With the latest Gaza ceasefire due to expire at midnight, the United Nations special envoy for the Middle East urged all parties to reach an understanding on a durable truce which addresses underlying issues and breaks the deadlock of violence and retaliation.
Briefing the Security Council today, Robert Serry, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, said that while the temporary ceasefire has granted civilians a reprieve for the past eight days, “it has taken too much time, and too many lives to achieve.”
To date, almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, of whom 459 are children and 239 are women. This total includes more than two thirds civilians. Some 10,000 Palestinians, roughly a third of them children, have been injured. In addition, 64 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and one foreign national have reportedly been killed. Ending this bloodshed required addressing its root causes including the occupation that began in 1967, said Serry.
“It remains my conviction that we must not leave Gaza in the condition it was in before this latest escalation. Otherwise, the restrictions on the Strip – on exit and entry of goods and people – will continue to fuel instability, underdevelopment and conflict, and I am afraid the next escalation will be just a matter of time.”
Mr. Serry said a sustainable solution must consist of ending the blockade while addressing Israel’s security concerns. The agreement should also address issues of governance and reconstruction, all in the context of the return of one legitimate Palestinian Authority to Gaza. It must also restructure the security sector, which will gradually assume the exclusive control through the deployment of Palestinian Security Forces to border crossings and throughout Gaza.
This will require international support, including from the European Union and the United Nations and more specifically the Security Council, which must take the all necessary action to support a durable ceasefire.
Recalling his trip Gaza last week, Mr. Serry said he met with officials to address the daunting challenges of reconstruction, as part of “bringing back Gaza” under one legitimate government.
“I call on all in Gaza to rally behind the Government of National Consensus and empower it to take charge…Right now, Gaza urgently needs houses, hospitals, and schools – not rockets, tunnels, and conflict. We expect Hamas, and all other factions, to act responsibly in this regard and refrain from any actions that run counter to this agenda,” said Mr. Serry.
Reconstruction must be the main priority as some 16,800 housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged, affecting 100,000 Palestinians. The UN stands ready to discuss ways to import materials into Gaza to assist much-needed rebuilding efforts.
Mr. Serry also said he was extremely troubled by the direct hit on UN schools, which resulted in 38 deaths and 317 injuries. Eleven UN Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) colleagues were killed in the line of duty and 108 UN installations have been damaged. On claims that rockets were found in the schools, he said it was “intolerable” to disrespect vital provisions of international law that protect civilians.