Inaction has ‘cost measured in human lives,’ Security Council told in Middle East debate

23 November 2016

Briefing the Security Council on the Middle East peace process, two senior United Nations officials – the UN relief chief and the UN coordinator for the Middle East peace process – called for action to prevent further deterioration of the region plagued by humanitarian crises and to save lives and alleviate human suffering.

In his remarks, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said: “Inaction has a cost. A cost measured in human lives and suffering. The situation on the ground is changing steadily, dangerously, as proponents of Israeli settlement expansion feel emboldened, internal divisions among Palestinians flare up, and the prospect of a future Palestinian state comes under threat like never before.”

“A carefully worded statement or well-crafted speech will not reverse the current trajectory,” he cautioned.

Recalling his visit to the camps in West Bank, Mr. Mladenov noted the increasing threat of violence due to poverty, food insecurity and regular Israeli incursions. The increasing tensions had already resulted in a series of clashes between camp residents and Palestinian security forces, killing one individual and injuring several others, he said, calling for promptly and lawfully dealing with such situations.

On the Gaza Strip, the Special Coordinator expressed alarm over continuing build-up and smuggling by militants as well as on the movement of goods and people into and out of the enclave. The restrictions have severely affected availability of construction material and that some 33,000 people are waiting for the supplies.

Inaction has a cost. A cost measured in human lives and suffering.

Turning to Lebanon, he noted the progress towards the formation of a government and expressed hope that the positive momentum created would translation into holding of the parliamentary elections by May 2017.

UN humanitarian chief worried for aid delivery into Gaza

Also briefing the Council, Stephen O’Brien, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, highlighted that the ability to deliver relief into Gaza had been increasingly restricted due to Israel’s banning or restricting imports of certain material deemed to have dual military and civilian purposes. Some 70 per cent of Gaza’s population is in need of some form of international assistance.

Mr. O’Brien, also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, told the 15-member Council that in addition to the denial of UN applications for employees to leave Gaza for meetings with their managers, the operating space for non-governmental organizations had been made more difficult by the fact that Hamas sought to audit and review staff.

Furthermore, the division between the Palestinian authorities in the West Bank and in Gaza burdened humanitarian actors and budgets, he said.

“Ultimately, real progress in Gaza requires a full lifting of the blockade by Israel, in line with the resolutions of this Council and the General Assembly,” he added, stressing: “Until that happens, Israel must ensure that items needed for reconstruction, relief and emergency preparedness are allowed entry.”

He also expressed concern at the that Israeli forces frequently confiscated or destroyed relief items, including tents, water cisterns and other basic survival needs.

Underscoring the severity of challenges confronting the local population and aid workers, Mr. O’Brien noted: “If we want to prevent further deterioration in a region already overwhelmed with humanitarian emergencies, your decisive collective action is vital.”


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