Violence in Middle East Increased Despite Major Religious Observances, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council, Urging Two-State Solution
Even as the holy days of Eid al-Fitr, Passover and Easter overlapped around the world, violence erupted in the holy sites of Jerusalem, the United Nations senior official in charge of the Israel-Palestine peace process told the Security Council today, urging all parties to recommit to the two-State solution.
Briefing the Council during its quarterly open debate on the topic, Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, detailed a series of shocking incidents that began on 4 and 5 April, when Israeli security forces entered the al-Qibli prayer hall of Al-Aqsa Mosque and forcibly removed Palestinians who were barricaded inside. Militants in Gaza and Lebanon fired dozens of rockets towards Israel, causing one injury and damage to property, while Israel Defense Forces carried out air strikes aiming at what they said were Hamas targets and damaging a children’s hospital and health clinic in Gaza.
Also pointing to continuing violence in the occupied West Bank and in Israel, he said many Palestinian casualties were incurred in Israeli military operations, while Huwwara remained a flashpoint for settler-related violence. Further, on 22 March, Israeli authorities announced tenders for 940 housing units in settlements in Area C and 89 units in East Jerusalem, he said, highlighting a heavily secured march on 10 April, with participation from Israeli Government Ministers, the members of the Knesset and 15,000 settlers and other Israeli civilians, to the illegal outpost of Evyatar in the northern West Bank.
Stressing that all settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace, he expressed concern about the violence and inflammatory actions of the past weeks. Condemning the indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centres, he also added that security forces must exercise maximum restraint. He then highlighted the significant fiscal and institutional challenges confronting the Palestinian Authority, as well as the funding shortfalls confronting the World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), which support the Palestinian people. The Palestinian economy must be given space to grow, he said, and noting the 19 March meeting between Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli, Palestinian and United States officials in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, he urged all stakeholders to re-engage in the pursuit of a two-State solution.
When the floor opened for discussion, the representative of Israel expressed outrage and sadness at the choice of the date for this open debate. 25 April is one of the most sacred days of the year for his country: Yom HaZikaron, or Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism, when every Israeli remembers those who paid the ultimate price while defending the Jewish homeland. He described it as a day of mourning when two sirens in the morning and evening bring all activity to a halt for two minutes of silence, while a television channel runs the names of every fallen hero. Noting that his delegation made numerous requests to reschedule but the Council refused to budge, he asked the Russian Federation, Security Council President for the month, what it would do if its soldiers were being singled out on 9 May, which is marked as Victory Day over the Nazis.
Describing his country as the only liberal democracy in the region, he said the portrayal of Israel as the root of all the region’s problems could not be further from the truth. The only reason the conflict has not been resolved, he stated, is that the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge the existence of Israel, the Jewish State, which they have proven by rejecting every peace initiative. Remembering the 28,468 fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror, he said: “I refuse to take part in this absurd farce.”
Palestine alone can no longer salvage the two-State solution, Riad Al-Malki, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, said, expressing concern about a political conflict transforming into a religious conflict, as settlers take over not only Palestinian land but also Israeli politics. “Soldiers and settlers wreak havoc in our streets and in our lives. No one is safe, anywhere, anytime,” he stressed, pointing to the double standards, selectivity and “schizophrenia” that ensure that Israel is not held accountable for breaching the law. Had the Charter of the United Nations been upheld, peace would have prevailed in Palestine a long time ago, he said.
Underscoring commitment to the two-State solution, he recalled the Nakba, 75 years ago, when almost overnight, two thirds of the Palestinian people became refugees. The support of UNRWA is vital and deserves protecting. As long as Israel reaps the benefits of its occupation, annexation and apartheid are the only reality Palestine is left with, he said, calling on the international community to “make the occupation costly”. Member States must recognize the State of Palestine, oppose the settlements and ban settlement products and trade, while sanctioning those who collect funds for settlements, he said, adding that settler groups must be listed as terrorist organizations.
Jordan’s delegate stressed the need to respect the legal and historic status quo of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. It is also crucial to ensure de-escalation and relaunch serious negotiations to achieve just and lasting peace on the basis of the two-State solution, he said, underscoring his Government’s commitment to cooperate with all partners to stop the drivers of violence as well as to restore a political horizon.
The representative of Egypt highlighted his delegation’s efforts, along with the United States and Jordan, to organize two meetings, in Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheik earlier in 2023, aimed at stopping the bloodshed. He called for the implementation of the measures agreed upon at both meetings, including a halt to settlement expansion and stop to demolition of Palestinian structures. Further, the historical and legal status of holy sites in East Jerusalem must be respected and international protection provided for the Palestinian people.
Noting that good faith dialogue remains the best path to stability, the representative of the United States commended the efforts taken by the parties, along with her country, Egypt and Jordan, to de-escalate tensions and build further trust through direct talks. She also condemned terrorist attacks and all violence against civilians, adding that the recent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants from Gaza and Lebanon increase the potential for further conflict. It is crucial to recognize Israel’s inherent right to self-defence, she stressed.
Lebanon’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of the Arab Group, said the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the arrest of hundreds of worshippers are provocative to Muslims around the world. Highlighting the extremist views of the current Israeli Government, she said it is inciting violence and called on all countries to recognize the State of Palestine. She also expressed support for the request of an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the occupation.
Several delegates expressed particular concern about Israel’s settlement policy, with the representative of the European Union, speaking in its capacity as observer, reiterating opposition to Israel’s settlement policy, and noting that the bloc would not recognize changes to the 1967 lines.
The Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People reiterated its calls for a complete and immediate halt to all settlement activities, stressing that all settlements are illegal, regardless of their status under Israeli law. He also strongly condemned the Israeli Finance Minister’s outrageous statements denying the existence of the Palestinian people and calling to “wipe out” Huwwara, a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank.
The representative of Namibia reminded delegates of his country’s lived experience of colonial occupation, adding that it is clear that Israel’s illegal colonial occupation constitutes apartheid. The occupying Power must be held accountable, he said, underscoring the Council’s responsibility to prevent genocide and protect a vulnerable people.
Pakistan’s delegate highlighted the discriminatory laws that dispossess Palestinians under Israeli occupation of their lands. He cited a recent statement by the special rapporteurs on adequate housing and the human rights of internally displaced persons, who said that such discrimination, along with the transfer of Israeli populations, represent “a prima facie war crime”. Apart from Israel’s illegal actions, he pointed out, the Middle East has witnessed several positive developments. Welcoming the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, and political measures to restore peace in Syria and Yemen, he expressed hope that the countries of the Arab world will soon succeed in ending strife and restoring peace across the Islamic world.
The meeting began at 10:06 a.m., suspended at 1:08 p.m., resumed at 3:03 p.m. and ended at 6:20 p.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, noting the recent Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr, which overlapped with Christian Easter and Jewish Passover, said this holy period, while mostly calm, regrettably also witnessed shocking incidents of violence at the holy sites. Overall, in the occupied West Bank, 17 Palestinians, including two children, were killed and 200 Palestinians, including 4 women and 38 children, were injured by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, and other incidents. Another 39 Palestinians were injured by Israeli settlers or other civilians, while four Israeli civilians were killed and 31 injured by Palestinians in shooting and ramming attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents.
Detailing the series of incidents that led to this situation, he said that on 4 and 5 April, confrontations erupted at the holy sites in Jerusalem when Israeli security forces entered the al-Qibli prayer hall of Al-Aqsa Mosque and forcibly removed Palestinians who were barricaded inside. The security forces deployed stun grenades, beat Palestinians with batons and rifles, and fired rubber-coated metal bullets, while some Palestinians inside the mosque lit and threw fireworks and stones. These developments came in the wake of provocative calls, he said, noting that Israeli extremists called for Jews to conduct ritual animal sacrifices at the holy sites, while Hamas and other armed Palestinian factions called for Palestinians to resist such acts. Israeli police blocked attempts to carry out the animal sacrifices in the compound, on 4 and 5 April, he said, noting that militants in Gaza and Lebanon fired dozens of rockets towards Israel, causing one injury and damage to property. Israel Defense Forces carried out air strikes in Gaza and southern Lebanon on 7 April, aiming at what they said were Hamas targets and damaging a children’s hospital and health clinic in Gaza.
Noting that Israeli authorities prohibited non-Muslim visits to the site for the last days of Ramadan, he also pointed to confrontations between Israeli police and Orthodox Christian worshippers. Also spotlighting other violence in the occupied West Bank and in Israel, he said many Palestinian casualties were incurred in Israeli military operations in Area A of the occupied West Bank and subsequent clashes, some of them armed. Detailing a number of incidents, he noted that on 16 March, undercover Israeli forces entered Jenin and shot and killed four Palestinians, including a 14-year-old bystander. On 7 April, two British-Israeli sisters, the youngest a 15-year-old girl, were killed in a shooting attack in the West Bank by perpetrators in a car with Palestinian plates. Noting high levels of settler-related violence, he said that Huwwara remained a flashpoint. Expressing concern about the violence and inflammatory actions over the past weeks, particularly the violent confrontations inside Al-Aqsa Mosque, he urged respect for the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem, in line with the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Condemning the indiscriminate launching of rockets towards Israeli population centres, he added that security forces must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life. “I am appalled that children continue to be the victims of violence,” he said, underscoring that children must never be the targets of violence.
On 19 March, he noted, senior Egyptian, Jordanian, Israeli, Palestinian and United States officials met in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, to further discuss understandings reached in Aqaba, Jordan on 23 February. In the spirit of those agreements, he called for the utmost restraint and to refrain from any steps that could exacerbate the situation, and to take concrete steps to implement the Joint Communiqués. Highlighting settlement-related developments, he said that on 22 March, Israeli authorities announced tenders for 940 housing units in settlements in Area C and 89 units in East Jerusalem. Further, on 10 April, Israeli Government Ministers and members of the Knesset joined over 15,000 settlers and other Israeli civilians in a heavily secured march to the illegal outpost of Evyatar in the northern West Bank, calling on the Government to legalize it under Israeli law. Reiterating that all settlements are illegal under international law and an obstacle to peace, he also noted that during the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 11 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and eight in East Jerusalem, displacing 14 Palestinians. The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain, he said, calling on Israeli authorities to end the displacement and eviction of Palestinians.
The Palestinian Authority continues to face significant fiscal and institutional challenges, he said, also pointing to the significant funding shortfalls confronting United Nations agencies, funds and programmes that provide support to the Palestinian people, such as World Food Programme (WFP) and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Expressing concern about the prolonged closure of schools and health clinics in the West Bank, he stressed the need to strengthen Palestinian institutions, improve governance and shore up the fiscal health of the Palestinian Authority. The Palestinian economy must be given the space to grow, he said, encouraging the parties to update their economic and administrative relationship. Urging Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to re-engage in the pursuit of peace with the aim of ending the occupation, he highlighted the need to pursue the vision of two States — Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable and sovereign Palestine, living side-by-side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both States.
RIAD AL-MALKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine, recalling that 75 years ago Palestinian people endured Nakba — dispossession and displacement of an entire nation - said that almost overnight two thirds of the people became refugees. “Seventy-five years later, the Nakba continues,” he added, calling for an end to the protracted refugee crisis. “Had the United Nations Charter been upheld, […] peace would have prevailed in Palestine a long time ago”, he stressed, underscoring that the reality on the ground is the result of failure and not fatality. Pointing out that double standards, selectivity, and “schizophrenia” undermine the authority of international law, he lamented that Israel is not being held accountable for breaching the law.
Acknowledging the support of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he underlined that this investment for the freedom of “one people and peace for all peoples” deserves protecting. Underscoring his commitment to the two-State solution, he expressed concern that Palestine can no longer salvage it. Settlers will not only take over Palestinian land but will take over Israeli politics and turn a political conflict into a religious conflict, he stressed, adding: “Soldiers and settlers wreak havoc in our streets and in our lives. No one is safe, anywhere, anytime.” As long as Israel reaps the benefits of its occupation, annexation and apartheid are the only reality Palestine is left with.. “Make the occupation costly and I can assure you it will come to an end”, he said. To this end, he encouraged Member States to recognize the State of Palestine, adding: “Why did you not wait for our approval to recognize Israel and need Israeli permission to recognize the State of Palestine?”
Recognizing that Member States oppose the settlements, he suggested they ban settlement products and trade, while sanctioning those who collect funds for settlements and advocate for them. He also urged the international community to list groups of settlers, who are killing and maiming, as terrorist organizations and take measures to roll back annexation and end occupation. “Mount a collective front to push for peace,” he stressed.
GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said that each time he steps into the Security Council Chamber, he mentally prepares himself to hear bias against his country — the only liberal democracy in the region. Yet today’s debate has crossed all lines, leaving him not only appalled and outraged, but saddened. He stressed that 25 April is one of most sacred days of the year for Israel: Yom HaZikaron, or Memorial Day for the Fallen Soldiers of the Wars of Israel and Victims of Actions of Terrorism, when every Israeli remembers those who paid the ultimate price while defending the Jewish homeland, a day of mourning when two sirens in the morning and evening bring all activity to a halt for two minutes of silence, while a television channel runs the names of every fallen hero. While his delegation had made numerous requests to reschedule the meeting, the Council refused to budge, only further proving what Israelis feel about “this biased organization”, he stated — asking what the Russian Federation Security Council President would do if the 15-member organ was singling out its soldiers on 9 May, marked as Victory Day over the Nazis.
Instead, he said the Council was falsely painting Israel as the root of all the region’s problems, which could not be further from the truth. The only reason the conflict has not been resolved, he stated, is that the Palestinians refuse to acknowledge the existence of Israel, the Jewish State, which they have proven by rejecting every peace initiative and inciting to terror and brainwashing their children to hate and murder Jews. Meanwhile, he stated that the true threat to the region and world — “the Ayatollah regime in Iran”, he said — will, as usual, not even be a footnote in the discussion. Citing Iran as the number one State sponsor of terror, he warned it has never been closer to becoming a nuclear power, but its destructive and dangerous advancement will likely not even be mentioned in the Council, let alone condemned. Commemorating the 28,468 fallen Israeli soldiers and victims of terror, he said: “I refuse to take part in this absurd farce”, instead reciting the names of this year’s victims of terror. If the Council refuses to respect their memory, he announced his delegation would refuse to listen to lies and condemnation, and Israel would not participate.
SERGEY LAVROV, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and Council President for April, speaking in his national capacity, said the Middle East in undergoing a huge transformation which is evolving in a very controversial way. In this context, increased efforts to politically and diplomatically resolve conflicts are needed, he observed, adding that his Government intends to develop interaction with countries in the region both bilaterally and through contacts with the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), the League of Arab States and the Gulf Cooperation Council. Stressing the need to ensure collective security, he welcomed restored relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, with the mediation of China. Further, thanks to the Riyadh initiative, the international community is seeing steps to help speed up the settlement of the conflict in Yemen.
However, the Palestinian issue remains outside of these positive changes, he noted, sounding alarm over the unprecedented growth of tensions and violence in the area of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The common denominators for the Middle East settlement are to stop the threat of yet another spiral of armed hostilities and to provide for a political horizon for a resumed peace process. The events in the West Bank, Gaza Strip, East Jerusalem and the separation line between Israel, Lebanon and Syria have increased attention to a very dangerous level. Since the beginning of 2023, as a result of clashes related to the holy sites, more than 100 Palestinians perished and thousands were wounded. The number of Israeli victims is also growing. He voiced concern over the shelling of the Aleppo airport, through which humanitarian assistance has been provided to those impacted by the destructive earthquake of 6 February. The high pace of settlement advancement, land appropriation and demolition of houses remains the main reasons for regular outbursts of violence between the Palestinians and Israelis. The symptoms of the worsening situation must be removed by the absolute imperative that a two-State solution has no alternative. To break the vicious cycle of violence and radicalization, negotiations are crucial. However, the United States and the European Union continue destructive attempts to replace real peace with “some economic half-measures”, he said, adding that the non-implementation of the Council resolution constitutes a violation of the Charter of the United Nations. The United States and its allies make sure that every time a veto is used at the Council, the topic is brought to the General Assembly for discussion; despite being openly targeted against the Russian Federation, his Government does not object to this practice as it can easily repeat the same arguments for using the veto at the Assembly. Americans and Europeans are using the Ukrainian topic to distract attention from the Middle East and other regions of the Global South, he said, warning against double standards and “the colonial instincts of the West”.
KHALIFA SHAHEEN, Minister for State of the United Arab Emirates, emphasized that the special status of the holy city of Jerusalem must not be compromised. The historical and legal status quo, as well as the Hashemite custodianship of the holy sites, must be respected in word and in practice. He said he believed that Israel’s decision to prevent settlers from storming Al-Aqsa Mosque during the last 10 days of Ramadan prevented further confrontations. He noted that there are almost 700,000 settlers in 279 illegally built settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, of which 147 are outposts, according to the United Nations. “These numbers represent alarming facts on the ground and highlight the urgent need to protect the two-State solution,” he said, reiterating his call on Israel to immediately cease all settlement activities and uphold its responsibilities in accordance with international law, including international humanitarian law.
He urged the international community to drop the complacency exhibited over the past years. “The current situation requires maintaining pressure to reduce escalation on all fronts, continuing calls for exercising maximum restraint, and avoiding unilateral steps,” he said, adding that the momentum generated by the Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh meetings should be continued. The main responsibility for ending violence lies with the parties that initially instigated it. The international community and the Council also have the responsibility to reject any violations of international law and Council resolutions. The United Arab Emirates will continue to support all regional and international efforts meant to achieve these goals. His Government will continue its unwavering solidarity with the Palestinian people and their legitimate right to establish an independent Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France), condemning all violence against civilians, whether targeting Israelis or Palestinians, said this cycle of violence will only end when Israeli settlements end. “France will never recognize illegal annexation of territories,” he stressed, calling on Israel to fulfil the commitments undertaken by its authorities in Aqaba. Inaction can only lead to the conflict being regionalized, he said, condemning the indiscriminate rocket fire against Israel from the Gaza Strip, south Lebanon and Syria. The Council has a responsibility to defend the two-State solution and ensure compliance with its resolutions, he said, also highlighting the treaty signed by Israel with its neighbours and the need to respect the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. The violence that took place in the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound is alarming, he said, also noting the growing pressure on the Christian communities in Jerusalem. Welcoming the efforts of the United States, Egypt and Jordan, he added that it is essential to restore the political horizon.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), recalling that the Council is meeting for the eighth time in 2023 to discuss the Palestinian situation, expressed concern about incidents at the holy sites and consequent violence. “Attacking and striking pilgrims is an unacceptable behavior,” he said, noting that holy sites must be respected as spaces of reflection and peace. Reiterating a call to respect the status quo of Jerusalem’s holy sites, he also deplored the launch of rockets and acts of violence, while calling upon the parties to protect civilians. “Revenge is not justice. Revenge does not lead to peace,” he stressed, adding that the parties should avoid words and deeds that incite and provoke, while encouraging their leaders to demonstrate responsibility and self-control. To this end, the high-level meetings in Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh constitute a positive development, he said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) expressed concern over policies and actions of the Israeli Government that risk complicating efforts to seek the two-State solution. Intentions to annex territory in the West Bank, legalize illegal settler outposts, and demolish Palestinian-owned properties detract from efforts for a political solution. While welcoming recent efforts by China, Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates and the United States in helping to diffuse tensions, he cited a worsening, volatile security situation. Unequivocally condemning attempts by extremists on both sides to carry out acts of provocation, resulting in open confrontations in an interminable cycle of violence, he further condemned the recent spate of terrorist attacks against Israel. Noting the dire humanitarian situation of the Palestinian people due to the imposed siege and use of excessive force by Israeli security forces, he encouraged further financial and relevant support for UNRWA. He urged both Israel and Palestine to jointly establish a mechanism that will help improve economic conditions of the Palestinian people. The unending suffering of the Palestinian people as well as the persistent security concerns of Israel compel the Council to be steadfast in the pursuit of resolving the Palestinian question.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), condemning terrorist attacks and all violence against civilians, underscored the imperative for all parties to exercise restraint and prevent the escalation of violence. She further condemned the recent rocket attacks by Palestinian militants from Gaza and Lebanon as well as attacks launched from Syria which endangered civilians. Using Lebanon as a launch pad for rocket attacks against Israel puts the Lebanese people at risk and increases the potential for further conflict, she cautioned. Recognizing Israel’s ability to exercise its inherent right to self-defence, she noted that good faith dialogue remains the best path to stability. In this context, she commended the efforts taken by the parties, along with the United States, Egypt and Jordan, to de-escalate tensions and build further trust through direct talks and called on the parties to fully implement these commitments. She further voiced concern over the financial constraints the Palestinian people face, urging partners to take actions to meet needs on the ground.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said his delegation believed preserving the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem is very important. Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida stressed the importance of Jordan’s special role of custodianship during this month’s summit meeting with King Abdullah and talked by telephone with the Israel President Isaac Herzog, in which he expressed his concern over unilateral measures by both sides. “Any unilateral actions or provocations that aggravate an already tense situation are unacceptable,” he said. Japan strongly condemns rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, including the terrorist attack in Tel Aviv on 7 April. The settlement activities of Israel in the West Bank are very concerning, and it is imperative the Israeli Government cease their settlement activities, demolitions and evictions. The settlement activities and expansion of settlements violate international law and go against relevant Council resolutions. The international community should play an active role in supporting the parties to achieve a peaceful solution. Last week, Japan hosted the Group of Seven (G-7) Foreign Ministers’ meeting, in which the forum called on Israelis and Palestinians to take steps to build trust to realize a two-State solution. He reiterated Japan’s enduring commitment to support Palestinians in need, including through UNRWA, for which Japan is among the largest donors.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), expressing concern about the unprecedented levels of violence, provocations and unilateral actions that jeopardize remediation between Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory, condemned all acts of terrorism, including rocket fire from Gaza and South Lebanon. To this end, she reiterated Israel’s rights of self-defense, yet condemned its use of force. She also voiced concern about the settlements’ legal amendments and policies that facilitate fracturing of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Recalling that the repeal of the 2005 Disengagement Law and transfer of the territory’s governance to a civilian Administration exacerbated conflict, she underscored the importance of democratic elections, urging the Palestinian factions to engage in the reconciliation process. She expressed concern about the Palestinian Authority’s political and fiscal situation, urging the international community to return to a political horizon. In this regard, she welcomed attempts to re-establish dialogue, including at the Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh meetings.
BARBARA WOODWARD(United Kingdom), stressing that de-escalation remains imperative, condemned indiscriminate rocket fire into Israel from terror factions in Gaza, Syria and Lebanon. So far in 2023, 19 Israelis have been killed in acts of terrorism and 90 Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, she noted, adding that the former includes three British-Israeli nationals. All parties must cease unilateral actions which diminish prospects for peace, she said, condemning Israeli security forces’ raids on Al-Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, injuring many worshippers, and calling on all parties to respect its historic status quo and Hashemite custodianship. Applauding those laying foundations for dialogue, notably Jordan, Egypt and the United States, she added that both Israelis and the Palestinians must respect commitments made, including Israel’s commitment to suspend settlement advancement. Her country will work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority and international partners to bring an end to the terrorism that Israel faces and the destructive cycle of violence that continues, she said.
ADRIAN DOMINIK HAURI (Switzerland) noted that major religious holidays in the region were marked by violence and called for easing tensions in the holy sites, while taking concrete steps to support the peaceful coexistence of all communities. Recognizing positive developments in Israel’s issuance of exit permits to the Gaza Strip for day labourers in 2022, he said 60 per cent of Gazans depend on humanitarian aid. To this end, he deplored the fact that 200 patients did not receive exit permits for medical aid in February and called on the occupying Power to ensure the basic needs of Gaza’s population. While Israel is entitled to impose restrictions on the entry of certain goods, their consequences for the Gazan population must be proportionate to ensuring security, he added, urging Israel to lift the closure imposed for 16 years. Recalling that 21 children died in violent circumstances in 2023, he urged all parties to prevent violations against young people.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) cited the 4 April raid by Israeli forces inside the Haram al-Sharif mosque, describing it as a grave incident in line with violations of the historic status quo of religious places, which must be respected and preserved. The recent firing of rockets from Gaza, southern Lebanon and Syria towards Israel, and shelling by Israeli forces in southern Lebanon and on the Gaza Strip, are reminders of the regional scope of the conflict. Noting that 2023 is set to equal the macabre record of 2022 regarding the number of civilian victims, including women and children, he urged both Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. He cited the sensitive issue of the return of human remains to Palestinian and Israeli families, as it concerns respect for funeral rites, which are integral to both cultures. Pointing to the volatile security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory due to expanding illegal settlements and demolitions of Palestinian homes, he said it is essential to implement Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). It is obvious that a complex situation cannot be resolved by unilateral initiatives but by constructive, good faith dialogue, he said.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said that “the simmering conflict between Israel and Palestine seems to be boiling over”, descending into dangerous confrontation. He expressed deep concern over the increase of tensions between Israel and Palestine that leaves little prospect for a lasting peace, adding that the cost of this conflict has been dire. The most worrying factors are the high numbers of deaths, injuries, imprisonments and land occupations, which unfold on a daily basis. Political will and a strong sense of commitment by the two parties is the most crucial element. Drawing attention to the prevailing situation of violence in the holy places of Jerusalem, he deplored the desacralization of the holy places, in particular the invasion of Al-Haram Al-Sharif, and called on Israel — the occupying Power — to refrain from these acts. He encouraged both regional and international initiatives aimed at finding a negotiated settlement of the conflict, also calling for increased support for UNRWA and the World Food Programme.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) said access to religious sites is an essential component of freedom of religion or belief, condemning actions that violated the historic status quo of holy sites. The current overall situation, characterized by ongoing violence and grave violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, should not be normalized. One crucial element is that Israel must immediately cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem. The continued expansion of settlements flagrantly violates international law, including Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). All acts of violence against civilians must cease, he said, also condemning settler-related violence, disproportionate use of force by security forces and acts of terror, which are never justifiable. The Israeli authorities must provide adequate protection to the Palestinian civilian population, as required by international law, and investigate and bring to justice perpetrators of violence. A third crucial element is improving living conditions of the Palestinian people and restoring their hope for a better future. Economic growth may also contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, a crucial step towards stabilization and resumption of a genuine dialogue. In addition, Palestinian refugees should not be forgotten, he said, stressing the need for increased, predictable and sustainable support for UNRWA.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), noting that the situation in the Middle East remains marked by dangerous and unsustainable violence, expressed unreserved condemnation of terrorist attacks against Israel. Noting the 19 people who died, including four European nationals, he expressed support for that country’s right to self-defence. Also expressing concern about the 90 Palestinian civilian casualties, including innocent women and children, he deplored the violence perpetrated by Israeli settlers and called for accountability. Calling for the full implementation of international humanitarian law, he added that unilateral actions undermine trust between the parties when it is already in short supply. Underscoring that settlements are illegal under international law, he called on both sides to exercise maximum restraint. Inflammatory rhetoric and incitements to violence are unacceptable. Calling on both parties to implement the commitments made in Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheikh, he said the heightened tensions in and around the holy sites reveal the complexity of the situation. Political and religious leaders from all sides must reject all provocations, he said, noting the record number of Muslim worshippers who visited the Al-Aqsa Mosque.
ZHANG JUN (China) said more must be invested in promoting settlement of the Palestinian question. Palestine and Israel are neighbours that cannot be moved away from each other, he said, adding: “The security of one party cannot be based on the insecurity of the other.” To this end, equal attention must be given to the security concerns of both sides. Calling for the termination of unilateral actions to change the status quo, he said settlement activities are illegal and urged Israel to cease them. Underscoring the importance of promoting Palestine’s economic development, he said the movement of people and goods’ restrictions must be lifted and development conditions for the Palestinian community in the West Bank created. He reiterated China’s humanitarian and development assistance, noting that it will increase UNRWA’s support. Calling for the resumption of peace talks, he recalled that Saudi Arabia and Iran have recently resumed diplomatic relations through dialogue, setting an example for diffusing differences by such means. Moreover, China’s State Counsellor and Foreign Minister held separate phone calls with Palestine’s and Israel’s Foreign Ministers, he recalled, while reiterating his country’s readiness to facilitate peace talks.
KAIRAT UMAROV, First Deputy Foreign Minister of Kazakhstan, called on Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from all actions that could undermine the advancement of the two-State solution. He suggested dialogue resume between all sides in the conflict, accompanied by new measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Gaza and build confidence and reduce further threats. “This is essential because Gaza remains an integral part of the two-State solution, in keeping with relevant and key UN resolutions,” he said. Acknowledging that Israel and Palestine are members of the Conference on Interaction and Confidence-Building Measures in Asia (CICA), he called on the parties to use the Conference’s multilateral cooperation mechanisms to bring the positions of these countries closer.
Kazakhstan reiterates the urgent need to support the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he said, as it mitigates the deteriorating situation in Gaza and promotes the area’s long-term development. The current situation is deepening poverty, unemployment and, consequently, chronic economic regression, which will fuel further conflict. The deterioration of the security and socioeconomic situations across the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be reversed. Kazakhstan’s long-standing policy is to fully support the creation of an independent State of Palestine, co-existing peacefully with Israel within the 1967 borders. He joined others in reinforcing the two-State solution as the only viable option for a durable peace that can be reached by dialogue, in keeping with the Charter and relevant Council resolutions.
GERARDO PEÑALVER PORTAL, First Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, aligned himself with statements to come by the Non-Aligned Movement and Committee for the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. He cited a climate of violence exacerbated by the Israeli raid on the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which flagrantly violates international norms and wounds the religious sentiment of the Palestinians. He rejected the Israeli military aggression and occupation of Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, the forced displacement of Palestinian families and the construction and expansion of Israeli settlements. Stressing that the United States is responsible for repeatedly obstructing Security Council action to achieve a just and lasting solution, he condemned its unilateral recognition of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and establishment of its diplomatic representation there, disrespecting its historical status. He further reiterated the appeal for Israel’s unconditional withdrawal from the Syrian Golan and the end of external interference in Syria. Voicing support for the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, he rejected the United States’ unilateral withdrawal from the agreement.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) stressed the importance of regional and international efforts to stop the deterioration in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, to ensure de-escalation by putting an end to all measures that stand in the way of de-escalation, and to relaunch serous negotiations to achieve just and lasting peace on the basis of the two-State solution. Voicing concern over settlement activities, confiscation of land and evictions of Palestinians from their homes, he stressed the need to respect the legal and historic status quo of the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem. He stressed that his Government will cooperate with all partners to stop the drivers of violence as well as to restore a political horizon towards achieving a comprehensive and lasting peace.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), aligning himself with the Arab Group, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the Non-Aligned Movement, criticized continued violations by Israel, including the expansion of settlements, demolition of Palestinian structures and killing of unarmed civilians, including children. His delegation worked with the United Nations and Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan in two meetings, held in Aqaba and Sharm El-Sheik earlier this year, to stop the bloodshed. These meetings resulted in recommendations, but calm has not been restored, as the measures have yet to be implemented. Holy sites were violated during the holy days of three religions in violation of international law and Security Council resolutions. The cycle of violence must end and efforts made towards a two-State solution, he said, stressing the need to implement measures agreed upon at both meetings, including a halt to settlement expansion and demolition of Palestinian structures. The historical and legal status of holy sites in East Jerusalem must be respected and international protection provided for the Palestinian people. Moreover, the blockade of the Gaza Strip must be lifted, UNRWA supported, peace negotiations restarted and the role of the Quartet revived.
JEANNE MRAD (Lebanon), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, condemned the violence committed by Israeli security forces, adding that the storming of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the arrest of hundreds of worshippers during Ramadan are provocative to Muslims around the world. It is crucial to respect the legal and historical status quo of the holy sites, she said, adding that the area of 144 dunams is a place of worship exclusively for Muslims and Jordan has the sole authority for managing the affairs of the mosque and regulating entry therein. Israel has no sovereignty over the holy sites of East Jerusalem, she stressed, condemning all attempts to alter their demographic character and Arab identity. Also pointing to the extremist views of the current Israeli Government, she said Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians, killing their children, and storming their homes, while also perpetrating deliberate attacks on health services and journalists.
The new Israeli Government, she added, is inciting violence and is ignoring all legal and humanitarian norms in defiance of the international community. Calling on the Council to bear its responsibility and ensure the implementation of its resolutions, she added that Israel continues to confiscate Palestinian land and structures, displacing original residents, including in the city of Jerusalem. Calling for urgent international protection for the Palestinian people in light of the increasing Israeli aggression, she condemned arbitrary detention and said Israel must release all prisoners and cease its policy of house arrests. A comprehensive peace is only possible with the end of the occupation and the establishment of a Palestinian State, she said, calling on all countries to recognize the State of Palestine and ensure that it can become a full-fledged member of the United Nations. Also expressing support for the request of an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the occupation, she called on all counties to provide written and oral submissions to the Court. She also condemned the wall built by Israel on Lebanese territory and expressed gratitude to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), adding that its presence ensures stability and avoids escalation along the Blue Line.
ANTONIO MANUEL REVILLA LAGDAMEO (Philippines), recognizing that resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is key to the region’s peace and stability, encouraged dialogue and negotiations. To this end, he reaffirmed his country’s support for the creation of the State of Palestine and the two-State solution. Commending UNRWA’s efforts to respond to the humanitarian needs of the affected populations, including those sheltered in the Agency’s schools and the designated emergency shelters in Gaza, he called for its continued support. Encouraging the parties to build trust and confidence, he urged them to refrain from violence and pursue peace. He also called on all stakeholders, including the Middle East Quartet, to help negotiate diplomatic outcomes, noting that steps outlined in Aqaba could be an important start. Further, he welcomed the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries with a view of reaching a comprehensive settlement in the Middle East peace process.
SEDAT ÖNAL (Türkiye) noted that the conflict between Israel and Palestine is going through one of its most difficult episodes, strongly denouncing the raiding of the Al-Aqsa mosque and stressing that attacks on worshippers and their detentions during the month of Ramadan are unacceptable. Recalling that Türkiye engaged in intensive talks before and during the month — particularly with Israeli counterparts at every level — he expressed regret that the warnings went unheeded. Stressing that illegal settlements, demolitions and settler violence have reached unprecedented levels, he noted that this could result in catastrophic consequences if left unchecked. It is urgent to address establishment of a Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, and to support the financial, economic and security situations of Palestinians. Recalling the devastating 6 February earthquakes in Türkiye and Syria, he noted their impact on Palestinian refugees in Syria and Lebanon. Hailing the quick situational mobilization of UNRWA, despite its financial constraints, he called on the international community to support the agency.
NACIM GAOUAOUI (Algeria) warned that killings and arrests are part of the daily existence of the Palestinians who continue living under an apartheid system which denies them their most basic rights, including the right to freedom, religion and life. Meanwhile, the occupying Power is “beyond any accountability”. Urging for multilateral and regional mechanisms to provide support and protection to the Palestinians, he stressed the importance of making Palestine a full-fledged Member of the United Nations, given that the Palestinian authorities have all attributes of a State. The silence of the international community, given the suffering of the Palestinian people and the crimes perpetrated by the occupying authorities, contributes to Israel’s advancements on the ground, and, therefore, undermines the possibility of a political solution. Also, he rejected any attempt to change the historic or legal status of the holy sites.
OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) said this meeting is happening at a critical juncture, with escalating tension in Jerusalem due to the stalemate of the Middle East peace process and the desecration of holy sites. Systemic violations of international law and Council actions as well as provocations of the Palestinian people has only exacerbated the situation, he said, noting that Israel assaulted people during the holy month of Ramadan. He condemned all violations that lead to an exacerbation of the situation of the Palestinian people. The Committee on Jerusalem is forging ahead with its work, he added, reiterating Morocco’s full solidarity with the Palestinian people and its support for a two-State solution that includes the establishment of an independent Palestinian State based on the 1967 borders. The Palestinian question is key to the region’s stability and efforts should be made to revive negotiations.
MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), condemning Israel’s brutal crackdown on innocent worshippers at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site, during the month of Ramadan, said that Israel’s actions violate Council resolutions as well as the right to freedom of worship, enshrined in article 18 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. International law unequivocally restricts Israel from seizing land and building settlements in occupied territories, he said, also noting that Palestinians under Israeli occupation continue to be dispossessed of their lands on the basis of discriminatory laws. Citing a recent statement by the special rapporteurs on adequate housing and the human rights of internally displaced persons, he said that such practices, along with the transfer of Israeli populations, is a deliberate attempt to colonize territory, “a prima facie war crime”. Welcoming the Assembly resolution seeking the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the occupation, he added that the Council will have to adopt further measures once it receives that opinion. Apart from Israel’s illegal actions, he pointed out, the Middle East has witnessed several positive developments recently. Welcoming the normalization of relations between Saudi Arabia and Iran, he commended the successful efforts of China to make this historic diplomatic breakthrough. Also welcoming the political measures to restore peace in Syria and Yemen, he expressed hope that the countries of the Arab world will soon succeed in ending strife and restoring peace across the Islamic world.
AMIR SAIED IRAVANI (Iran) said that, since the beginning of 2023, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed, including 21 children. Moreover, more than 5,000 people, including 31 women and 170 children, are being held in Israel’s jails, he added, pointing to a pattern of systematic violations. Recalling attacks on worshippers during Ramadan, he expressed regret that the Council remained silent. The conflict can only be resolved through ending the occupation, he stressed, calling for the establishment of Palestine’s sovereignty over its entire territory. Urging the Council to end the occupation, he said: “Mere sympathy is no longer sufficient.” He supported the country’s right to resist the “apartheid regime’s” oppression, while emphasizing the importance and legal nature of the advisory opinion. “The representative of the Israeli regime abused this Chamber and resorted to lies and fabrications to make unfounded claims against my country,” he said, adding that such claims do not merit a response.
BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, reiterated his opposition to Israel’s settlement policy, noting that the bloc would not recognize changes to the 1967 lines. Recalling that the Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia and the Arab League’s Secretary-General agreed to explore ways to revive the two-State solution, he reaffirmed the European Union’s economic, political and security support. He also called on the Palestinian Authority to hold national elections, while urging all factions to engage in the reconciliation process. Palestinian civil society must be allowed by all parties to carry out its tasks, he said, adding that anti-terrorism legislation should not be used to undermine civil society and its work. In preparation for the ad hoc Liaison Committee in Brussels in May, he called for the implementation of the commitments made and acknowledged the crucial role of UNRWA.
Turning to the situation in Syria, he recalled that the President of the European Commission and Sweden’s Prime Minister co-hosted an international donor’s conference in Brussels to support Syria and Türkiye, affected by the earthquake. The European Union pledged €950 million in grants and allocated €100 million, out of which €75 million in humanitarian assistance. The bloc and its member States are the largest donors to the country, he added, noting they have provided €27.4 billion since 2011. Underscoring that a political solution is the only path to peace, he urged the Syrian regime to engage in a political transition. Commending Syria’s neighbouring countries for hosting refugees, he warned the regime against any further displacements. Further, he called on the regime to cooperate with the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and complete dismantling of its chemical programme. Emphasizing that the European Union-funded projects are designed to support those in need, he said the bloc will not fund early recovery efforts that could support social and demographic engineering.
DANG HOANG GIANG (Viet Nam) voiced deep concern over the escalating violence in the West Bank and Israel, noting that since the beginning of this year, 89 Palestinians have lost their lives, while 15 Israeli civilians have been killed. “If this disturbing trend continues, this would be the deadliest year since 2005,” he cautioned, urging all parties to exercise utmost restraint, maintain the status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and avoid unilateral measures. His Government is also greatly troubled by the intensified settlement activities, seizures and demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures. In recent months, the highest monthly number of demolished structures since April 2019 was recorded in East Jerusalem. Against this backdrop, he urged the international community to address the ongoing forced evictions and displacement of Palestinians in East Jerusalem and work towards preventing further escalation of conflicts. In addition, he continued, it is important to maintain access to essential services for Palestinian refugees, as well as ensure safety during religious events and ceremonies.
JOAQUÍN ALBERTO PÉREZ AYESTARÁN (Venezuela), associating himself with the statement to come by the Non-Aligned Movement, said the occupying Power — given the inaction of the international community and the passivity of the Security Council — continues to advance its policy of occupation and apartheid, as well as the commission of war crimes. In April — despite the occurrence of important dates for the Muslim, Jewish and Christian faiths — occupation forces attacked parishioners and the civilian population at the gates of sacred temples, in flagrant violation of their sanctity and the status quo. He cited United Nations reports that the occupying Power has no intention of ending the occupation; that its policies are geared towards taking full control of the Occupied Palestinian Territory; and that the first quarter of 2023 saw a record number of Palestinians killed by Israeli forces — four times higher than in 2022. He called for an end to the cycle of impunity that has only emboldened Israel to continue its crimes, and to bring to justice those responsible for so much pain and suffering.
MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) said that Israeli occupation forces have continuously been carrying out a pattern of killing and destruction in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Since the start of 2023, Israel has increased its military operations, he observed, strongly condemning the heinous attack in Nablus in February 2023 and the constant attacks, killing, ethnic cleansing and forcible transfer of Palestinians from their own land, most of which were done in broad daylight under the watch of this Council. He drew attention to the raid by Israeli occupying forces inside the Al-Aqsa Mosque Compound/Al-Haram Al-Sharif during the month of Ramadan, which resulted in hundreds of Palestinian worshippers injured and detained. Israel has been showing no respect for the decision of the Security Council and completely ignoring the international community’s legitimate call to implement the two-State solution. Accordingly, he underscored the need to ensure accountability and justice for Israel’s atrocities and human rights violations to end the culture of entrenched impunity. He also expressed concern that nearly 5,000 Palestinians — including 31 women and 170 children — are currently being arbitrarily and illegally imprisoned in Israeli jails and detention centres and that they are subjected to the most inhumane treatment.
MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), aligning herself with the Non-Aligned Movement, said her delegation is deeply concerned by the continuing levels of violence and grave attacks against Palestinians in recent months by Israeli settlers and Israeli occupation forces in the occupied Palestinian territory. As the occupying Power, Israel must abide by its legal obligation to ensure the protection, security and welfare of Palestinian civilians living under its occupation, in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law. Israel’s decision to continue with its settlement agenda in the northern West Bank is gravely concerning, as these settlements are illegal under international law. The Council must address Israel’s continuous disregard of international law, the Charter and Council resolutions. South Africa maintains that the selective application of international law undermines the effectiveness of collective responses to global security threats. The Council must strengthen and uphold its responsibility to ensure accountability when international law has been violated, she said, adding that Israel must be held accountable for the structural violence and suffering its occupation has inflicted on Palestinians. Her delegation is encouraged by the General Assembly’s decision to request an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice on “Israeli practices affecting the human rights of the Palestinian people in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”.
LUIS UGARELLI (Peru) said that heightened tensions and violence in East Jerusalem and several cities in the West Bank are very concerning for the international community, as is the escalation of all hostilities. Over the last few weeks there have been more acts of violence and unnecessary use of force in al-Sharif. He also rejected the launching of rockets against Israel, as this action fuels violence. He condemned all acts of violence no matter where they are from, stressing that unceasing provocations must be stopped. There should be a relaunching of the peace process, with the direct participation of Israel and Palestine and help from the Quartet. His delegation joins in the international call for full respect of the historical status of the holy sites in Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the centre of convergence for the three religions and the holy sites cannot be the scene of violence. His delegation supports efforts to resume a comprehensive approach to peace that persuades all parties to be flexible, transparently address their differences and seek areas of convergence.
ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia) said that, even though in this Chamber delegates speak loudly of respecting principles such as human rights and international law, the Council often stands idle, when the occupying Power implements apartheid-like policies and brutally beats up worshipers during the holy month of Ramadan. Calling for concrete steps to push for de-escalation of violence, he highlighted the need to implement the two-State solution. It is unacceptable that 75 years after the Nakba, the number of people in refugee camps continues to increase, he said, adding that Israel has expanded settlements, demolitions, confiscations of Palestinian property and the forcible removal of civilians. In the absence of the international community’s political will to return the Palestinians to their rightful home, it must continue to support the work of UNRWA and ensure its sustainable and predictable funding. Any new agenda for peace will be burdened by the inability to address the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, he said, expressing his country’s commitment to persevere towards international solidarity and concerted effort to ensure the just and lasting peace of the Palestinian people.
SARHAD SARDAR ABDULRAHMAN FATAH (Iraq), associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, underscored the importance of respecting the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, with the guardianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. To this end, he urged the Council to implement resolution 2334 (2016) and called on the occupying Power to end all unilateral measures. Recalling crimes committed by Israel’s army, he urged the international community to stop the bloodshed and adopt solutions enabling people live in dignity. Further, he rejected the desecration and “barbaric invasion” of the Al-Aqsa Mosque during the holy month of Ramadan.
BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), speaking on behalf of his country’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates and aligning himself with the statement to come from the Non-Aligned Movement, said the month of Ramadan annually witnesses an Israeli criminal escalation and aggressive practices against the Palestinian people that put all humanity to shame. It is unfortunate that the Council stands witness to these crimes against humanity and does not lift a finger, or is not allowed to do so. He stressed that Israel — the occupying Power — was and still is the only reason behind the emergence and continuation of the plight and tragedy of the Palestinian people. Noting that the crimes of the Israeli occupation in the Palestinian territories are inseparable from its practices in the occupied Syrian Golan since 1967, he cited Israel’s targeting of Aleppo International Airport on 22 March, which led to halting the United Nations delivery of humanitarian aid to those affected by the earthquake of 6 February. He further noted that the European Union delegation usually uses this meeting on the situation in the Middle East to raise issues related to the situation in Syria that are not related to the topic of the meeting in an attempt to divert attention from discussing the crimes committed by Israel.
CHEIKH NIANG, Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, said that, as mandated by the Assembly on 15 May, the Committee will commemorate the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Nakba, which will remind the international community of the historic injustice suffered by the Palestinian people, and its outstanding debt to more than 5.8 million refugees registered with UNRWA. The international community is also reminded of the ongoing Israeli occupation, for nearly 56 years with no end in sight, as Israel considers the possibility of further annexation and colonization of occupied Palestinian territory. The Committee reiterates its calls for a complete and immediate halt to all settlement activities and reminds Israel that all settlements are illegal, regardless of their status under Israeli law, and that these actions further violate Council resolution 2334 (2016), severely undermining efforts to find a just solution to the conflict.
He reminded Israel that the historic status quo of the holy sites must be upheld, respecting the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan and the Waqf. He strongly condemned the Israeli Finance Minister’s outrageous statements denying the existence of the Palestinian people and calling to “wipe out” Huwwara, a Palestinian village in the occupied West Bank. He urged Israeli authorities to respect international law, including the Fourth Geneva Convention and its obligations as the occupying Power, including protecting civilians. He strongly appealed to the Council to demonstrate leadership by acting to protect the Palestinian people. The Committee also emphasizes its previous call to all Member States to support UNRWA's sustainable funding.
MAGED ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, associating himself with the Arab Group, said that Israel’s “extremist Government” affronted the international community, showing no respect for holy places. He recalled the recent protests against the laws the Government wished to adopt, adding that Israel is exploiting the attention focused on Ukraine to its interest. Calling for the implementation of a protection mechanism, he said: “We should not wait to see massacres carried out.” To this end, he urged the Secretary-General to adopt a new report on protecting the Palestinian people living under the occupation.
Further, the Ministerial Council of the League of Arab States adopted a declaration on the impacts of the Israeli Government’s violations, he said, calling on the Council to enshrine the protection of the Palestinian people in a resolution. Recalling that Palestine’s President has been calling for an international conference since 2018, he advocated for negotiations on the two-State solution. The Arab peace plan is crucial for peace, he added, emphasizing: “Palestine’s issue is at the heart of Arab concerns.” Turning to the situation in Sudan, he said the League of Arab States — upholding its regional responsibilities — is trying to ensure a settlement to the conflict. To this end, the Secretary-General was at the forefront, seeking to achieve a ceasefire, he recalled, urging the Council to complement regional efforts.
SIDI MOHAMED LAGHDAF (Mauritania), speaking on behalf of OIC and associating himself with the Arab Group and Non-Aligned Movement, cited a dangerous escalation of crimes and violations perpetrated by the Israeli occupation forces and extremist settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly in Jerusalem, Nablus, Jenin and Jericho cities, which resulted in the killing of 96 Palestinians. OIC is particularly concerned about the Israeli occupation forces repeated assaults and incursions by extremist Jewish settlers against the Al-Aqsa Mosque, including during the holy month of Ramadan, and brutal attacks on worshipers. Such continued flagrant breaches by Israel are further deepening the current political impasse and imperilling achievement of the two-State solution. Calling on the Security Council to uphold its responsibilities and obligations, including all relevant resolutions, he reaffirmed that Al-Haram Al-Sharif, with its entire area totalling 144 dunams, is an exclusive place of worship for Muslims, protected by international law and the historical and legal status. The deliberate escalation of Israel’s aggressions against Palestinians and the expansion of its illegal colonial settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territory constitute war crimes and flagrant violations of international law, and there must be accountability for all these abuses and violations.
LAUZA ALI (Maldives) condemned recent Israeli actions in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa Mosque, during which the Israeli forces assaulted worshipers and caused destruction to the mosque. Mere calls for de-escalation are insufficient to halt the killing of innocent people, she emphasized, adding that, in February alone, over 7,000 housing units were approved in settlements across the West Bank. The rule of law should apply equally to all countries and those responsible for flagrant violations of international law and international humanitarian law must be held accountable for their actions, she asserted. Reaffirming her support for the two-State solution, she urged Israel to completely lift the illegal blockade, which has caused immense humanitarian, social, and economic suffering for millions of Palestinians for over 56 years. She also called for indispensable support for UNRWA, other United Nations agencies and international organizations working on the ground to assist the Palestinian people.
ABDULAZIZ M. ALWASIL (Saudi Arabia) said this session is being held as the Palestinian people and the entire region experience the critical conditions created by the Israeli occupation of their territories and control of their daily lives. Israel continues its daily aggression against the Palestinian people and their holy shrines. His delegation condemned the activities that undermine peace and go against principles and norms. These measures undermine attempts for peace in the region. He condemned the confiscation of Palestinian land. Peace will only be achieved through a two-State solution and an independent Palestine. He renewed his call to the Council to shoulder its responsibilities and stop the violations by Israel that build and expand its illegitimate settlements. He advocated for an opinion from the International Court of Justice on Israeli practices. The conflict should be resolved in the interest of the entire region, including Israel. He called on Israel to engage in negotiations and find a just solution. He urged the international community to act.
JORGE VIDAL (Chile) underscored that peace in the region depends on direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel. To this end, he highlighted the need for the self-determination of the Palestinian people, while noting that Israel must be able to have safe borders. Expressing concern with regard to the holy sites and worsening security situation, he called for halting the settlements’ expansion and reiterated respect for the status quo. Urging the parties to demonstrate restraint, he condemned Hamas’ violence. He further welcomed the adoption of General Assembly resolution 77/247 (2022), seeking the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice, and recognized the work of the Security Council in this regard. Recalling the thirtieth anniversary of the Oslo Agreements, he expressed hope that the commemoration will encourage the parties to put aside radical views and extremist discourse. He then commended efforts of countries in the region in favour of reconciliation and also acknowledged UNRWA’s efforts.
JASSIM SAYAR A. J. AL-MAAWDA (Qatar), associating himself with the Arab Group, Organization of the Islamic Cooperation and Non-Aligned Movement, noted that 2023 has witnessed a continuation of the dangerous escalatory policies of the Israeli Government — the most dangerous being in the Al-Aqsa Mosque, where worshippers were assaulted and ambulances prevented from access. This is an extension of the policy to Judaize Jerusalem, which threatens to prevent any possibility of a two-State solution towards a lasting peace. Condemning any attempt to alter the Arab, Islamic and Christian identity of Jerusalem, he stressed that occupation policies against the Palestinian people are the main reason for violence and the lack of stability. Hence, his delegation voted in favour of the General Assembly resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to provide an advisory opinion on the legal repercussions of settler activities and attempts to change the demographics of Jerusalem. Qatar supports the steadfast Palestinian people and their humanitarian needs, and stresses that, for peace to prevail, Israeli occupation of all Arab territories must end, including the Syrian Golan and Lebanese lands.
MARTÍN JUAN MAINERO (Argentina), reaffirming his commitment to the two-State solution, supported the inalienable right of the Palestinian people to self-determination. Voicing concern over the persistent growth of illegal Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territory, he called for their expansion to be halted. He also reiterated his Government’s firm condemnation of terrorism, adding that the indiscriminate launching of rockets from the Gaza and the South of Lebanon to Israel is inadmissible. He recognized the right of Israel to exercise its self-defence, emphasizing that the measures taken must respect international humanitarian law, particularly the principle of distinction and proportionality.
AHMAD FAISAL MUHAMAD (Malaysia) said that, in line with Security Council resolution 2334 (2016), his delegation urges both parties to refrain from acts of provocation, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric to avoid further escalation of tensions. Resolution 2334 (2016) is also clear that all Israeli settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, are illegal under international law, and must “immediately and completely cease”. Yet Israel remains obdurate in its defiance of this resolution, which further deviates efforts to reach a peaceful and lasting two-State solution. It is extremely frustrating that the practices of Israel’s apartheid regime of annexation and illegal occupation are routinely ignored., he said. The impunity that Israel continues to enjoy is partly a result of the Council’s failure to hold Israel accountable for its violations and brutality. His delegation calls on the international community not to condone such double standards, which severely undermines the effectiveness and legitimacy of international law. The United Nations and the global community must protect the Palestinian people from Israel’s heinous crimes. Pursuant to Assembly resolution 77/247, adopted in December of last year, Malaysia urges all responsible Member States to support the request for a Court Advisory Opinion. He also called on Member States to contribute consistently and predictably to UNRWA.
KIM SANGJIN (Republic of Korea) expressed concern about the escalation of violence in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict during Ramadan and Passover. Reaffirming his position on the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, he condemned related terrorist attacks in the strongest terms. Against this backdrop, he encouraged the parties to maintain engagement, while commending recent meetings of the representatives of Palestine, Israel, Egypt, Jordan and the United States to de-escalate tensions. Expressing support for diplomatic efforts to establish peace in the region, he said there is no alternative to the two-State solution. He went on to voice concerns about the settlements’ expansion and urged Israel to reverse its activities to this end. Reiterating his support for meeting humanitarian and development needs of the Palestinian people, he said the Republic of Korea will increase its support to UNRWA.
TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said the international community has recently witnessed a flagrant escalation of aggressive practices and restrictive policies by the Israeli occupation, especially during the month of Ramadan, deliberately violating the sanctity of holy sites. Condemning the policies of occupation and attempts to change the legal and historic status quo of Al-Aqsa Mosque and Jerusalem, especially through demolitions, settlements and evictions, he stressed Jordan’s historic custodianship of Muslim and Christian holy sites. Citing the occupation as the root cause of the problem, he called on the international community to launch serious and effective negotiations within a specific timetable according to international resolutions. The international community and Security Council must provide the Palestinian people with the necessary protection and call on the occupying Power to put end to its practices, holding it responsible for all its violations and perpetrations according to international law. He reaffirmed Tunisia’s steadfast commitment to the Palestinian people and an independent State with full sovereignty according to 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.
ABDULAZIZ A. M. A. ALAJMI (Kuwait), voicing concern over the escalation of violence caused by the Israeli occupation, condemned the recent attack during which Israeli forces assaulted worshipers and caused destruction to the mosque. Warning against a renewed vicious circle of bloody violence of provocation, he supported the right of the State of Palestine to sovereignty over the city of Jerusalem and added that Israel has no such right. Condemning the illegal settlement activities, the demolishing of homes and confiscating of lands, he said that the current Israeli Government is one of the most extreme in the last decade. Any attempt to negotiate with this Government is but in vain, he said, declaring: “How can we speak about peace with such a colonial Government that adopts extremism and […] which takes apartheid as a means of governance?” He further stressed the need to hold accountable perpetrators of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
NEVILLE MELVIN GERTZE (Namibia) said that, as a country with a lived experience of colonial occupation, Namibia has a clear understanding of what constitutes apartheid, adding that the illegal colonial occupation that Israel is committing, by all accounts, constitutes apartheid. “We are attuned to the realities faced by the Palestinian people and cannot ignore them,” he said. “They pain us deeply and it is for this reason that we make yet another urgent appeal to the international community, foremost this Security Council, to act,” he added. The occupying Power must be held accountable for continued actions that violate international law, international human rights law and Security Council as well as General Assembly resolutions. The Palestinian people should not wait any longer for their freedom, justice and an opportunity to peacefully co-exist as a contiguous State in accordance with the pre-1967 borders. “As we approach the seventy-fifth year since the Nakba and as a just peace seems ever more remote with rising dangers, this Council has a duty to prevent another such catastrophe, prevent genocide, to protect a vulnerable people and pursue justice before it is too late,” he said. His delegation fully supports all United Nations-mandated processes meant to produce a resolution to this complex question. The consistent, flagrant violation of international law and humanitarian and international human rights law denies the Palestinian people their most basic rights.
LEYLA NOVRUZ (Azerbaijan), speaking on behalf of the Non-Aligned Movement, recalled that the political declaration adopted in September 2022 underlined a peaceful solution to the Palestine question, while reaffirming that this “historic injustice” poses threats to international security. Urging Member States to resolve the protracted conflict, she said Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) provides a viable path, while underscoring the need for diplomatic efforts. She then reiterated a call for full respect of the status quo and protection of the holy sites. Commending the efforts of King Mohammed VI — Chair of the OIC’s Al-Quds Committee — she welcomed the “Call for Al Quds/Jerusalem”, signed in Rabat in 2019 by the King of Morocco and Pope Francis. Further, she reiterated her rejection of Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem and its continued settlement activities.
Turning to the Gaza Strip, she urged Israel to lift its “illegal” blockade and called on the international community to continue providing humanitarian and socioeconomic assistance, including through UNRWA. Calling for international protection of the Palestinian people, she outlined the lack of accountability in the occupied territories. “The absence of justice only leads to greater impunity and recurrence of crimes and destabilizes the situation on the ground,” she stressed. In this regard, she called on Israel to fully withdraw from the occupied Syrian Golan and Lebanon’s territories, including Shebaa Farms, Kfarchouba Hills, the northern part of the Ghajar village and an adjacent area north of the Blue Line.
ALHAJI FANDAY TURAY (Sierra Leone) said that without a holistic and comprehensive solution to the protracted dispute and conflict, a recurrence of violence remains inevitable and will continue to pose threats to regional and international security. He called on the Security Council to implement its own resolutions pertaining to the Israeli-Palestinian question and explore all possible diplomatic and political avenues leading to a peace process geared towards achieving a two-State solution. Inviting Israelis and Palestinians to refrain from unilateral actions that can exacerbate the situation, he expressed sympathy for the victims of prolonged violence. Acknowledging the plight of Palestinian refugees, he urged for continued humanitarian and socioeconomic assistance to the most vulnerable, especially women, children, youth and the aged. He called on both parties to take advantage of their shared responsibility to advance the potential for the two-State solution grounded on pre-1967 borders. Any solution to current crises should be consistent with international law, relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative, and the Quartet, guided by the overarching principle of non-violence, recognition of Israel and previous agreements on the issue.
MONA JUUL (Norway) noted the tensions witnessed during Ramadan, Passover and Easter could have easily spiralled out of control, with far-reaching consequences for the whole region. Commending the parties for contributing to de-escalation, she said the relative calm that has prevailed at Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount at the end of Ramadan has demonstrated that even during periods of elevated tension, it is possible to avoid serious escalation. She continued to urge Israel to observe the historic status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, including Jordan’s custodial role. Congratulating Israel on its seventy-fifth Independence Day, she expressed ongoing commitment to the two-State solution — as although the prospects for a political settlement right now look bleak, that solution is the best way to ensure the security and human rights of both Israelis and Palestinians. As chair of the donor group for Palestine, Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, next week, Norway will reconvene it to a meeting in Brussels, hosted by the European Union, to review the very serious financial situation of the Palestinian Authority and set goals to safeguard the viability of the two-State solution.
PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka) called on the international community to renew efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the situation in Palestine and achieve lasting peace. Peace and freedom cannot be separated, he said, adding that any attempt to unilaterally annex another State’s territory is in violation of international law. Additionally, any occupation by force entails international responsibilities. He voiced support for the two-State solution, noting that both parties are entitled to security and dignity. He discouraged all unilateral measures that impede peace — including acts of terrorism — calling upon all parties to condemn such acts and refrain from inciting violence and taking steps that could escalate tensions in and around the holy sites. The story of Palestine “has all the shades of colonialism”, he said, underscoring that the international community cannot allow this issue to escalate any further.
JAMAL FARES ALROWAIEI (Bahrain) said the events in the Middle East require the parties to unite in peaceful ways and renounce intolerance and violence. All parties should work towards a fair peace that fulfils the aspirations of all peoples. He supported efforts to renew the peace process and international efforts to establish an independent Palestine, based on pre-1967 borders. His delegation affirms the need to protect worshipers at the holy sites and preserve the status quo in Jerusalem. He also regretted the ongoing armed conflict in Sudan and its implications for that country and the region. He called on Sudanese parties to end the fighting and use dialogue to end the conflict. His delegation would continue its cooperative efforts to reach a political solution in the Middle East, a vital region of the world.