The top United Nations political official today reiterated the world body’s calls on Israel to freeze its settlement activity in the West Bank, saying that while a partial restraint on construction is welcomed, it is insufficient and fuels a crisis of confidence that has kept talks between the parties from resuming.
“This policy falls short of Israel’s Roadmap obligation of a full settlement freeze and excludes settlement activity in East Jerusalem,” Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs B. Lynn Pascoe told the Security Council during today’s open session.
Calling the situation on the ground “fragile”, Mr. Pascoe said in a briefing on the Middle East that the transfer of Israeli settlers into the heart of the Palestinian neighbourhood of Sheikh Jarrah in East Jerusalem had led to further incidents of violence between Palestinian residents and the settlers.
In a development he described as “worrisome,” Mr. Pascoe noted an Israeli military order giving the military commander the power to evict a broad category of people deemed not to be residents of the West Bank.
“This could have the effect of enabling Israeli authorities to deport these individuals and has provoked strong Palestinian and Arab reaction,” he said.
Special Coordinator Robert Serry had raised the issue with Israeli authorities and his office will continue to monitor this development closely, he added.
“Implementing this order would constitute a breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention, in particular its Article 49, which prohibits forcible transfers as well as deportations of protected persons, individual or mass, from the occupied territory,” said Zahir Tanin, Vice-Chairman of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, who addressed the Security Council following Mr. Pascoe’s statement.
Despite continued security cooperation between the Palestinian Authority and Israel, Mr. Pascoe said there were almost daily clashes between settlers and Palestinians resulting in injuries to 41 Palestinians and seven Israelis, and the arrest of 112 Palestinians in the West Bank.
In Gaza, some 16 rockets and mortars – out of 35 fired – reached southern Israel from Gaza. One Palestinian civilian was killed and 15 others were injured in the course of 14 incursions and six airstrikes by Israeli security forces.
“We condemn rocket fire and call for calm to be respected and for international humanitarian law to be upheld,” Mr. Pascoe said, noting reports that Hamas is trying to prevent further outbreaks of violence.
Turning to Lebanon, Mr. Pascoe said that international support for the reconstruction of the Nahr el Bared refugee camp remains a priority and urged additional funding if the reconstruction progress is to be sustained.
The Palestinian Authority requires an estimated $100 million a month in external financing for recurrent budgetary expenditures, but since January, only an estimated $174 million has been transferred.
“Projected shortfalls in the Palestinian Authority’s budget could undermine its reform and State-building agenda. Member States are encouraged to commit funds they pledged, wherever possible through direct support to the Palestinian Authority,” Mr. Pascoe said.
In regards to progress made on the entry of materials for approved UN programmes in Gaza, Mr. Pascoe said the delivery of aggregate and cement has allowed work to begin on a sewage pumping station project at Tel el Sultan near the Egyptian border. Work is scheduled to begin soon on a 151-unit Khan Younis housing project in the southern part of Gaza. The commercial import of wood and aluminium will be allowed entry this week.
Mr. Pascoe cautioned, however, that “the entry of materials still falls far short of what is required to address the immense reconstruction and development needs of Gaza.”
The Central Election Commission has now completed the registration of over 200,000 new voters in the West Bank ahead of the Palestinian municipal elections on 17 July.
Mr. Pascoe called the planned vote “an important democratic element of the State-building agenda.”