Negative trends prevail in Occupied Palestinian Territory; human toll ‘devastating’: Senior UN Official

The separation wall in occupied Palestinian territory.
UN News/Shirin Yaseen
The separation wall in occupied Palestinian territory.

Negative trends prevail in Occupied Palestinian Territory; human toll ‘devastating’: Senior UN Official

Peace and Security

The world’s collective priority for the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be reversing the negative trajectory that marked 2022 as one of the deadliest years in recent memory, the senior UN official in the region told the Security Council on Wednesday.

“The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll,” said Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. 

Citing rising political tensions and the long-stalled peace process, he said preventing more loss of life must go hand-in-hand with the international community’s ultimate goal - ending the Israeli occupation, resolving the conflict, and realizing a lasting two-State solution.

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Deadly clashes

Mr. Wennesland briefed the Council on the heels of one of the deadliest years in the history of the conflict.  

On 19 December, he reported that more than 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis had been killed in the West Bank and Israel, up to that point last year.

In his briefing this week, he said that during the latest reporting period - covering 8 December to 13 January - another 14 Palestinians were killed, including a 16-year-old boy shot during an arrest operation in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus.

An additional 117 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces.

According to Israeli sources, five Israeli civilians and four security forces personnel were injured by Palestinians in attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents. 

‘Collision course’

“Israelis and Palestinians remain on a collision course amid escalating political and inflammatory rhetoric, as well as heightened violence in the West Bank — both with potentially grave consequences,” the Special Coordinator warned.

Ongoing Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are also igniting tensions.

On 2 January, the Israeli Government informed the High Court of Justice that it intends to legalize, under Israeli law, the outpost of Homesh - which is built on private Palestinian land. 

Emphasizing that all such settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace, the Special Coordinator told the Council that Israeli demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property also continued through the reporting period.

Tor Wennesland (on screen), Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, addresses UN Security Council members on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Tor Wennesland (on screen), Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, addresses UN Security Council members on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Provocative visit

Several other recent developments have caused rising tensions between the parties.

On 3 January, Israel’s new National Security Minister, far-right party leader Itamar Ben-Gvir, visited the hilltop compound in Jerusalem’s old city — which is sacred to both Jews and Muslims — reportedly accompanied by a heavy security detail.

Widely seen as a provocative act, the occasion marked the first time since 2017 that an Israeli Minister had visited the site.

That move was sharply condemned by the Palestinian Authority and many States across the region, and led the Security Council to hold its first emergency meeting of 2023.

In addition, on 30 December 2022, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution containing a request to the Hague-based International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion relating to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.

Praised by many countries and UN agencies, the text has also been strongly criticized by Israeli officials.

Against these multiple backdrops, Mr. Wennesland called for courageous leadership and strong Council unity, along with urgent efforts to prevent spoilers and extremists from “pour[ing] more fuel on the fire”.