Concerned by Escalating Violence, Speakers Urge Security Council to Consider Long-Term Impact of Maintaining Status Quo in Occupied Palestinian Territory
Speakers today urged the Security Council to consider the long-term effects of allowing the status quo to remain in the Occupied Palestinian Territory following a three-day escalation in violence earlier this month, as some members welcomed economic measures to allay the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip while others stressed that this relief is no substitute for a genuine political horizon.
Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council that the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad remains in effect and that “a fragile calm has been restored in Gaza”. While that measure prevented escalation into a full-scale war and allowed for the resumption of measures bringing much-needed economic relief to people in Gaza, the underlying drivers of conflict remain unresolved. He underscored that, unless these fundamental issues are addressed, “the cycle of acute crisis followed by short-term fixes will persist”.
He went on to point out that, while some positive steps occurred during the reporting period — including the issuance of over 14,000 economic-needs permits — the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains troubling, and the humanitarian response across the Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to face chronic funding gaps. Past weeks have shown that “managing conflict is no substitute for a real political process”, he noted, calling for the cessation of unilateral steps that perpetuate negative trends across the Occupied Palestinian Territory, for an expanded space for Palestinian economic activity and for a strengthen Palestinian Authority. “The status quo is not a strategy nor a strategic option,” he added.
Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), then told the Council that UNRWA remains the lifeline for one of the most underprivileged and desperate communities in the region. “Going to school, getting health services or receiving a food parcel are, for many Palestinian refugees, their only sources of normality,” he said. For these refugees, UNRWA remains the last standing pillar of the international community’s commitment to their right to a dignified life and a just, lasting solution, he stressed, appealing to Member States who have reduced their funding to reconsider the impact of that decision on the region’s stability.
Daniel Levy, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, next stressed that the illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation represent forms of structural violence and collective punishment that cannot be ignored. Any attempt to resume negotiations between the parties without addressing power asymmetries “is a hollow and redundant exercise”, he said, urging a focus on power relations rather than “both sides-ism”. “Economic palliatives under occupation deepen dependence and enmity,” he pointed out, noting that profound shifts are occurring because of the unwillingness to hold Israel to account. Talk of the eclipse of a two-State option is neither alarmist nor far-fetched, and he urged those present not to underestimate the longer-term significance and traction of what is happening.
In the ensuing debate, many Council members expressed concern over Israeli raids on six Palestinian civil society organizations that occurred on 18 August and the shrinking of civic space in the Occupied Palestinian territory. Some Council members also called for an investigation into recent civilian deaths following the escalation in violence earlier in August. Several Council members, while welcoming the increased issuance of work permits and reopening of border crossings, stressed that the blockade on Gaza must be lifted.
On that point, Mexico’s representative noted that the situation in the Gaza Strip remains critical despite those positive measures and called for an end to the blockade. Also calling for a comprehensive investigation to clarify who bears responsibility for recent civilian deaths, she called for a cessation of harassment against Palestinian civil-society organizations. “A democratic State must not carry out actions that reduce civic space,” she stressed.
The representative of Ireland agreed, underscoring that the 18 August raids — and the measures that followed — represent a “worrying reduction of space for civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. She went on to point out that Ireland has not received any information from Israel that would justify reviewing its policy towards those organizations, expressing serious concern over the misuse of counter-terror legislation in this regard.
China’s representative also expressed concern over recent Israeli actions against non-governmental organizations, called for Israel to lift its blockade on Gaza and urged investigations into violence by Israeli security forces. He went on to stress that the international community must rise above piecemeal crisis management, noting that Israel and Palestine will remain neighbours and basing one’s security on the insecurity of the other will only serve to trap everyone in an endless cycle of violence.
Returning to the economic sphere, the representative of Kenya joined others in pointing out that addressing Gaza’s isolation from the wider regional and global economy will be critical for the peace, security and stability of the broader Middle East region. While confidence-building measures in the areas of commerce and security between Israeli and Palestinian authorities “speak to what is immediately practical in the context of an elusive peace process”, he underscored that they are not a substitute for a resumed political process and dialogue between both parties.
Other speakers highlighted the need to provide increased funding for UNRWA’s vital humanitarian work. The United Kingdom’s representative announced his Government’s approval of a new multi-year funding agreement for the Agency and said it will contribute £15 million this year. India has also increased its financial contribution — giving $20 million since 2018 and pledging $5 million for this year — half of which has already been released, according to its delegate.
Also speaking were representatives of the United States, Russian Federation, Brazil, Albania, United Arab Emirates, France, Gabon, Ghana and Norway.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 12:04 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council that the ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad remains in effect and that “a fragile calm has been restored in Gaza”. The Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings have remained open since 8 August — allowing for the entry of essential goods and materials — and the United Nations is working with partners to ensure the delivery of urgent assistance to those in need. While the ceasefire prevented escalation into a full-scale war and allowed for the resumption of measures that bring much-needed economic relief to people in Gaza, the underlying drivers of conflict remain unresolved. Violence has increased across much of the occupied West Bank, Israeli settlement activity continues, fiscal and political challenges threaten the Palestinian Authority’s efficacy in delivering essential public services and the West Bank and Gaza remain politically divided. He underscored that, unless these fundamental issues are addressed, “the cycle of acute crisis followed by short-term fixes will persist”.
Providing an account of the three-day escalation of violence that occurred earlier in August, he said that the Israel Defense Forces conducted some 147 airstrikes against purported military targets in Gaza and Palestinian militants indiscriminately fired approximately 1,100 rockets towards Israel. Emphasizing that the violence took a severe toll on civilians, he expressed concern that airstrikes in densely populated areas resulted in civilian fatalities and injuries, also condemning the indiscriminate launching of rockets into civilian population centres. He went on to note that daily violence continues at high levels across the occupied West Bank, and that settler-related violence also persisted during the reporting period, reiterating that perpetrators of all acts of violence must be held accountable and that security forces must only use lethal force when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.
Also detailing settlement-related developments, he reiterated that all settlements are illegal under international law and called on Israeli authorities to end the demolition of Palestinian-owned property, to cease the displacement and eviction of Palestinians and to approve additional plans that would enable Palestinians to build legally and address their development needs. He also expressed concern over the decision by Israel’s Ministry of Education to halt the granting of permanent licenses to six Palestinian schools in occupied East Jerusalem and the 18 August closure of the offices of all six non-governmental organizations designated as terrorist organizations in November 2021. While some positive steps occurred during the reporting period — including the issuance of over 14,000 economic-needs permits, the humanitarian situation in Gaza remains troubling, and the humanitarian response across the Occupied Palestinian Territory continues to face chronic funding gaps.
While welcoming the measures taken by Israel towards easing conditions in Gaza since the May 2021 escalation, he emphasized that the past weeks have again shown that “managing conflict is no substitute for a real political process”. Urging work towards a political horizon, he called for unilateral steps that perpetuate negative trends across the Occupied Palestinian Territory to cease, for an expanded space for Palestinian economic activity and for a strengthened Palestinian Authority. “The status quo is not a strategy nor a strategic option,” he stressed, urging firm action to enable a return to meaningful negotiations.
PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said the situation of Palestine refugees has further deteriorated since his last briefing, with over 80 per cent of refugees in Lebanon, Syria and Gaza living below the poverty line. In Gaza, the escalation of violence earlier this month was a stark reminder that war and violence can erupt anytime in the absence of a comprehensive effort to resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He noted that 60 refugee families lost their homes and 17 children were killed. Nearly half of UNRWA students suffer from trauma and need special assistance to cope with the repeated cycles of violence and economic hardship. In the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, political, economic and security conditions are deteriorating as refugees experience high levels of dispossession, violence and insecurity.
In Syria, after 11 years of conflict, the most destitute families are returning to live amid the rubble of their destroyed homes as they can no longer afford rent, with children walking near unexploded ordnance to take UNRWA buses to school, while in Lebanon, the pressure on the Agency to do more is becoming unbearable, he said. Protests and acts of violence directed against UNRWA at times force the closure of installations, while illegal emigration of refugees is rising. UNRWA remains the lifeline for one of the most underprivileged and desperate communities in the region, contributing to one of its most successful human development stories, educating over 2 million girls and boys, ensuring universal infant vaccination and reducing maternal mortality. “Going to school, getting health services or receiving a food parcel are, for many Palestine refugees, their only sources of normality,” he said, adding: “They look to UNRWA for that normality.” The quality of the education which UNRWA students receive is praised by reputable validators such as the British Council, Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and the World Bank, on average outperforming their peers by one year of learning, with schools also having reached gender parity.
However, shifting geopolitical priorities, regional dynamics and the emergence of new humanitarian crises have forced the Agency to operate with a shortfall of around $100 million year after year, with UNRWA facing an existential threat, he warned. At stake are quality and principled education for over half a million girls and boys, access to health care for 2 million Palestine refugees and a social safety net for 400,000 of the poorest amongst the poor. For these refugees, he stressed that UNRWA remains the last standing pillar of the international community’s commitment to their right to a dignified life and their right to a just and lasting solution.
Despair and a sense of abandonment are growing in the refugee camps, he stressed — a threat to peace and stability. “The impact of predictable services on the safety of refugees and on regional stability should suffice to convince every Member State to commit funding to UNRWA in line with the resolutions they adopt,” he said. Instead, the Agency continues to be under intense pressure due to lack of adequate funding from Member States, and the objection to any perceived change in the way services are delivered. Any change is seen as an attempt to encroach on the rights of the refugees, with hosts and refugees fearing that UNRWA may be weakened or dismantled altogether. He appealed to Member States who have reduced their funding to reconsider the impact of their decision on the region’s stability. With extension of the UNRWA mandate soon to be put to the General Assembly for approval, he further appealed to them to mobilize politically and financially to support UNRWA and to continue working towards a political solution.
DANIEL LEVY, President of the U.S./Middle East Project, then briefed the Council that the permanent dispossession and denial of the most-basic rights and freedoms to the Palestinian people “will never be a recipe for achieving sustainable security”. The illegal blockade of Gaza and the unlawful occupation represent forms of structural violence and collective punishment that cannot be ignored, and there is a need to respect international law across the board — whether in State responses to armed threats or partisan resistance against State occupation. Underscoring that any attempt to resume negotiations between the parties without addressing power asymmetries “is a hollow and redundant exercise”, he urged that a focus on relations of power — rather than “both sides-ism” — offers a path to clarity of thinking and policy. On that point, he said that attempts at economic confidence-building are “consistently too little, too late and too ephemeral” when attempted under conditions of permanent occupation. The Palestinian economic predicament must be understood primarily as a function of politically imposed obstacles — on movement, borders, access to land, confiscations and demolitions — rather than an absence of charity. “Economic palliatives under occupation deepen dependence and enmity,” he emphasized.
He went on to stress that Israel’s actions as the powerful occupying party determine this conflict’s direction of travel, and that profound shifts are occurring because of the unwillingness to hold Israel to account. Responses limited to expressions of condemnation are too easily dismissed, he said, pointing out that this “impunity on steroids” encourages more of the same, or worse. Suggesting that — contrary to a prevailing perception of stalemate — Israelis and Palestinians are passing through a “profound transition”, he said that talk of the eclipse of a two-State option is neither alarmist nor far-fetched; rather, “it is a sober and probably behind-the-curve rendering of the lived reality”. An increasingly weighty body of scholarly, legal and public opinion has designated Israel as perpetrating Apartheid in the territories under its control. “This is what failure to generate accountability and to achieve two States looks like,” he stressed, urging those present not to underestimate the longer-term significance and traction of what is happening. Recalling that the United Nations offered partition as the political paradigm for the Holy Land 75 years ago — a land that, today, is de facto united under one dominion — he underscored that, absent unprecedently far-reaching action to make good on that partition, “your successors in this chamber will come to debate the challenge of achieving equality under a reality of non-partition”.
RICHARD M. MILLS JR. (United States) welcomed the ongoing ceasefire and fuel shipments to Gaza, while mourning the loss of life. Citing the support of Egypt, Qatar, Jordan and the United Nations, he demanded that terrorist groups including Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad cease attacks on Israel, while appreciating the work of non-governmental organizations in monitoring human rights abuses. Expressing concern over escalating tensions, he urged all parties to refrain from unilateral activities including settlements, demolitions and disruption of the historic status quo at holy sites. Citing the recent visit to the region by President Joseph R. Biden, he stressed that the Palestinian people deserve a State of their own that is independent, sovereign, viable and contiguous — two States for two peoples with deep roots in the region. There are no shortcuts to statehood, he affirmed, calling for direct negotiations between the parties. The United States is committed to serving as a strong partner with UNRWA, noting it is the largest single donor, while many other States profess support without offering it financially. He called on all countries to join the United States’ efforts for peace in the Middle East.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that it is increasingly clear that the Palestinian question has been unresolved for so long that any provocation could lead to far-reaching regional confrontation. Western countries’ de facto disregard of systemic violations of Palestinian rights over the longest occupation in post-war history indicates a clear case of double standards, he stressed, pointing out that one of the factors hindering just peace for Palestinians is the behaviour of the United States. That country is trying to monopolize the peace process and “reformat it to fit their mould”, he said, attempting to impose “economic peace” on Palestinians rather than meeting their legitimate claims for an independent State. Calling for a just resolution to the Palestinian question based on a two-State formula, he also underscored the need for direct negotiations between the parties, which should address other final-status issues such as refugees, water resources and Israel’s security concerns.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) noted the ceasefire announced on 7 August remains fragile, and without concrete measures to reduce tensions in the Palestinian territories and in Israel, there is a real risk of the resumption of violence — citing the attack on Jewish worshippers in Jerusalem on 14 August. Unless there is progress towards a just and sustainable political solution to the conflict, the danger of renewed cycles of violence will persist. As the conflict drags on, the civilian population pays a heavy toll not only in terms of lives lost and people injured, but also frustrated expectations and dreams cut short. Stressing the need for financial support to the Palestinian Authority as well as the Palestinian economy as a whole, he noted that — while his Government’s budget faces constraints of its own — Brazil announced in June an additional financial contribution to UNRWA. Diplomacy and the efforts of the international community have prevented the most recent flare-up of violence from escalating further. “Let us not be satisfied with a mere ceasefire,” he stressed, calling for the Council to spare no effort to bring about real progress towards a political solution.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), reiterating his country’s strong support for civil society as a critical pillar of any democratic society, joined others in expressing concern over Israel’s action against six Palestinian non-governmental organizations and calling on Israel to refrain from any action that would prevent these organizations from continuing their critical human rights, humanitarian and development work. He also stressed that settlements and their expansions contravene international law and pose an obstacle to a two-State solution, urging all sides to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric that escalates tensions and endangers the peace process. Violence is never conducive to any positive development, and the negotiation table is the only place where a viable, just solution can be found. Supporting all efforts to bring the parties together to deal with difficult, complex issues with patience and determination, he urged that “we should not let hope die, since nothing good is ever done without hope and nothing important is ever built without dreams”.
AMEIRAH OBAID MOHAMED OBAID ALHEFEITI (United Arab Emirates) stressed the security situation is fragile with worrying repeated cycles of violence, requiring a fair and viable solution to the Palestinian issue. Parties must resume negotiations to implement a two-State solution, resulting in an independent and sovereign Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, living side by side with Israel, in peace, security and mutual recognition. She stressed it is also vital to maintain the ceasefire in Gaza, hailing mediation role of Egypt. More than 80 per cent of 2 million Gazans rely on humanitarian aid, with youth unemployment at 80 per cent. Fifteen-year-old children have now witnessed five devastating cycles of conflict, she stressed, calling on the United Nations and international partners to intensify efforts to support the recovery and reconstruction process in the Gaza Strip. She further urged the Palestinian and Israeli authorities to intensify cooperation in the economic, health and service sectors to improve the lives of Palestinians, especially refugee communities, underlining the important role that civil society actors can play in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She condemned all unilateral steps that hinder efforts to achieve a two-State solution — particularly the settlement activities in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, in clear violation of international law and of Council resolutions. It is further crucial to safeguard the status quo in Jerusalem. Diplomacy is the best way to resolve the issue, she stated.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said that the Council’s immediate priority is to ensure that the ceasefire in Gaza holds and that the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings remain open for the movement of goods and people. However, a new escalation is inevitable without a paradigm shift and the resumption of a genuine political process. On that point, she stressed that a strictly economic approach — one that does not restore a political horizon — will not bring stability to the region. Unilateral measures must end, which involves the cessation of settlement activities, demolitions and evictions. Further, she called on Israel to abandon projects concerning the “E1” zone and urged respect for the status quo of holy sites. Also expressing concern over Israeli raids targeting Palestinian non-governmental organizations, she stressed that a free, dynamic civil society is vital for promoting democratic values and implementing a two-State solution.
MARTIN KIMANI (Kenya) said that addressing Gaza’s isolation from the wider regional and global economy will be critical for the peace, security and stability of the broader Middle East region. On this, he welcomed Israel’s recent decision to increase the work-permit quota for Palestinians in Gaza and to reopen the Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings. Turning to UNRWA, he pointed out that, while the Agency continues to play a key role in facilitating critical health, education, social protection, microfinance and other services to the Palestinian population, its fiscal situation remains dire. He therefore urged — in addition to fulfilling pledges to ensure adequate, predictable funding for the Agency — strengthened efforts to identify areas of cooperation between UNRWA and other peacebuilding and development entities. Confidence-building measures in the areas of commerce and security between Israeli and Palestinian authorities “speak to what is immediately practical in the context of an elusive peace process”, he added, but underscored that these are not a substitute for a resumed political process and dialogue between both parties.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) reiterated the call on all parties to show restraint and refrain from unilateral actions that could lead to the resumption of hostilities. Noting the humanitarian and economic situations in the Palestinian territories remain critical, she cited the unprecedented financial crisis facing the Palestinian Authority, and the budgetary problems of UNRWA — underscoring the urgency which the international community faces. She noted Israel has allowed more workers to enter, a sign of détente. She reaffirmed commitment to a two-State solution on the basis of the 1967 borders and for a real and lasting peace, based on respect for the principles agreed upon by the parties and on the application of international law. Citing the essential role of all States in the sub-region, she further noted the recent visit of President Mahmoud Abbas to Türkiye after the resumption of diplomatic relations with Israel. The normalization of relations between Israel and the Arab countries should contribute to the peace process in the Middle East, and thus respond to the legitimate needs and aspirations of the Palestinian and Israeli peoples.
ALICIA GUADALUPE BUENROSTRO MASSIEU (Mexico), while noting that the ceasefire is holding, called for a comprehensive investigation to be conducted to clarify who bears responsibility for recent civilian deaths. Additionally, despite the reopening of border crossings and the increasing number of work permits granted, she stressed that the situation in the Gaza Strip remains critical and called for an end to the blockade. Turning to UNRWA, she said that the Agency is essential to meet humanitarian needs, conduct reconstruction work and supply basic services to the Palestinian people, but pointed out that a chronic financial deficit undermines the Agency’s ability to meet these needs. She went on to note the decision by several European nations to continue cooperating with six Palestinian civil society organizations considering the lack of evidence regarding such organizations’ ties with terrorism and called for a cessation of harassment against these organizations. “A democratic State must not carry out actions that reduce civic space,” she added.
JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom) welcomed the two-year anniversary of the Abraham Accords, a historic milestone towards the goal of shared prosperity and peace throughout the region, and called for the parties to make every effort to sustain the ceasefire in Gaza. He condemned the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on 13 August, as well as all acts of terrorism, reiterating unwavering commitment to Israel’s security. Noting the record number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces this year, he urged that State to show restraint in the use of live ammunition, voicing concern over the Government’s decision last year to designate six Palestinian non-governmental organizations as terrorist organizations. Civil society organizations play an important role in upholding human rights and democracy and they must be able to operate freely in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. He called on the Israeli authorities to halt plans to advance evictions at Khan al Ahmar and on the “E1” settlement plan, further noting that demolitions cause unnecessary suffering and in all but exceptional circumstances are contrary to international law. He noted that the United Kingdom approved a new multi-year funding agreement for UNRWA and will contribute £15 million this year. The situation on the ground demonstrates the urgent need for a two-State solution ensuring a safe and secure Israel, living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State based on 1967 lines, with Jerusalem the shared capital of both States.
FELIX AKOM NYARKU (Ghana), while noting that his country is conscious of Israel’s security concerns, expressed concern over the dire humanitarian situation and incidence of human-rights abuses in parts of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Further, the raiding and closure of the offices of six prominent Palestinian civil society organizations that are known to have contributed to human-rights protection in the Territory is worrying. Terrorist designations, if they are to be shared by the international community, require full justification. “To achieve peace requires deliberate actions in building trust,” he went on to say, urging the parties to de-escalate existing tensions and generate the needed political momentum for direct negotiations. All parties must comply fully with international humanitarian law, the Charter of the United Nations and relevant resolutions, and Israel — as an occupying Power — has a responsibility to protect the civilian population, guarantee access for humanitarian assistance to the vulnerable and facilitate the free movement of humanitarian workers throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he added.
TRINE SKARBOEVIK HEIMERBACK (Norway) stressed that escalations have consequences, with 17 children killed and 151 injured in Gaza during the hostilities earlier this month. She condemned all acts of terror, including the attack on Israeli civilians in Jerusalem on 14 August, as everyone deserves to live in security. Citing the role of civil society organizations, she stressed that the information Israel has provided does not sufficiently justify designating some of them as “terror organizations”. Norway will convene the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee ministerial meeting in the margins of the General Assembly on 22 September, to help build the foundations for the Palestinian state. Its multi-level work must also include Palestinian leaders contributing to strengthening the legitimacy and accountability of the Palestinian Authority. Noting the continued ability of UNRWA to serve its functions also remains crucial for regional stability, she voiced concern over the warnings of yet another looming financing crisis. The international community must renew efforts to mobilize resources, provide flexible financing, and put the Agency on a more stable financial footing. She further reiterated the call for increased efforts to prepare for negotiations towards a political settlement, as a two-State solution — based on the 1967 lines — is the only viable way to ensure peace and security for both Israelis and Palestinians.
CÁIT MORAN (Ireland) welcomed the holding ceasefire and the lifting of additional restrictions on crossings into the Gaza Strip, but expressed concern over the potential for another major escalation as tensions remain high in the West Bank. “We know what is needed to protect civilians in Gaza,” she said, calling for a permanent ceasefire and the lifting of the blockade in line with resolution 1860 (2009). Further, continued support for UNRWA is vital. Expressing concern over the alarming increase in Palestinian civilian fatalities in the West Bank resulting from the use of live ammunition by Israeli forces, she called on that country to refrain from using excessive force and for those responsible for violations to be held accountable. She went on to underscore that Israeli raids on six Palestinian civil society organizations on 18 August — and the measures that followed — represent a “worrying reduction of space for civil society in the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. Ireland has not received any information from Israel that would justify reviewing its policy towards those organizations, and she expressed serious concern over the misuse of counter-terror legislation to reduce civil society space in the Territory.
RUCHIRA KAMBOJ (India) urged the parties to strictly abide by the ceasefire agreement, noting Israel’s efforts to resume the movement of people from Gaza and the entry of humanitarian goods and fuel. She expressed deep concern over developments in the West Bank and Jerusalem, where violent attacks and the killing of civilians have continued during the reporting period, along with acts of destruction and demolition. The historical and legal status quo at Jerusalem’s holy places must be respected and upheld, she stressed, also citing acts of terror and incidents of violence in West Bank and Israel. She urged the parties to refrain from unilateral measures that vitiate conditions necessary for promoting peace. Citing the UNRWA budget crisis, she noted that India has increased its annual financial contribution, contributing $20 million since 2018 and pledging $5 million for this year — half of which has already been released. Noting the absence of direct negotiations is not conducive to securing long-term peace, she called for an early return to the political dialogue process by launching credible direct negotiations. India has consistently called for direct peace negotiations between Israel and Palestine towards a two-State solution, taking into account the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people for Statehood and Israel’s legitimate security concerns, she noted.
ZHANG JUN (China), Council President for August, speaking in his national capacity, said the conflict in Gaza has led to hundreds of civilian casualties, plunging the situation to the brink of war. He noted that UNRWA has overcome many difficulties, and the path of recovery for Gaza is a long and tortuous one, calling for strong international community support, and for Israel to facilitate the entry of supplies into Gaza and lift its blockade. Condemning all indiscriminate attacks on civilians, he called for investigations into violence by Israeli security forces, noting there has been no credible explanation for the death of an Al Jazeera journalist over 100 days ago. Recent Israeli actions against non-governmental organizations are a cause of concern. He noted that the international community must rise above piecemeal crisis management to and return settlement of the Palestinian question to right track. Israel and Palestine will remain neighbours, he stressed, and basing one’s security on the insecurity of the other will only aggravate mistrust and trap everyone in an endless cycle of violence. The occupying Power must protect the safety of people in occupied territories, while settlement activities violate Palestine’s right to self-determination. Every inch of expansion is a new obstacle to a two-State solution, he stressed, calling for peaceful negotiations and advancement of a two-State solution on all fronts, as the situation has been dragging on for 70 years. He called for harmonious coexistence between Arab and Jewish nations.