With Gaza violence ‘escalating as we speak,’ UN envoy calls for ‘immediate stop’
It is no longer enough to reaffirm past agreements on resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a senior UN envoy, who said on Monday that it is time to “find our way back to a mutually agreed mediation framework” to resume meaningful negotiations towards a two-State solution.
“While there may be different interpretations and proposals how, this remains our shared objective”, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said, briefing the UN Security Council via video conference from Jerusalem.
Before updating the members on the situation on the ground, he began by detailing a developing situation that began over the weekend after Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) said it had fired at two Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants who were attempting to plant an explosive device along the Gaza perimeter fence.
“Since then more than 60 rockets have been fired by Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants towards Israel. As of now, the IDF is responding by conducting multiple airstrikes in the Strip,” Mr. Mladenov explained.
“The situation is escalating as we speak with continuing projectiles being fired from Gaza and retaliatory Israeli airstrikes.”
He called for “an immediate stop” to the firing of rockets and mortars that “only risk dragging Gaza into another round of hostilities with no end in sight”.
“The indiscriminate launching of rockets against civilian population centres violates international law and must end”, stressed the UN envoy.
He elaborated on security, humanitarian and political crises in the enclave, including restrictions that are contributing to an “ongoing health disaster in the Gaza Strip”.
“According to local interlocutors, as of the end of January, stock levels for 46 per cent of essential medicines have been completely depleted”, highlighted Mr. Mladenov.
While $1.2 million worth of medicines were subsequently allowed to enter to “somewhat alleviate the dire situation”, he encouraged the Palestinian government to work with the UN and increase its efforts to help resolve the health crisis.
Turning to the West Bank where “violence has also continued”, the UN envoy painted a picture of clashes and death, including of children.
“Violence against civilians, and particularly against children, is unacceptable, and must be condemned by all”, asserted Mr. Mladenov. “All incidents must be thoroughly investigated”.
The situation around the Holy Sites in Jerusalem also remained tense
Violence against civilians, and particularly against children, is unacceptable -- UN envoy
Amidst calls by religious and political leaders for Palestinians to pray en masse at Muslim sites, he updated that “there were limited clashes and arrests reported, including after Friday prayers” and the police arrested a former Israeli Knesset Member for ignoring police directives while visiting the site.
Edging away from two-State solution
With no meaningful bilateral negotiations on the horizon, developments on the ground continued to undermine prospects for a two-State solution.
Moreover, Israeli authorities continued to evict people from their homes, seize and demolish structures, and approve plans for building further settlements.
If implemented, the latest constructions would consolidate a ring of settlements cutting between East Jerusalem and Bethlehem, significantly constraining the possibility of a future contiguous Palestinian State.
“I reiterate that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace”, the UN envoy reminded.
Meanwhile, Israeli and United States officials have formed a joint committee to produce detailed maps of relevant areas of the occupied West Bank to advance annexation.
This would have a devastating impact on the prospect for a two-State solution.
“They would close the door to negotiations, have negative repercussions across the region, and severely undermine opportunities for normalization and regional peace”, Mr. Mladenov underscored.
Protests continue throughout Lebanon and a serious incident occurred in which some 15 people blocked a UNIFIL (UN Interim Force in Lebanon) patrol, seized items and injured one peacekeeper.
An in the Golan, recent developments involved a ceasefire breach and continued volatility.
“UNDOF (UN Disengagement Observer Force) engaged both parties in order to prevent an escalation of tensions and reminded them of their obligation to respect the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement”, which, among other things, established a separation zone.
As negative trends continue, Mr. Mladenov reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to supporting a peaceful future for the Middle East and underscored that the Organization’s “preventive diplomacy efforts continue to play an integral role” on the ground.