to reverse the negative trajectory, to build trust and to restore hope that a negotiated two-state solution is not just a political slogan but a reality that can be achieved through negotiations in our lifetime.

Concerned at daily advancement of illegal #Israel settlement enterprise in occupied #WestBank, East #Jerusalem

28/07/2016 1 comment

As I leave Cairo after constructive meetings with the Egyptian Foreign Minister and the new Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, I remain increasingly concerned by the near-daily advancement of the illegal settlement enterprise in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. This week alone has seen Israel move forward on plans for 770 settlement units in Gilo, demolitions of 19 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem, efforts to re-establish an outpost that had previously been dismantled in 2012, and the issuance or reissuance of 323 tenders which would bring new construction to sensitive East Jerusalem areas.

These moves have been unequivocally condemned by the UN, the US, the UK and the EU and others in the international community.

Israel’s systematic policy of expanding settlements, designating land for exclusive Israeli use and preventing Palestinian social and economic development is destroying prospects for a viable Palestinian state.

#WestBank demolitions reflect #Israel’s systematic policy of denying #Palestinian development

27/07/2016 1 comment
A boy walks past the rubble of a Palestinian house after it was demolished by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Qalandia near Ramallah July 26, 2016. © Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

A boy walks past the rubble of a Palestinian house after it was demolished by Israeli troops in the West Bank village of Qalandia near Ramallah July 26, 2016. © Mohamad Torokman / Reuters

Two days ago, I issued a statement strongly condemning the advancement of plans for settlement units in Gilo and efforts to re-establish an outpost near Hebron. Since then, demolitions have taken place in Qalandiya and occupied East Jerusalem that reflect Israel’s systematic policy of denying Palestinian development in the occupied West Bank. This challenge was highlighted by the recently published Middle East Quartet Report which concluded that “the continuing policy of settlement construction and expansion in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, designation of land for exclusive Israeli use, and denial of Palestinian development, including the recent high rate of demolitions, is steadily eroding the viability of the two-state solution“.

For months the UN has been warning that there has been a significant increase in the number of Palestinian structures demolished across the West Bank. This was particularly visible in the first four months of 2016, with some 500 demolitions of Palestinian structures by the Israeli authorities and nearly 800 Palestinians displaced, more than in all of 2015. In East Jerusalem, 64 Palestinian structures were demolished from January to June of 2016. Vulnerable Bedouin and farming communities are most heavily impacted by these demolitions.

The United States, the Russian Federation, the EU and the UN, as part of the Middle East Quartet, jointly called on Israel “to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion, designating land for exclusive Israeli use, and denying Palestinian development“. I reiterate this call as such actions are dangerously imperiling the two-state solution.

#UN Condemns Plans by #Israel to Expand #Gilo Settlement in occupied #Palestinian territory

25/07/2016 2 comments

I strongly condemn the recent decision by Israeli authorities to advance plans to build some 770 housing units in the settlement of Gilo, built on the lands of occupied Palestinian towns and villages between Bethlehem and East Jerusalem. I am also concerned about repeated efforts by a number of families to rebuild the Israeli outpost of Mitzpeh Avichai near Hebron in the occupied West Bank.
Such moves raise legitimate questions about Israel’s long-term intentions. They come against the backdrop of statements by some Israeli ministers that there should never be a Palestinian state or calls for the full annexation of the West Bank.

This decision to expand Gilo comes only three weeks after the United States, the Russian Federation, the EU and the UN, as part of the Middle East Quartet, jointly called on Israel to cease the policy of settlement construction and expansion.

I reiterate that settlements are illegal under international law and urge the Government of Israel to cease and reverse such decisions.

Continuing on the current trajectory entrenches a one-state reality of perpetual occupation and conflict that is incompatible with realizing the national aspirations of both peoples.

New #Duma arson attack; #Israel must ensure vulnerable #WestBank #Palestinian communities are protected

20/07/2016 2 comments

PALESTINIAN-ISRAEL-CONFLICT-ATTACKI am concerned by reports of yet another arson attack on the home of the Dawabsha family last night in Duma in the occupied West Bank. If confirmed, this despicable act would be the third incident in this particular village in the last year.

Since the 31 July 2015 terrorist arson attack in which Jewish extremists torched the Dawabsha home, killing three family members and leaving four year-old Ahmed orphaned, indictments have been made, but the perpetrators of this terrible crime have yet to face justice. I call upon the authorities to move swiftly in bringing the perpetrators of this terrible crime, as well as this latest incident, to justice.

I also urge Israel, as the occupying power, to ensure that vulnerable Palestinian communities in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, are protected in line with its obligations under international law.

#Opinion: Two-State Solution Slipping Away! Do Not Miss the Opportunity to Reverse the Negative Trends #Israel #Palestine @UNSCO_MEPP

03/07/2016 2 comments

The report published last week by the Quartet – the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations – presents an analysis that should come as no surprise to anyone. The negative trends on the ground continue to jeopardise prospects for peace and diminish the prospects for a two-state solution.

Palestinian frustration after half a century of occupation, dozens of failed peace efforts cannot be wished away; it cannot be vanquished by aggressive security measures, continued illegal settlement activities in the occupied West Bank, arrests or punitive home demolitions. Neither is it helped when Israeli ministers openly reject the very notion of a Palestinian state, call for the complete annexation of the West Bank or rush to approve more settlement construction.

But neither will the violence and terror we are witnessing again help bring about a Palestinian state. A peaceful future for both peoples cannot emerge on the back of statements that glorify terror and justify killing; mutual respect cannot come as a result of stabbings, shootings and car-rammings.

Most Palestinians have lived with the humiliation of occupation all their lives.

They do not need the Quartet to tell them about the devastating impact of the illegal settlement enterprise on their lives, their economy, and their legitimate aspirations for an independent, sovereign, viable state. For them, a nine-page report could never fully capture what it is like to live under a military rule which governs every aspect of their daily existence and which has the power of life and death over them and their children. The shooting of 15 year old Mahmoud Raafat Badran, on his way home from a swimming pool is the latest testament to this sad predicament. No army should kill children by mistake.

Equally so, Israelis know that continuing terrorist attacks, the incitement which encourages such acts, and the ongoing militant activity in Gaza are major obstacles not just to peace, but to rebuilding trust. The recent murder of Hallel Yaffa Ariel provided further testimony to that. Heroes do not kill sleeping children. Most Israelis have lived with such fears all their lives. It is also clear that the takeover of Gaza undermines the ability to achieve and implement a negotiated solution.

Given this stark reality, Palestinians and Israelis have reached a point where many on

both sides have lost faith in the other’s commitment to a future of two states

living side-by-side in peace, security and mutual recognition. Many of them have also grown critical of the international community – some thinking it is not doing enough to resolve this conflict while others see it as overly involved with it.

 At the end of the day, the sad reality for peoples on both sides of the conflict is that the things which they hold most dear – statehood and security – are slipping further away.

 The report published by the Quartet sends two very clear messages. First, to those who hope that the international community would somehow abandon this conflict and let it descend in a deteriorating status quo to perpetual chaos, we say: no, you are wrong. The report reflects the determination of the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations not to look away, but to expose and draw attention to the problems in a more detailed and uncompromising manner than ever before and to hold the leaderships to account on their actions and inactions.

Second, to those who hope that the international community will enforce a solution on this conflict, we say: you, too, are wrong. No third party can decide for Israelis or Palestinians what compromises to make and what risks to take for peace. None of us can convince them to begin trusting each other. What the international community can and must do is to provide the parties with support and incentives to take the right path, the one towards peace, in line with commitments they have already made to each other and before the world. We must pledge to end the Palestinian-Israeli conflict on the basis of United Nations Security Council resolutions 242 (1967) and 338 (1973) through negotiations in a manner that resolves all permanent status issues, meets Palestinian aspirations for statehood and Israeli security needs.

The report describes the Quartet’s view on the main obstacles blocking the path forward, and what needs to be done to overcome them. Both have been critical of the report.

But can anyone deny that violence is a problem for rebuilding trust? Who will make the argument that more cannot be done to end incitement?

Can anyone question the fact that illegal settlements, the taking of land for exclusive Israeli use and the prevention of Palestinian development in Area C of the occupied West Bank are not undermining the prospect for a two-state solution? Who will say that the Russian Federation, the United States, the European Union and the United Nations are wrong when they call for these policies to stop?

Who can question the need to fully lift the closures on Gaza, end militant activity and reunite it under one single legitimate leadership?

This conflict is so complex and so long-standing, that any expectation of a quick fix that resolves all final status issues is at best naïve, and at worst a cynical strategy to avoid the painstaking work needed to rebuild trust and create conditions for a realistic, serious and ultimately successful negotiations that will end the occupation that began in 1967 and realize a two state solution. No one is talking about yet another new transitional agreement but rather about

implementing what both sides have already agreed upon

and changing reality on the ground to pave the road for the final deal.

The Quartet report sounds an alarm bell that we are on a dangerous slope towards a one state reality that is incompatible with the national aspirations of both peoples.

The international community stands ready to engage both with Israeli and Palestinian leaders on the implementation of the report’s recommendations. We believe that if they take up this challenge, in cooperation with regional actors, Palestinians and Israelis will experience a positive change in their lives and sense renewed hope – a first and necessary step towards a future in which they can each live in freedom and dignity on their ancestral homeland, as good neighbours and masters of their own fate. I urge leaders on both sides not to miss this opportunity.


this opinion piece was published or quoted in the following media:

In Full/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø     Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø     Maan News Agency, 4 July, Link

·         Forum/Blogs

Ø     Naruto Café, 6 July, Link

Excerpts/English

·         Israeli and Palestinian Media 

Ø    Times of Israel, 4 July, Link

Ø    Arutz Sheva, 4 July, Link

Ø    Jerusalem Post, 4 July, Link

Ø    Maan News Agency, 5 July, Link

·         Regional Media

Ø    Press TV (Iran), 4 July, Link

Ø    Al-Bawaba, 4 July, Link

·      International

Ø    Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 4 July, Link

Ø    Reuters, 5 July, Link

Ø    Breitbart, 4 July, Link

Ø    Camera, 6 July, Link

Ø    Sputnik, 7 July, Link

Ø    Russia Today, 4 July, Link

Ø    The Nation (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø    The Forward, 3 July, Link

Ø    EuroNews, 4 July, Link

Ø    Business Insider (UK), 3 July, Link

Ø    New Europe, 5 July, Link

Ø    Daily Mail, 3 July, Link

Ø    Germany Sun, 5 July, Link

Excerpts/Arabic

·         Palestinian Media

Ø     Al-Quds Newspaper, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Ayyam Newspaper, 4 July, Link

Ø     PalSawa, 3 July, Link

Ø     Palestine News Network (PNN), 4 July, Link

Ø     Amad, 3 July, Link

Ø     Shams News Agency, 4 July, Link

Ø     Panet, 5 July, Link

Ø     Arab48, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hourriah, 9 July, Link

·         Regional Media 

Ø     Al-Arabiya, 3 July, Link

Ø     Sky News Arabic, 3 July, Link

Ø     Al-Hurra, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mayadeen, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Bayan (UAE), 4 July, Link

Ø     Masr Al-Arabia, 4 July, Link

Ø     Lebanon Daily, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Rai, 5 July, Link

Ø     Al-Mydan, 4 July, Link

Ø     New Middle East, 4 July, Link

Ø     Al-Khaleej, 4 July, Link

Ø     Sana (Syria), 4 July, Link

·         International Media

Ø     Reuters, 3 July, Link

Ø     Russia Today, 4 July, Link

 

It is time to to reverse the growing perception that the two-state solution is on life-support, slowly dying a death ‘by a thousand cut’

23/07/2015 Leave a comment
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UN Secuirty Council considers situation in the Middle East in open debate. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Today I spoke at the Secuirty Council open debate on the Middle East. 46 countries had signed up to speak on a number of issues that relate to the situation in a region currently torn by religious radicalism, age-old sectarian rivalries and geopolitical realignments, one conflict has endured for over 65 years. Some see it as the core problem in the region; others dismiss it as unrelated to the current turmoil. Either way, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is increasingly entangled in the tectonic shifts of the Middle East. Given the region’s massive transformation, it is imperative — perhaps more than ever before — that a permanent settlement be found, based on the concept of two states, Israel and a sovereign, contiguous and viable Palestine, living side by side in peace, security and mutual recognition.
In my remarks I noted that despite continuing security coordination in the West Bank, today the two sides are further apart from that goal than ever. Support for the two-state solution among both Palestinians and Israelis is fading away. The current situation on the ground is not sustainable as the two-state solution continues to be under threat including from settlement construction, security incidents, occupation-related violence, and lack of Palestinian unity.

In the absence of a political process, the rise of violent extremism and terrorism in the region present a danger as much to the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians for statehood, as to the security of Israel.

In the current environment of mistrust we in the international community must work with Israelis and Palestinians to create the conditions on the ground, regionally and internationally, that will facilitate a return to meaningful negotiations on the basis of an agreed framework and within a reasonable timeframe.

On the ground, both parties must undertake steps that demonstrate their continued commitment to a two-state solution, including through the implementation of existing agreements and by avoiding unilateral actions.

Advancing the two-state solution requires a fundamental change in policy with regard to the Occupied Palestinian Territory. I welcome the recent decision by Israel to add 8,000 new work permits for Palestinians from the West Bank, bringing the number of permits issued for employment in Israel to a new high of some 60,000. This and other similar initiatives should be sustained and expanded, while much more needs to be done for improving the quality of life for Palestinians.

Unilateral actions in the West Bank, including settlement construction, so-called legalisation of outposts, demolitions and evictions must stop.

While settlement expansion had slowed of late, planning for related infrastructure has not ceased. I am concerned by recent reports about the imminent approval of new residential units in the occupied West Bank. Such a decision will inevitably damage the prospects for peace and increase the risk for political escalation. I urge the Israeli authorities to reconsider this action. Settlements are illegal under international law and undermine the very essence and the viability of a future Palestinian state.

Meanwhile the Palestinian people rightly expect their leaders to act to advance unity and empower their government to take control of the border crossings in Gaza, implement civil service integration, pay public sector salaries and ensure that the governance framework between the West Bank and Gaza is integrated under a single authority. These efforts will pave the way for much delayed elections to take place.

I called on all Palestinian groups to avoid in-fighting and find common ground, on the basis of non-violence and reconciliation, to achieve national unity which is critical for a two-state solution.

The Secretary-General stands ready to work with the Security Council and our partners in the Middle East Quartet on a reinvigorated effort to create the conditions for the return to meaningful negotiations. In this context, I noted the proposed establishment of an international support group that could contribute to such efforts. In the past month, the Quartet envoys, as part of an active outreach effort, engaged constructively with Egypt, with Jordan and with the League of Arab States. I took the opportunity to encourage the leadership of Israel to endorse the Arab Peace Initiative as an important contribution to a resolution to the conflict.

July 8th marked the one-year anniversary of the outbreak of conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Gaza’s painstaking emergence from last summer’s conflict is undermining belief among the population that genuine progress can be achieved. Activities of Salafi jihadists and other extremist groups are a cause for concern not only in Gaza, but also in neighboring Sinai, where there are reports of their active support for militants on the Egyptian side of the border.

On 18 July, six cars were blown up in Gaza city. Palestinian Salafi militants launched a rocket at Israel on 16 July, which exploded in an open area near Ashkelon. In response, Israel conducted four airstrikes against militant infrastructure targets in Gaza. Militants also fired a rocket from the Sinai on 3 July, which landed in Israel across the Egyptian border, highlighting the potential for violence in the Sinai to expand beyond Egypt’s borders.

The Secretary-General calls on all actors in Gaza to provide information as to the possible whereabouts and conditions of two Israeli civilians who had entered Gaza sometime over the past year and remain unaccounted for, as well as to take prompt action to facilitate their safe return to their families.

These, and other incidents, underscore the fragile dynamics within Gaza that – without positive change – will continue to provide fertile ground for extremism to flourish.

Last month, the Palestinian Authority and Israel reached a welcome agreement on a new mechanism to allow Palestinians in Gaza access to construction material for the reconstruction of fully destroyed homes and for new construction. Close to 700 families have already been cleared and over 160 of these have purchased the required construction materials.

Given this positive development, I took this opportunity to once again, urge donors to fulfill their pledges, in particular those allocated to housing construction and to addressing Gaza’s urgent energy and water needs.

I also welcomed recent agreement to install an additional scanner for containers at the Kerem Shalom crossing. This should enable a substantial increase in exports from and imports into Gaza.

The lifting of the Gaza closures within the framework of Un Security Council has resolution 1860 (2009) remains an important objective of the United Nations. Absent this, the UN continues to work with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities to support vital efforts to rebuild the lives of people in Gaza.

Turning to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, while the frequency of security incidents decreased compared to last month, the situation has remained tense.

Israeli security forces conducted some 186 search-and-arrest operations, resulting in the arrest of some 300 Palestinians. Meanwhile Palestinian security forces also arrested over 100 people in the West Bank. I continue to be concerned by the situation of Palestinian prisoners, including those on hunger strike, held in Israel. All held in administrative detention should be promptly charged and tried in a court of law, or released without delay.

In total, 50 Palestinians were injured, and four were shot and killed by Israeli security forces, including two at checkpoints near Nablus and Ramallah. Two members of the Israeli security forces were stabbed and injured, one seriously.

Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli civilians in the West Bank also continued, resulting in the death of one Israeli and injury to eight Israelis and nine Palestinians, including one child.

Just as such incidents contribute to the lack of hope and anger which feed a continuing cycle of violence and highlight the imperative to seek a resolution to this conflict, so too do the demolitions and displacement in the West Bank.

On 12 July, Israel announced that it would seek to execute demolition orders of structures in the Palestinian village of Susiya in Area C. This comes ahead of a court hearing, scheduled for 3 August, on a directly related planning-approval process. The Secretary-General joins the United States and the European Union in expressing his deep concern about the demolition and displacement plans for Susiya. Earlier today my Deputy Special Coordinator visited the community. We hope that the ongoing dialogue between Israeli authorities and the herding community will protect the rights of the persons affected.

Against this backdrop intra-Palestinian talks to form a national unity government have faltered. I noted the efforts of President Abbas and Prime Minister Hamdallah to reshuffle the current government and called on them to proceed without delay to appointing the new ministers.

The reshuffling comes at a particularly sensitive time as the Palestinian Authority faces significant financial challenges, including a budget deficit of some $500 million for 2015. This gap cannot be closed through fiscal measures alone, and I urged donors to rapidly scale up their direct budget support. In this respect, it is also important to revive the functioning of the Israeli-Palestinian joint economic committee.

While first and foremost it is up to the Palestinian authorities to take the lead, the UN stands ready to support the President, the Government and all factions in their efforts to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, in line with the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of 23 April 2014.

Palestine is one and the UN will work determinedly to advance unity through its legitimate institutions.

At the end of my presentation I tured to the rest of the region and noted that the UN’s broad engagement continued during the reporting period. Following consultations with Syrian, regional and international parties, next week the Secretary-General and Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura will be briefing the Security Council on their recommendations for moving the political track forward.

In Yemen, Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed extends his good offices with all parties to restart negotiations on a political transition.

In Libya, the UN remains engaged in facilitating talks aimed at ending the current political and security crisis through the formation of a Government of National Accord.

In Iraq, the UN is working to promote political dialogue in the hopes of encouraging national reconciliation.

In Lebanon, Mr. President, concerns grow that political differences are preventing the effective functioning of state institutions, despite Prime Minister Salam’s commendable efforts to run government. There has been no progress in efforts to end the Presidential vacuum. The Secretary-General’s Special Coordinator for Lebanon Sigrid Kaag continues to urge Lebanon’s leaders to put the country’s stability and national interests ahead of partisan politics and elect a President without further delay.

Meanwhile, the situation along the Lebanese border with Syria has remained stable, with the Lebanese Armed Forces continuing their operations to prevent the infiltration of armed extremist groups from Syria. In the south, the situation along the blue line has remained generally calm, despite almost daily Israeli overflights over Lebanese territory. We encouraged both parties to continue to make effective use of UNIFIL’s liaison and coordination mechanisms.

I spoke of my deep concerned about UNRWA’s current unprecedented financial crisis. If the current gap of USD 100 million is not closed in the next weeks there is a serious risk that UNRWA schools, which educate 500,000 children throughout the Middle East, will not open. This will have grave implications for Palestine refugee children in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, and for the stability and security of a region already in turmoil.

I strongly urged donors to step up their support for UNRWA at this critical time.

Turning back to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I reiterated our collective resolve to prevent a further deterioration of the situation; to uphold the two-state solution; and to create the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations.

Prime Minister Netanyahu and President Abbas recently spoke and reaffirmed their desire for peace. This is a welcome sign. But words need to be translated into concrete and sustained actions on the ground.

But I was also abundantly clear: measures undertaken to improve the situation must not be considered an end unto themselves but part of a broader political framework with the goal of achieving a final status agreement.

Now is the time to act decisively, to act in order to reverse the growing perception that the two-state solution is on life-support, slowly dying a death “by a thousand cuts”.

A comprehensive agreement will require committed engagement with key Arab states, including through the Arab Peace Initiative.

The Secretary-General stands ready to support both sides in order to overcome their divisions and to rise to the challenge of forging a path forward towards a peaceful future.

In closing, I place on record my deep appreciation for the support that the Security Council and the Secretariat have given to the excellent UNSCO team on the ground.

I also welcomeed Mr. Robert Piper of Australia as the new Deputy Special Coordinator who will also serve as the Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory.