The spiral of violence in the occupied West Bank and Israel has seen over 200 Palestinian and 30 Israeli fatalities so far this year, already surpassing last year’s annual figure and the highest since 2005.
So says the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process during a briefing to the Security Council in New York. Tor Wennesland told Council members that Palestinians and Israeli’s were killed and injured in nearly daily violence while he flagged demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures and continued Israeli settlement activity as a substantial obstacle to peace.
In just the last three weeks, Wennesland says 16 Palestinians, including 5 children were killed by Israeli security forces in the occupied West Bank while he quoted Israeli sources that one member of their security forces and nine others, including a woman and a child were injured in shooting and stone-throwing attacks.
“Palestinians and Israelis are killed and injured in near daily violence – including just hours before this briefing when another fatal shooting attack killed an Israeli in the West Bank. This violence is fueled and exacerbated by a growing sense of despair about the future. While the parties have taken some actions towards stabilizing the situation on the ground, unilateral steps, including settlement growth and demolitions, continue, as do Israeli operations in Area A, Palestinian militant activity and settler violence. The lack of progress towards a political horizon that addresses the core issues driving the conflict has left a dangerous and volatile vacuum, filled by extremists on all sides.
Wennesland called for the perpetrators of violence on both sides to be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice, reiterating the view that violence against civilians, including acts of terror, are unacceptable and needed to be condemned and rejected by all.
He urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect human life; repeating earlier calls for settlement activity and demolitions of Palestinian structures to cease.
“Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 58 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and six in East Jerusalem, displacing 28 Palestinians, including 14 children. The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. On 17 August, a Palestinian elementary school in Ein Samiya serving nearly 80 pupils was demolished days before the start of the school year – the third such demolition in the past year. I call on Israeli authorities to end demolitions of Palestinian-owned property and the displacement and eviction of Palestinians, and to approve additional plans that would enable Palestinians to build legally and address their development needs.”
Several council members lamented the lack of political progress towards a two state solution; China called for the Palestinian question to be given greater importance on the international agenda, France – for the restoration of a credible political horizon while Mozambique urged members of the Council to redouble their influence and advocacy on both sides as Wennesland warned of a negative trajectory that has marked the conflict for far too long.
“While we must urgently focus on addressing the most critical issues and on de-escalating the situation on the ground, we cannot ignore the need to restore a political horizon. The United Nations remains firmly committed to supporting the parties to achieve an end to the occupation and the establishment of a two-State solution, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”
Council also heard that the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) needed 35 million dollars urgently to maintain food assistance to 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza while the World Food Programme required 41 million dollars to restore operations across the occupied territories.
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