Recent Deadly Escalation between Israeli Forces, Palestinian Armed Groups ‘Another Reminder’ of Volatile Situation, Special Coordinator Tells Security Council
The recent deadly escalation between Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza was yet another reminder of the volatile security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the United Nations senior official for Middle East peace told the Security Council today, as members urged parties to observe the recent ceasefire and voiced alarm over the continued violence, settlement activities and inflammatory rhetoric.
Tor Wennesland, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking via videoconference, reported that the latest round of hostilities between Israeli security forces and Palestinian armed groups, sparked by the death of a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader in an Israeli jail following an 86-day hunger strike, resulted in an exchange of airstrikes and rocket launches that killed 10 Palestinian civilians and displaced more than 1,100 others. “This escalation compounded the already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip,” he said. While the ceasefire is holding, both sides must engage in order to reset a trajectory out of the cycle of violence, he stressed.
In that regard, he spotlighted the efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations to end recent hostilities and underlined the need to create conditions for a lasting peace, including by bolstering the Palestinian Authority and preserving the provision of critical services to the Palestinian people. Without new funding, the World Food Program (WFP) will suspend cash assistance to 200,000 Palestinians next week and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will not have the resources to deliver core services in September. That could result in serious humanitarian and, potentially, security challenges, he warned, adding: “There is no time to spare.”
Also briefing the Council was Tania Hary, Executive Director, Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, who said that although her organization represents a minority view in Israel, it is part of “a vibrant civil society in Israel and in Palestine under increasing threat”. Detailing the impact of Israel’s persisting control over Palestinians — particularly regarding movement and access — she also stressed that young people in Gaza “know no other reality than closure and war”. Rejecting her Government’s rhetoric that they have no choice but to manage the situation because there is no solution, she stated: “True leadership would work tirelessly to create hope instead of surrendering to perpetual occupation, recurrent military attacks, rocket fire from Gaza and other travesties.”
In the ensuing discussion, Council members urged parties to maintain the recent ceasefire and uphold their commitments made in the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, with many also condemning the escalating violence and civilian casualties, as well as the ongoing settlement activities and inciteful rhetoric.
The representative of the United Kingdom voiced alarm over 12 civilian deaths, including 6 children, in Israeli strikes in Gaza, as well as further deaths in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces have killed 110 Palestinians this year, including civilians. “If this alarming rate of casualties continues, 2023 will be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations records began in 2004,” she warned, urging Israeli security forces to show restraint in their use of force and investigate civilian casualties.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, pointing out that the continued escalation is being driven by recurring provocative actions, praised the recent efforts by Egypt to reach a ceasefire. He also underscored that he looked forward to building upon the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, while focusing on the progress achieved during these talks.
France’s delegate, also welcoming the ceasefire, called for a sustainable opening of access to Gaza and a lifting of the blockade. He spotlighted efforts by the United States, Jordan and Egypt towards the resumption of dialogue and echoed the call made during the recent Amman-Munich Group meeting on the need to relaunch a credible political process to lead to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
For his part, the representative of the Russian Federation said that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict showed the United States’ double standards, as it is trying to replace a general political peace with an economic one and is stubbornly promoting Arab-Israeli normalization while circumventing settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. Addressing the unchecked pace of Israeli settlement activity, he noted that 7,157 housing units have been approved in 2023 so far — double the amount from 2021 and 2022.
The United States’ representative, however, emphasized that the question that must be asked today is what can be done to prevent future violence and better protect Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Diplomacy and engagement are central to these efforts, and she called on the parties to focus on implementing important commitments made in recent meetings and to refrain from escalatory actions.
In that vein, Japan’s delegate urged parties to observe the ceasefire and work to ensure that the agreement will improve regional peace and security in a sustainable manner. She also voiced concern over the serious funding shortfall faced by UNRWA, calling attention to the pledging conference that will occur on 2 June and urging all Member States to support the Agency’s essential work.
Echoing that, the representative of Ecuador stressed: “If even a fraction of what is spent on rockets, war planes and missiles was devoted to financing the development and well-being of populations, it is highly probable that we will approach solutions that today seem far distant and almost impossible.”
The meeting began at 10:02 a.m. and ended at 11:43 a.m.
TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, speaking by videoconference, said that the recent deadly escalation between Israel and Palestinian armed factions in Gaza was yet another reminder of the volatile security situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. While the ceasefire is holding, both sides must engage in conflict mitigation to reset a trajectory out of the cycle of violence. As well, the acute financial and institutional challenges facing the Palestinian Authority must be addressed. Without new funding, the World Food Program (WFP) will suspend cash assistance to some 200,000 Palestinians next week and the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) will not have the resources to deliver core services in September. That could result in serious humanitarian and, potentially, security challenges, he warned, adding: “There is no time to spare.”
On 2 May, a Palestinian Islamic Jihad leader, Khader Adnan, died in an Israeli jail following an 86-day hunger strike, he continued, noting this led to the group and other armed factions in Gaza firing over 100 rockets towards Israel, and the Israeli Air Force responding with airstrikes against what it said were Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip, killing one Palestinian and causing damage. Hostilities ended on 3 May, following intensive efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations. A week later, on 9 May, the Israeli Air Force carried out airstrikes in Gaza killing three senior members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s military wing in their homes, as well as 10 civilians, including women and children. Over five days, Israel conducted 323 airstrikes against what it said were Palestinian Islamic Jihad military targets in Gaza, while Palestinian militants launched over 1,200 rockets and more than 250 mortars towards Israel, of which nearly 300 fell short within Gaza and more than 400 were intercepted by Israel’s aerial defence system.
“This escalation compounded the already dire humanitarian situation in the Strip,” he said, noting that nearly 100 housing units were destroyed, more than 125 uninhabitable, and more than 1,100 Palestinians displaced. Israel authorities closed both crossings between Gaza and Israel, preventing the entry of food, medical supplies and fuel for the Gaza Power Plant. He called on Israel to abide by its obligations under international humanitarian law, including taking precautions to spare civilians in the conduct of military operations. He also reiterated the Secretary-General’s condemnation of the launching of indiscriminate rockets from Gaza towards Israel, including from densely populated residential areas, which violates international humanitarian law.
In the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, the level of violence remained high, he said, reporting that 17 Palestinians, including two children, were killed and 138 Palestinians, including two women and 23 children, were injured by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks and alleged attacks against Israelis, while another 24 Palestinians, including two children, were injured by Israeli settlers or other civilians in shooting attacks, stone-throwing and other incidents. Meanwhile, 33 Israeli civilians, including four women, as well as four Israeli security forces personnel, were injured by Palestinians in shooting and ramming attacks, and other incidents.
During the reporting period, significant movement restrictions were imposed by Israel around Jericho, Nablus and Hebron following either Palestinian attacks or stone throwing, affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians and their local economies, he said. Thousands of right-wing Israeli activists, including senior Government ministers, participated in the highly provocative annual “flag day” march through Jerusalem’s Old City, chanting racist slogans, including “Death to Arabs.” Calling such provocations and incitement unacceptable, he reiterated that the status quo at the holy sites must be respected. Noting that levels of settler-related violence also remained high, with five Palestinians shot and injured by Israeli settlers using live ammunition, he called for all perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.
Settlement plans were also moving forward, with tenders published for some 310 housing units in Area C and demolitions continuing, he said. On 18 May, the Israeli military issued an order allowing Israelis to re-enter the area of the evacuated settlement of Homesh, built on private Palestinian-owned land in the northern West Bank. Further, Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 33 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and 17 in East Jerusalem, including a donor-funded school east of Bethlehem, displacing 89 Palestinians, including 45 children. These demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain, he noted.
On the Golan, while the ceasefire between Israel and Syria has been generally maintained, the situation continues to be volatile due to violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement by the parties, he said. While the United Nations and other partners mobilized to end recent hostilities, he stressed the need to create conditions for a lasting peace, including by taking steps to bolster the Palestinian Authority and preserve the provision of critical services to the Palestinian people. He underlined the need to take action to end the occupation and restore a political horizon toward a viable two-State solution, based on United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements.
TANIA HARY, Executive Director, Gisha Legal Centre for Freedom of Movement, said that Israel’s control persists — particularly regarding movement and access — over the Palestinian population registry determining where people can live, as well as over Gaza's electricity supply, its communications networks and its air and sea spaces. Just a week and a half since a ceasefire agreement was reached after yet another escalation in the region, Gaza has returned to normal. However, she noted: “For Gaza, normal means Israeli drones buzzing overhead at all hours, and the familiar cycle of destruction, reconstruction, mourning and trauma.”
She detailed what systemic movement restrictions look like on the ground, stressing that closure means that people are likely to wait for weeks and even months to get a permit to go from Gaza to Jerusalem to reach life-saving medical treatment. In 2022, one third of patients’ permit applications were delayed or denied and one quarter of patients exited the Strip without a companion, including hundreds of children without their parents. “Closure means that if your mother in the West Bank is sick, you have to prove to the Israeli military that she is at risk of death in order to hope to get a permit that will only be valid 3-5 days at most,” she said. Israel’s decisions continue to have a deep impact on every aspect of life in Gaza, she added, noting that “this level of control creates responsibility”. In this context, she rejected the rhetoric of her Government that they have no choice but to manage the situation because there is no solution. “True leadership would work tirelessly to create hope instead of surrendering to perpetual occupation, recurrent military attacks, rocket fire from Gaza and other travesties,” she stated.
Today, 2.2 million people live in the Gaza Strip; half of them are children and nearly 70 per cent are under 30, she continued, adding: “Young people in Gaza know no other reality than closure and war.” Further, most of the population has never been out of the Strip. The wounds that cannot be seen — the trauma, hopelessness, and helplessness — are the hardest to heal, she said, spotlighting that 80 per cent of children in Gaza suffer from emotional distress. Israel faces legitimate security challenges but movement restrictions are not in place for security needs alone. They drive political goals to pressure the population and maintain control over the West Bank. Israel’s narrow interpretation of its obligations towards Palestinians creates a crisis of accountability.
She underlined that settlements and the separation policy are two sides of the same coin — the same push towards annexation of the West Bank. Isolating Gaza fragments Palestinians and reinforces the disastrous Palestinian political division. Access via Egypt is more possible than in previous years, but Egypt does not connect Gaza to the West Bank and Israel. “It’s as if New York City were cut off from the rest of the state and the states around it, for decades,” she said. More movement is also possible via the pedestrian crossing between Gaza and Israel, but for one category only: Palestinian day laborers. More than 140,000 people applied for a 20,000 permit-quota before registration was closed, amounting to less than 1 per cent of demand.
More so, women in Gaza are not included in this 1 per cent, she pointed out, adding that their needs for professional access continue to go unacknowledged in Israel’s criteria for permits. An agenda that prioritizes women, peace and security must take into account the impact of the closure on the specific needs of women. She said that although her organization represents a minority view in Israel, “we are part of a vibrant civil society in Israel and in Palestine under increasing threat”. Their allies and potential allies are being silenced by false accusations of antisemitism, which undermine the necessary fight against real and dangerous forms of antisemitism growing around the world, she added, stressing that extremism in the region is feeding on incitement, poverty and oppression.
“What gives me hope are the many young people in Gaza who dare to dream of a better future and know they deserve it, despite the leaders who are failing them,” she said, stressing that the struggle for freedom and dignity cannot be suppressed forever, “not with the highest walls or the strongest armies”. Detailing her recommendations, she underlined the need to facilitate the freedom of movement that women and young people need to fulfil their dreams. It is essential to “protect the space for humanitarian and human rights work in Israel and Palestine”, she emphasized, appealing to the Council: “Please don’t let another military assault put Gaza and Palestine back on the agenda. Put it there because you know it’s the right thing to do.”
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said that the question that must be asked today is what can be done to prevent future violence and better protect Israeli and Palestinian civilians. Diplomacy and engagement are central to these efforts, and she called on the parties to focus on implementing important commitments made in recent meetings and to refrain from escalatory actions. Such actions include racist statements and incitement, she said, recalling the recent comments by President of the State of Palestine Mahmoud Abbas equating Israel with Nazi propogandist Joseph Goebbels as a case in point. Such comments are a gross affront to victims and survivors of the Holocaust and are unacceptable during a time of rising antisemitic violence around the world. She also expressed concern over inflammatory rhetoric that accompanied an Israeli minister’s 21 May visit to Haram al-Sharif, underscoring that this holy place should not be used for political purposes and calling on all parties to respect the historic status quo. Further, she condemned racist speech that occurred during a march on 18 May, underscoring that hateful speech of any kind runs counter to United Nations efforts to combat racism and other forms of bigotry.
SHINO MITSUKO (Japan), underlining the importance of the recent ceasefire between Israel and Gaza, commended Egypt, Qatar, Lebanon and the United States for their facilitating roles. It is encouraging that it has largely held, and the Council should call on all sides to observe the ceasefire and ensure that the agreement will improve regional peace and security in a sustainable manner. Turning to UNRWA, she said that Japan remains one of its largest donors, recalling that her country made its first financial contribution to the Agency in 1953 — a time when Japan was still struggling to overcome the ravages of war. As the Agency faces a serious funding shortfall, she spotlighted the importance of the pledging conference that will occur on 2 June and called on all Member States to support the Agency’s essential work. She also called on Israel to immediately stop settlement expansion, demolitions, forced transfers, evictions, settler violence and military incursions. As well, she called on Palestinian militant groups to stop attacks on Israeli civilians and refrain from attacking Israel with rockets.
MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), pointing out that the continued escalation is being driven by recurring provocative actions, condemned the Israeli raids that targeted areas in the Gaza Strip, which resulted in the killing and injuring of several Palestinians, including women and children. Also condemnable are the incendiary speeches during the flag march and the repeated storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by extremists, members of the Knesset and Minister Ben-Gvir, who again stormed the site this Sunday, he said, reiterating his call for the full protection of Al-Aqsa Mosque. Turning to de-escalation efforts, he commended recent efforts by Egypt to reach a ceasefire and looked forward to building upon the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh meetings, while focusing on the progress achieved during these talks. Voicing concern about the humanitarian and economic situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he welcomed the meeting, this month, of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee to discuss solutions. However, improving living conditions in the area required putting a stop to ongoing settlement activities, demolitions, displacement, and restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which violate international law, he emphasized.
JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil) expressed concern over the loss of lives, including children, as a result of Israeli air strikes as well as the indiscriminate firing of rockets against Israeli territory during “another eventful month”. Not long after the ceasefire announcement, distressing incidents occurred during the annual flag march in Jerusalem, he said, calling on leaders to take a stand against extremism and condemn acts of violence and incitement. Putting an end to this protracted conflict requires confronting outstanding issues, including the expansion of Israeli settlements which obstruct the path to peace by undermining the feasibility of a contiguous Palestinian State. Accordingly, recent reports about the intention to further expand Israeli settlements in the West Bank were alarming. He called on Israel to stop the continued demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures, as well as the displacement of Palestinian families. Further, he emphasized that ensuring adequate funding for UNRWA is paramount to sustain essential services to the Palestinian people, including education programmes for children, and promote social stability and peacebuilding efforts in the region.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) welcomed the ceasefire, commending efforts by Egypt and other regional actors to prevent escalation. He called on the parties to preserve the agreement and recently restored calm and to bear in mind that civilians pay the price for violence. Both sides must exercise maximum restraint, he said, stressing that this is the prerequisite for generating what is now missing — “hope”. Observing that discriminatory rhetoric, racism and antisemitism are increasing and expressing further concern over attacks on journalists, he underscored that all leaders must speak out against violence and incitement. Further, holy sites in Jerusalem are places for “prayer only”, he emphasized, calling for restraint from provocative actions that undermine worshippers’ rights. Parties must also abide by commitments made in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, he said, underscoring that settlements and outposts are illegal and pose an obstacle to a two-State solution. Adding that peace is both needed and possible, he nevertheless observed that it will “never come as a surprise” nor “fall from the sky”.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) reiterated his call for the illegal occupation and aggression in the region to cease, underscoring the need to resume negotiations and revitalize the peace process between the conflicting parties. Amid promising signs of normalization and détente in the Middle East, the continued plight of the Palestinians in the Occupied Territory and the erosion of any prospect of a two-State solution are deeply disturbing, he stressed. He commended recent diplomatic efforts in the region aimed at reviving the peace process, and strongly urged Israel to halt all settlement expansion; such actions frustrate the major goal of achieving a two-State solution. Further, he called on the international community to support UNRWA and WFP to enable them to respond to the dire humanitarian situation facing the Palestinians.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) said that May has seen the indiscriminate launch of hundreds of rockets from Gaza to Israel, resulting in the death of at least one civilian and several injured, and the Israeli military operation in Gaza killed dozens, including several civilians, women and children. While recognizing the right to legitimate self-defence, he underscored that abiding by the rules of international humanitarian law is not optional. He urged the parties to uphold the ceasefire and to abstain from inciting violence, adding that fanatical and extremist actions and rhetoric fuel the cycle of violence in the region. He categorically opposed any unilateral measures that hinder peace, such as the construction and expansion of settlements, the confiscation of Palestinian lands and the “legalization” of the forward settlements, the demolition of Palestinian homes and the displacement of civilians. In particular, he condemned the demolition of a school in the West Bank on 7 May. Turning to the humanitarian situation, he voiced concern over UNRWA’s precarious financial situation. “If even a fraction of what is spent on rockets, war planes and missiles was devoted to financing the development and well-being of populations, it is highly probable that we will approach solutions that today seem far distant and almost impossible,” he asserted.
BARBARA WOODWORD (United Kingdom), voicing concern over the deteriorating security situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, urged all parties to honour the ceasefire and prevent the loss of further civilian life. While expressing support for Israel’s right to self-defence, she emphasized that Israeli conduct must always be in line with international humanitarian law. Further, she sounded the alarm over 12 civilian deaths, including 6 children, in Israeli strikes in Gaza, as well as further deaths in the West Bank, where Israeli security forces have killed 110 Palestinians this year, including civilians. “If this alarming rate of casualties continues, 2023 will be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations records began in 2004,” she warned, urging Israeli security forces to show restraint in their use of force and investigate civilian casualties. As well, 19 Israelis have already been killed in terrorist attacks in 2023, she recalled, adding that the Palestinian Authority must also re-assert control over Area A and take steps to tackle terrorism. In addition, Israel must tackle increasing settler violence and coercion which recently resulted in the forcible transfer of the Palestinian population from Ein Samiya, she said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) spotlighted the record pace of Israeli settlement activity, noting that 7,157 housing units have been approved in 2023 so far — double the amount from 2021 and 2022. Further, outposts are being legalized ex post — with concomitant expropriation of land and demolition of Palestinian homes — and arbitrary arrests are on the rise with over 2,000 detained since the start of 2023. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is showing the United States’ double standards, as it is trying to replace a general political peace with an economic one and is stubbornly promoting Arab-Israeli normalization while circumventing settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian issue. He underscored that the United States has long lost the qualities that any honest broker must possess — independence and impartiality. Welcoming Syria’s return to the Arab League, he said this will help improve the atmosphere in the Middle East. He added that the international community, for its part, must insist that “the only game in town” is a relaunch of direct Israeli-Palestinian talks to address all final-status matters — borders, refugees, water issues and Jerusalem.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) condemned Israeli authorities’ decision to authorize the establishment of settlements in the occupied West Bank. Such actions contravene commitments entered into by Israel at the Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheik meetings. He also voiced concern about the second visit of the Israeli Minister for National Security to the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound on 21 May, calling it “a provocation” and underscoring the need to preserve the status quo of holy sites in Jerusalem. Welcoming the ceasefire reached through the efforts of Egypt, the United Nations and Qatar, he called for a sustainable opening of access to Gaza and a lifting of the blockade. Also of concern is the lack of financial resources for United Nations agencies and programmes, including WFP and UNRWA. The Council bears the responsibility of defending the two-State solution and ensuring that resolutions it adopted are upheld. Spotlighting efforts by the United States, Jordan and Egypt towards the resumption of dialogue, he echoed the call made during the Amman-Munich Group meeting on 11 May on the need to relaunch a credible political process to lead to a just and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.
GENG SHUANG (China) voiced concern over the recent tensions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, in particular the Gaza strip, noting that comprehensive and just solution is irreplicable. He emphasized that the historical status quo for religious sites in Jerusalem must be upheld and Israel must stop its provocations and guarantee the rights to Muslim worshippers. Also, the expansion of settlements on the Occupied Palestinian Territory must stop, he said, reiterating that settlement activities violate international law and Security Council resolution 2334 (2016). Noting that Israel has continued to advance unilateral actions to building and legalizing new settlements, he urged that country to immediately halt such actions and stop encroaching upon the lands and resources of the Palestinian people. He also called on the parties to stop all violence against civilians and to stop targeting schools, hospitals and other public infrastructure. The plight of Palestinian refugees must be alleviated and the economic needs of the Palestinians must be met, he asserted, calling on Israel to end the blockade on Gaza.
ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon) observed that, while the ceasefire that entered into force on 14 May “came as much-needed relief”, the current lull is fragile. She therefore urged all parties to abstain from belligerent rhetoric or other actions that could ignite tensions and stressed that all settlement activities must end. Commending recent diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Lebanon, the United States and Qatar to achieve the ceasefire, she observed that civilian populations should be able to live in security. A political settlement of this conflict will improve the alarming humanitarian, security and economic situations on the ground, which has had a demonstrably corrosive effect on the region. She added that all initiatives aimed at achieving peace and negotiated settlement should result in a two-State solution, which will serve as a guarantee of prosperity and stability for the entire region.
FELIX OSEI BOATENG (Ghana) voiced regret over the deteriorating security and dire humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, as well as the reversal of the goodwill achieved after the recent Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh meetings. Recalling the Israeli military search and arrest operations in Jenin, Askar and Balata refugee camps in Nablus, among others, he noted that although the operations resulted in the seizure of a number of weapons, they aggravated the volatile situation on the ground, due to mass arrest of hundreds of Palestinian youth and the demolition of Palestinian-owned structures. He urged the Israeli Government to ensure their military response is not excessive or disproportionate. Further, he expressed concern over the continued settlement activities, including through the recent approval for 400 new homes inside the Palestinian neighbourhood of Abu Dis, encouraging a policy of restraint to preserve the viability of the two-State solution. He also underscored the need to uphold the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem, pointing out that the 21 May visit of the Israeli National Security Minister to the Temple Mount could lead to a destructive path of disengagement.
FRANCESCA GATT (Malta), commending the Egyptian authorities for brokering a ceasefire, said that Gaza is home to some of the highest levels of humanitarian needs in the world; 80 per cent of the population requires aid. In the latest round of fighting, “it was distressing to watch, yet again, renewed bombing and devastation in Gaza, one of the most densely populated areas in the world,” she said, pointing out that the protection of civilians in conflict is too often disregarded in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. While condemning the indiscriminate rocket fire towards Israel, she underscored the need to respect the principles of necessity and proportionality, citing the frequent and violent raids by Israeli forces in the West Bank which continue to endanger civilians, including children. Further, she spotlighted the Council’s 20 February presidential statement opposing unilateral measures impeding peace, including further expansion of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law, among other related actions. She also voiced concern about UNRWA’s dire financial situation, calling for sustained and predictable funding. Urging Palestinian factions to deliver on commitments made in the 2022 Algiers Declaration, she encouraged parties to continue discussions following-up on agreements made in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland), Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, said the incidents of the past week show that tensions and the risk of violence escalating remain very high. Racist slogans and calls for hatred against Palestinian residents as well as attacks against journalists are unacceptable. The leaders of all parties must refrain from any provocation. She condemned the deaths of Palestinian civilians, including children, caused by Israeli air strikes on the Gaza Strip two weeks ago, as well as the indiscriminate firing of rockets into Israel from Gaza. In the West Bank, more than 100 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces this year, including 19 children. Gaza has been under closure for 16 years, she pointed out, stressing that this closure must be lifted. In the immediate term, an easing of restrictions on access and movement of people between Gaza and Israel is essential. Israel — as the occupying Power — is obliged under international humanitarian law to ensure that the basic needs of the population are met. Further, she expressed concern that UNRWA's funding status is insufficient to cover operations essential to the survival of its beneficiaries.