Lack of Political Horizon on Palestinian, Israeli Conflict ‘Kills Hope’, Gives Room for Those Not Interested in Peace, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council
While the 21 May ceasefire is holding, Council members heard today that, following eleven days of the most intense hostilities in years, the 15-member organ must take concrete action to resolve the conflict between Israel and Palestine, breaking the vicious cycle of disregarded resolutions and recurring violence and transcending the hollow peace process that has failed civilians on both sides.
“This is not the first time we are witnessing the end of a war in Gaza,” observed Tor Wennesland, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, as he briefed delegates in the Council Chamber via videoconference. And, each time, it is civilians who suffer most. Escalating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis erupted into hostilities between 10 May and 21 May, during which 253 Palestinians were killed by 1,500-plus Israeli air strikes while nine Israelis and three foreign nationals were killed by the 4,000-plus rockets launched by Hamas and other militants from Gaza. Further, nearly 2,000 housing and commercial units in at least 258 buildings were destroyed and 112,000 people were displaced.
Despite ongoing relief efforts, he said that the health system in Gaza “will likely be unable to meet the needs of those injured during the violence”. Mass destruction of civilian infrastructure and displacement of civilians has joined with a sharp increase in clashes and violence to exacerbate the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and he urged Israel to exercise maximum restraint and cease demolition and seizures of Palestinian property.
He called on the international community to end the violence, address its humanitarian consequences and avoid repeating these events through a viable two-State solution that ends the occupation, as a lack of a political horizon after decades of conflict “kills hope and provides space for those not interested in sustainable peace”.
Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), echoed this warning on the death of hope as he next briefed the Council. Despair is spreading in Palestinian refugee camps beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory — especially among the youth — and relentless air strikes and rocket attacks have inflicted psychosocial trauma on civilians in Gaza. He recounted stories of loss from the recent conflict, where parents were forced to ask whether their children should sleep next to them as they decided if the family should die together or scatter so some would be saved.
Despite the lack of any humanitarian truce to provide emergency medical assistance to the wounded or relief to the displaced, he said UNRWA worked on the front lines during the recent violence. The Agency also brings a sense of normality into the lives of refugees. He called for predictable, sufficient funding to allow for adequate planning and delivery of services, adding that an UNRWA education is an antidote to the hatred and intolerance spreading in the region. He also urged the international community to break the Sisyphean approach of post-conflict response in Gaza through genuine efforts to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Such efforts, stressed Rashid Khalidi, Professor of Modern Arab Studies at Columbia University, must not result in the “dead letters” of Council resolutions on the Palestine problem that have been systematically disrespected since the founding of the United Nations. Any effort to achieve real peace must “belatedly grapple with core issues”, including the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the status of Jerusalem, and the supposedly temporary military occupation that has endured since 1967. While acknowledging that realpolitik concerns have shaped the international response to this conflict — leading to recurring impunity for violations of international law — he expressed hope that the recent crisis leads the Council to break the cycle of the United Nations failure to prevent further war, displacement and misery in Palestine.
“Please don’t ask us to be patient,” urged the permanent observer for the State of Palestine, describing the battle for existence taking place in Palestine. While reconstruction of the besieged Gaza Strip is important, what the Palestinian people truly need is for the Council to address the root cause of occupation and lift the blockade preventing the freedom of movement of people and goods. The deterioration of the humanitarian situation in the occupied State of Palestine is Israel’s making, he stressed, but “Israel has failed in defeating Palestinian consciousness.”
Israel’s representative stressed, however, that the people of Palestine “are not our enemy”. Rather, the conflict is between Israel and Hamas, with whom full responsibility for the recent escalation lies. Israel responded to Hamas’s firing of 4,300 rockets at civilians in Israeli cities by targeting over 1,500 terror assets in Gaza and “did everything in our power” to limit civilian casualties. She urged that failure to condemn Hamas’s actions encourages terrorism, antisemitism, hurts Palestinians living in Gaza and inhibits the chance for dialogue, as “there is nothing to discuss with a terrorist organization”.
Council members then took the floor to call for the immediate provision of humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza and for increased support for UNRWA. Many stressed the need to build on the recent ceasefire towards a sustainable two-State solution, and for all parties to refrain from provocative activities that could jeopardize this arrangement. Others echoed the sentiment, expressed by some of the briefers at the meeting’s outset, that the Council must strengthen its efforts towards resolving this recurring conflict.
The representative of Ireland said the weakness of the Council’s response has demonstrated the difficulty of charting a political path towards peace. She stressed that the Council must urge the parties to make serious efforts towards credible negotiations to end the cycle of violence and bloodshed. Both sides must investigate alleged violations of international law and address the causes of conflict.
These root causes, said Mexico’s representative, must be addressed for the violence to end. The ceasefire agreement is fragile, and clashes in Jerusalem have not ceased at all. While temporary truces help, the only way to achieve lasting peace is to fully implement the two-State solution, meeting the legitimate security needs of Israel and the political aspirations of the Palestinian people.
The representative of the Russian Federation, noting the Muslim ummah’s sensitivity to events occurring in East Jerusalem, also stressed that core issues must be resolved to have lasting peace in the region. Just because the fighting has ceased in Palestine and Israel does not mean that the international community can delay resolving the Palestinian question, which is a key issue for the entire Middle East and the world as a whole.
Also speaking were the representatives of the United States, France, Kenya, Norway, Viet Nam, United Kingdom, Tunisia, India, Estonia, Niger, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and China.
The meeting began at 10:24 a.m. and ended at 1:18 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council that the cessation of hostilities is holding between Palestinian militants in Gaza and Israel following “eleven days of the most intense hostilities we have witnessed in years”. Noting that these events have demonstrated “the costs of perpetual conflict and lost hope”, he detailed escalating tensions between Palestinians and Israelis in the lead-up up to this conflict — including clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces on 10 May, in which 650 of the former were reportedly shot and injured with rubber-coated metal bullets and 32 of the latter were injured. Subsequently, from 10 May to 21 May during hostilities between Israel and armed groups in Gaza, 253 Palestinians were killed by 1,500-plus Israeli air strikes, including at least 66 children, 38 women and three persons with disabilities. Over the same period, nine Israelis and three foreign nationals were killed by the 4,000-plus rockets launched by Hamas and other militants from Gaza.
Further, he said that Israeli air strikes reportedly damaged or destroyed nearly 2,000 housing and commercial units in at least 258 buildings, injured 1,948 Palestinians and displaced 112,000 of the same, with some 77,000 sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) with little to no access to water, food and health care. The humanitarian impact of this fighting has been devastating but, following the cessation of hostilities on 21 May, 40 truckloads of humanitarian supplies were permitted to enter into Gaza and, on 25 May, Israel announced the opening of crossings for certain humanitarian goods and personnel, including vaccines from the COVID-19 Vaccines Global Access (COVAX) mechanism. Israel also reinstated the fishing zone off the coast of Gaza on 25 May and repair to some damaged sewage and water infrastructure has commenced. The health system, however, “will likely be unable to meet the needs of those injured during the violence”.
Further complicating matters, he said, is a sharp rise in the number of clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians, settler-related violence, Palestinian attacks against Israelis in the occupied West Bank and an apparent increase in Israeli security forces’ use of live ammunition against Palestinian demonstrators. Potential evictions in occupied East Jerusalem continue to be a major concern, and he urged Israel to exercise maximum restraint and cease demolitions and seizures of Palestinian property. He also pointed out that the violence in Gaza has reverberated throughout the region, particularly in Lebanon.
“This is not the first time we are witnessing the end of a war in Gaza,” he observed, and each time it is civilians who lose the most. The international community must not only work to end the violence and address its humanitarian consequences, but also to avoid repetition of the same through sustainable, long-term solutions to this conflict. He pointed out that the lack of a political horizon after decades of conflict “kills hope and provides space for those not interested in sustainable peace”, adding that negotiations must end the occupation and create a viable two-State solution with Jerusalem as the capital of both.
PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, began his briefing to the Council by offering condolences to all those who lost loved ones in the 11 days of air strikes by the Israeli military forces and rocket attacks launched by Palestinian armed groups. Voicing appreciation for his UNRWA colleagues in Gaza, he noted that they worked on the frontlines during the recent violence, despite the lack of any humanitarian truce to allow for emergency medical assistance to the wounded, or relief for the displaced. Recalling stories of loss from the recent conflict, he said: “I met parents who every night asked themselves whether to have all their children sleep near them or to spread them around the house,” because they were trying to decide if they should all die together or if they should try to save some by scattering them.
This last conflict, he noted, is the fourth conflict in 13 years to take place during an enduring blockade, which has crippled the economy, led to skyrocketing unemployment and brought the Gaza health-care system to its knees. He also voiced concern about the trauma and psychosocial impact that relentless air strikes and rockets attacks have inflicted on civilians, especially children. Also noting a new wave of COVID-19 infection in the Gaza population, he added that access to vaccines is more urgent than ever. Expressing concern about the heavy use of live ammunition by Israeli security forces in the West Bank during demonstrations, he also drew attention to the potential misuse of non-lethal weaponry like tear gas in and around the narrow alleys of Palestine refugee camps.
Despair, he added, is spreading in Palestinian refugee camps beyond the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially among the youth. Until there is a political solution to this conflict, only a strong UNRWA can bring a sense of normality into the lives of these refugees. Recalling that Loay Elbasyouni, one of the engineers behind the American helicopter that went to Mars, is a former student of an UNRWA school in Beit Hanoun in Gaza, he said: “He went from Gaza to NASA.” A strong UNRWA requires predictable and sufficient funding for adequate planning and delivery of services. Calling that an investment in the human development of Palestinian refugees, he added that an UNRWA education is an antidote to the widespread hatred and intolerance spreading in the region.
The last few weeks, he added, are a stark reminder that war and violence persist in the absence of genuine effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Calling on the international community to break the Sisyphean approach of post-conflict response in Gaza, he said that the recovery phase needs to be accompanied by a genuine political track aimed at lifting the blockade on people, goods and trade, in line with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). Perpetrators of violations of international law on all sides must be held accountable, he said, adding: “No one has asked to remain a refugee seven decades later”. The Council must ensure that a sense of normality and stability remains in the lives of Palestinian refugees through a strong UNRWA, he stressed.
RASHID KHALIDI, Professor of Arab Studies at Columbia University, recalled sitting in the Council Chamber on 9 June 1967, as a permanent member “ensured the impunity that allowed a Member State to ignore Council ceasefire resolutions and continue its offensive for another 24 hours”. This action 54 years ago typifies the problems with which the Council still wrestles, as the same pattern of guaranteeing impunity for violations of international law recurs. While the Council has passed multiple resolutions on the Palestine problem and Israeli-Arab conflict since the founding of the United Nations, he said that “they are dead letters”. Systematic disrespect for Council resolutions has left the 15-member organ and the United Nations in “justifiable disrepute” and has constituted a major obstacle to establishing peace, justice and security for those living in Palestine and Israel.
“Any effort to achieve real peace and lasting security must belatedly grapple with painful core issues,” he stressed, including the dispossession of the Palestinian people, the status of Jerusalem, and the supposedly temporary military occupation that has endured since 1967. Noting his understanding of power relations structuring what is and is not possible and the difficulty of unifying national agendas towards collective action, he said that this is the moment to transcend these restraints. Palestine is important, cannot be ignored and its people will not give up their struggle to achieve inalienable rights, and the “cruel false equivalence” that ignores casualty ratios of up to 20 to 1 and “places the occupier on the same footing as the occupied” must be abandoned.
He said that, to end the bloodletting and oppression, steps both big and small are needed — the Council must demand, under penalty of sanctions, that Gaza’s humanitarian needs be freed of political considerations; it must work to cement the unity of the Palestinian people on a democratic basis; and it must demand that the status quo regarding holy sites in Jerusalem be respected. Further, the Council must forcefully reiterate the inadmissibility of acquiring territory by force and of colonization, and push for an increasingly multilateral structure for the resolution of the question of Palestine. He also called on the Council to ensure that any solution to this conflict provides rights and security to both peoples on the basis of complete equality — as “the weaker cannot be left to the mercies of the stronger” — and expressed hope that this recent crisis leads the 15-member organ to break the pattern of the United Nations failure to prevent further war, displacement and misery in Palestine.
RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said “Israel has failed in defeating Palestinian consciousness”. It has adopted policies and devoted tremendous resources to forcibly change the historic, geographic and demographic reality of the Palestinian homeland, but 70 years since the Nakbah, a new Palestinian generation is more rooted in the land than ever before, he said. Israel calls for a right of return for Jews that spans over 5,000 years while denying the right of return of Palestinians to their land and homes after 73 years, he added. Stressing that Israel vandalizes Christian and Muslim holy sites while claiming that its colonization is a “divine right”, he recalled various United Nations reports that warned that the Gaza Strip was on the verge of collapse and cautioned that violence will resume.
The deterioration of the situation in the occupied State of Palestine, he added, is Israel’s making. The Council determined a vision for peace decades ago and adopted resolutions and set out the obligations of the parties and of third parties. Calling on the Council to implement these resolutions, he added: “Please, don’t ask us to be patient.” The battle for existence in Palestine is taking place on the ground, house by house, and in the alleys of the Old City, and on every hilltop and neighbourhood and village and refugee camp, he stressed. While the reconstruction of the besieged Gaza Strip must be a top priority right now, what is required is addressing the root cause of occupation, lifting the blockade and ensuring freedom of movement of people and goods. “We resemble our land and belong to it,” he said, “whether we live in it or it lives in us, one rebellious generation after the other.”
NOA FURMAN (Israel), stressing that the conflict is not between Israel and either the people of Gaza or Palestine — “who are not our enemy” — but between her country and Hamas, said that the full responsibility for the recent escalation lies with Hamas, who fired 4,300 rockets at civilians in Israeli cities. Further, Hamas’s actions have little to do with Israel, but instead with that organization attempting to assert itself over the Palestinian Authority. In response, Israel targeted over 1,500 terror assets in Gaza and “did everything in our power” to limit civilian casualties. Hamas, on the other hand, committed war crimes both by firing at Israeli civilians and by hiding behind Palestinian ones. Israel strictly adheres to the laws of armed conflict, including the principles of distinction and proportionality.
She said that ignoring Hamas’s actions “will not make them go away”, calling on the international community to condemn Hamas and support Israel’s right to defend its civilians. The Council must call for the disarmament of Hamas, and failure to condemn the same encourages terrorism and antisemitism, inhibits the chance for dialogue and hurts Palestinians living in Gaza. Every statement that lacks this condemnation puts the lives of Jews all around the world at risk. Going forward, it is important to understand that allowing Hamas to increase its political power is detrimental to dialogue, as that organization continues to present an obstacle to peace and refuses to renounce violence and accept past agreements. “There is nothing to discuss with a terrorist organization,” she stressed, and the recent ceasefire arrangement must be used as an opportunity to prevent Hamas from further terrorizing the people of Israel and Gaza.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said her country will continue the “quiet, relentless and intensive diplomacy” that brought an end to the recent violence. Stressing the importance of building on the ceasefire, she acknowledged the tremendous human toll of the violence as well as the physical and psychological injuries it caused. Calling on the international community to step up and meet the immense humanitarian need, she noted that the United States recently announced that it is giving $38 million towards recovery efforts, of which $33 million will be for UNRWA. This life-saving aid will provide food, health care, psychosocial support and emergency shelters to those displaced by recent violence, she said. “The needs in Gaza are vast,” she said, adding that funding and access are needed in equal measure. Stressing the importance of opening border crossings and fast-tracking humanitarian relief, she underscored the importance of working together to “turn this fragile calm into something more sustainable”.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) called for the 21 May cessation of hostilities to be respected and made permanent through lasting ceasefire arrangements, including no further rocket launches into Israeli territory. The human toll is heavy after 11 days of fighting — with many displaced and considerable damage to civilian infrastructure — and a truce is required to facilitate the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance, especially in Gaza. Calling for unfettered humanitarian access, he noted that France will contribute several million euros to this end to meet pressing needs and urged others to do the same. Programmes aimed at rebuilding civilian infrastructure must also meet medical needs — including those relating to COVID-19 — and humanitarian aid must only reach its intended beneficiaries. He also expressed concern over threats of eviction hanging over Palestinians in East Jerusalem, calling on Israel to cease this practice along with settlement activities.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said the Council’s monthly briefings remind that “what is in place has offered little prospect of resolution”. He urged Israelis and Palestinians to address the conflict with the appropriate level of urgency by re-engaging on the normalization of relations and direct negotiations. Recalling that numerous bilateral and regional de-escalation efforts are being pursued, he said the Council must ensure that the ceasefire holds and that a cessation of hostilities is established in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem. Expressing support for a two-State solution in which the two sides live within secure and recognized borders along June 1967 lines, and for resolution 2334 (2016) to guide such efforts, he recommended identifying immediate steps for prevention and recovery, not only in Gaza, but also in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank. He welcomed the reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing for aid access, calling for a rethink of how to avoid the next cycle of conflict. The Council must reinvigorate efforts in partnership with regional and neighbouring States towards direct negotiations and resolution of final status issues.
MONA JUUL (Norway), condemning all attacks against civilians, called for fully implementing the ceasefire, with priority given to providing aid to Gazans, with rapid and unimpeded access for humanitarian actors to bring in food, health services, fuel and gas. As announced last week, Norway will increase its humanitarian support in Palestine to more than $12 million in 2021. Stressing that as long as Israel’s occupation persists, conflicts will regularly flare, she said clashes in East Jerusalem — including on the Haram al Sharif/Temple Mount — and possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan illustrate that the current conditions are unsustainable. She called for intensified international efforts to restart negotiations towards a two-State solution. “The Gaza Strip is, and will remain, an integral part of Palestine,” she assured, stressing that the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee is best suited for coordinating assistance to the area and pressing the Council to “speak with one voice on issues like these”, as it bears a heavy responsibility to live up to its mandate.
DINH QUY DANG (Viet Nam) commended the efforts of Egypt, Qatar and other regional countries as well as international partners who brokered the ceasefire in the Israel-Palestine conflict. Calling on all parties to adhere to the agreement, he said they must refrain from any action or rhetoric that can ignite a new cycle of violence. Encouraging mediation efforts to ensure stability and avoid risk of escalation, he called for concrete steps to address the root causes. Israel must stop the demolition of Palestinian homes and the eviction of Palestinians, he said, adding that any attempts to change the cultural and demographic character of the Occupied Palestinian Territory are illegal. Stressing that a two-State solution, including the establishment of Palestine as a State, with East Jerusalem as its capital, is crucial for resolving this conflict, he also stressed the importance of humanitarian aid, particularly in Gaza.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), highlighting the loss of life and damage to civilian infrastructure, underscored the importance of UNRWA’s provision of necessary humanitarian assistance and called for its funding to remain stable. The fact that fighting has ceased in Palestine and Israel does not mean that the international community can delay resolving the Palestinian question, which is a key issue for the entire Middle East and the world as a whole. Pointing out the Muslim ummah’s sensitivity to events occurring in East Jerusalem around Al-Aqsa Mosque, he stressed that all issues must be resolved to have lasting peace in the Middle East and, to this end, talks between Israel and Palestine must be based on the principle of two States adhering to the 1967 borders. To facilitate this, unilateral steps — including settlement and other provocative activities — must be rejected, Israeli security concerns must be addressed and the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites must be respected.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), welcoming the ceasefire, called on the international community to focus on making it durable. It is crucial to make progress towards a more positive future and address the drivers of conflict. Underscoring that violence against peaceful worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque is unacceptable, she voiced support for the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan’s custodian role. Noting with concern the violence in Shaikh Jarrah, she said that settlement activity is illegal and damages prospects of peace. Israel must end its settlements, demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, she said, also condemning indiscriminate attacks by Hamas and other groups. Israel has a legitimate right to defend itself, she said, adding that it must exercise that right in line with international law and making every effort to avoid civilian casualties. Voicing concern about the damage and destruction in Gaza, she called for rapid and unhindered access for humanitarian actors.
GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), pressing all parties to respect the ceasefire, and all those with influence to help ensure the truce is maintained, said the weakness of the Council’s response has put into perspective the scale of the challenge in charting a political path towards peace. “We must support the parties to meet that challenge and help to end the cycle of violence and bloodshed,” she asserted. She expressed concern that UNRWA buildings were damaged during military operations on Gaza and called on Israel and Hamas alike to facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access to the area. She renewed the call on Israel to end the blockade of Gaza, pressing both sides to launch investigations into alleged violations of international humanitarian law. She also echoed calls on Israeli and Palestinian leaders to advance a serious dialogue to address the causes of the conflict and called for an end to illegal settlement expansion into Palestinian territory. For its part, the Council — in concert with the Middle East Quartet, key Arab States and other major stakeholders — should urge the parties to make serious efforts towards credible negotiations.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) expressed concern over news of provocations and attacks by settler groups and Israeli forces against Palestinians in East Jerusalem that threaten a renewed outbreak of violence, which would have devastating consequences both in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region as a whole. He called on the international community to pressure the occupying Power to uphold its obligations under international law, ceasing expansion plans and settlement activity. Further, the international community must guarantee that Palestinian civilians are protected and end the illegal blockade of Gaza, along with other forms of collective punishment against the Palestinian people. Highlighting the occupying force’s horrifying acts that led to hundreds of deaths, thousands of injuries and damage to civilian infrastructure, he called on regional and international actors to support UNRWA and increase their humanitarian response in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially in Gaza.
T. S. TIRUMURTI (India) recognized the important role of the international community, the Middle East Quartet and regional countries in facilitating the ceasefire. He reiterated the call on all parties to avoid acts of violence, provocation, incitement and destruction, and to refrain from attempts to unilaterally change the existing status quo, including in East Jerusalem and its neighbourhood. The latest violence has resulted in the loss of precious human lives, including that of an Indian national, he said, noting that his country provides development and humanitarian assistance to the Palestinian Authority bilaterally and through contributions to United Nations-led mechanisms. The reconstruction of Gaza must be prioritized on the international agenda, with the Authority serving as the “fulcrum” for such assistance. In that context, he urged the Middle East Quartet to exert all efforts to foster direct negotiations between the parties.
JUAN RAMÓN DE LA FUENTE RAMIREZ (Mexico) welcomed the ceasefire and hailed the mediation efforts of Egypt, Qatar and others that led to the agreement. Unfortunately, after 11 days of conflict, the toll is heavy with 300 lost lives and millions of dollars lost in material damage. Noting that the clashes in Jerusalem are not ceasing at all, he underscored the fragility of the agreement reached. While the temporary truces help, without addressing underlying root causes, the international community will have to witness the cycle of violence and temporary truces, he said. The only way to break this vicious cycle is to fully implement the two-State solution, he said, meeting the legitimate security concerns of Israel and the political aspirations of the Palestinian people. Encouraging the Palestinian leadership to establish a new date for its electoral process, he called on Hamas and other groups to refrain from launching rocket attacks. Israel must foster an environment that enables the peaceful economic development of Palestine and lift the blockade against Gaza, he said.
SVEN JÜRGENSON (Estonia), welcoming the ceasefire, said the parties must fully observe the ceasefire and do their utmost to avoid further violence as the truce creates space to address urgent humanitarian needs. A robust support package for reconstruction and recovery in Gaza has Estonia’s backing, he said, noting that his country also is planning additional funding for UNRWA. It is vital to grant unhindered humanitarian access to all those in need, as well as to calm the volatile situation in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem, including around Temple Mount/Haram al Sharif. “All acts of provocation, incitement, violence and destruction must end,” he said, and the status quo of holy sites respected. He called on Israel to halt its settlement expansion, evictions and demolitions in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, including East Jerusalem, and on the Middle East Quartet in particular to create conditions for resuming direct negotiations.
ABDOU ABARRY (Niger), welcoming the 21 May ceasefire, called on relevant parties to refrain from any action that would jeopardize this arrangement and on the international community to exert the necessary pressure to resume the peace process that was interrupted several years ago. The two-State solution is the only path out of conflict and must be prioritized to allow the two peoples to coexist peacefully. For this to occur, however, Israeli settlement policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must end in line with resolution 2334 (2016), and he supported the Palestinian fight for rights and dignity in the face of oppression and colonization. Turning to the critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said that conditions such as high population density, high unemployment and a health-care system on the verge of collapse were exacerbated by the destruction of remaining civilian infrastructure, including schools, health facilities, power lines and residential buildings. On this, he called for greater international generosity for the long-suffering people of Gaza, as reconstruction cannot be delayed.
INGA RHONDA KING (Saint Vincent and the Grenadines) said that violence and oppression has reached an unacceptable level, particularly in Gaza, which has been subjected to a full-scale Israeli assault, leading to more than 250 deaths and more than 75,000 displaced persons. Welcoming the announcement of an unconditional ceasefire, brokered under Egyptian auspices, she called on the Government of Israel and the State of Palestine to exercise maximum restraint. Despite the Gaza ceasefire, Israeli occupying forces and extremist Israeli settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque, wounding dozens of worshippers and arresting six Palestinians. The status quo at the holy sites must be upheld and respected, she said, reiterating that a two-State solution remains the only way to achieve a lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians.
ZHANG JUN (China) said that the recent tensions between Palestine and Israel have tugged at the heartstrings of people around the world. Expressing hope that the presidential declaration adopted by the Council will contribute to the de-escalation of the situation and relaunch the peace process, he acknowledged the fragilities that persist on the ground. The international community must ensure that both parties adhere to the agreement, he said, noting continued tensions in East Jerusalem and urging all parties to exercise restraint. Israel must put an end to violence and provocations against the Muslim community, maintain the historic status of Jerusalem as a holy site, stop evicting Palestinian people and halt all settlement activities, he stressed. His country is sending 200,000 doses of the vaccine as well as other aid to the Palestinian people, he said, adding that this conflict is an alarm call as well as a test for multilateralism.