UNSC holds a session on the situation in the Middle East, including Palestine

(WAFA) – The UN Security Council held a special session today to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Khaled Khiari, Assistant Secretary-General for Middle East, Asia and the Pacific in the Departments of Political and Peacebuilding Affairs and Peace Operations, said the deterioration of the security situation in the West Bank has continued, punctuated by a two-day Israeli operation in Jenin — the most intensive of its kind in nearly 20 years. 

“This deterioration is taking place alongside ongoing unilateral steps that undermine a two-State solution, the absence of a peace process and the continuing economic challenges facing Palestinians and the Palestinian Authority,” he stressed. 

From 27 June through 24 July in the occupied West Bank, Khiari added, 25 Palestinians, including 5 children, were killed, and 249 Palestinians, including 5 women and 22 children, were injured by Israeli occupation forces

“The period saw a significant escalation in the ongoing wave of violence in the West Bank,” he continued. “From 3 to 4 July in the Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, Israeli security forces carried out an operation marked by multiple drone strikes and over 1,000 ground troops.  Twelve Palestinians, including four children, were killed and over 140 injured — the most in a single operation in the West Bank since the United Nations began tracking casualties in 2005.”

“I reiterate that acts of terror and the targeting of civilians are unacceptable and must be condemned and rejected by all,” Khiari stressed. “Israel has an obligation to protect Palestinians and their property in occupied Palestinian territory and ensure independent investigations into all acts of violence.  Security forces must exercise maximum restraints and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable to protect life.”

He said that the humanitarian situation in the occupied West Bank remains concerning and the large Israeli attack in Jenin refugee camp has had a devastating humanitarian toll on the camp and its residents. 

Expressing deep alarm over the funding gap facing the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), he stressed that $200 million is urgently needed to maintain services from September onwards, and $75 million to sustain the food pipeline in Gaza.

Riyad Mansour, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said the “Israeli Government is one of the settlers, by the settlers and for the settlers.  There are more than 700,000 Israeli settlers in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.”

“Let us start by calling things by their name,” he urged, stating that “the Israeli occupation is a settler-colonial occupation” and that the only way the international community can end it is to address its settler-colonial nature.

Mansour called for UN resolutions to be translated into an action plan, with measures to be taken by every peace-loving State to dissuade Israel from entrenching its occupation.  Israel has effectively annexed large parts of Palestinian territory and restricted Palestinians into disconnected enclaves. “Confinement for Palestinians, expansion for Israeli settlements,” he observed, adding: “It wants maximum Palestinian land with minimum Palestinians.  If it can build Israeli settlements and destroy Palestinian homes without consequences, it will continue doing so.”

Against that backdrop, Mansour called on the international community to hold accountable the settlers who walk into Palestinian villages and destroy homes, crops and wreak havoc in the streets. 

He said, “We need an action plan, with the necessary resources and the will to implement it.  The International Criminal Court investigations must start yielding results by providing justice for victims and deterring perpetrators. The International Court of Justice advisory opinion will give the United Nations and all States guidance on their legal obligations.” 

Mansour also urged the international community to protect the lives of Palestinian children, who are confronted with killings, forced displacement, arbitrary arrests and destroyed homes and schools.  “Protect our children as they are the primary target of the warmongers.  They always come for the next generation.  The peacemakers should do the same.”

Robert Wood, Rep. of the United States to the UN, pointed out that the escalating trend of violence in 2023 underscores the fragility of the situation in the West Bank. He urged all parties to take proactive measures to counter all forms of violence and to ensure that justice and accountability are pursued with equal rigour in all cases of extremist violence. 

Adrian Hauri, Deputy Permanent Representative of Switzerland to the United Nations, called for the de-escalation of violence and the protection of civilians, noting that more than 40 children have died since January.  He also called on Israel and Palestine to implement the commitments they made in Aqaba and Sharm el-Sheikh, adding that Switzerland considers East Jerusalem to be occupied territory and that its final status must be negotiated between the parties.  He also expressed concern that Israel is accelerating settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, recalling that settlements are illegal under international law and constitute a major obstacle to a two-State solution. 

Lilly Stella Ngyema Ndong (Gabon), said she is concerned with the spiral of violence and the deteriorating security situation on the ground.  She condemned the killing of civilians, including women and children, and the detention of children.  She is also concerned with the continued expansion of settlements, demolitions and expulsions, particularly in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem. “This is a clear violation of international law that must cease, especially since it impedes the building of a comprehensive, just and lasting peace,” she said, calling for the respect for the status quo of the holy places in Jerusalem.  She again called for funding of UNRWA and the World Food Programme (WFP), which help stabilize the region and provide humanitarian aid. She urged all parties to abide by Council resolutions.

Vanessa Frazier, the Permanent Representative of Malta to the UN, underscored that the deterioration of the security situation on the ground is leading to tragic numbers of casualties, including children.  “It is disheartening to see a generation of Palestinian children so devoid of hope and aspirations, a generation that only knows life under the blockade,” she said, emphasizing that the psychosocial repercussions of these circumstances must not be underestimated.  She recognized UNRWA’s crucial efforts to protect Palestinian refugees, calling on the international community to bolster financial support towards guaranteeing its service provision. 

Zhang Jun, Permanent Representative of China to the United Nations, said that the Council should prevent the situation from spiralling out of control.  Recalling that Israel recently launched its biggest military operation in nearly 20 years, he said it resulted in the death of 12 and the injury of over 100 Palestinians in Jenin, along with the flight of more than 3,000 refugees.

Pointing out that settlement-expansion is altering the status quo, he called on Israel to cease these activities and return to the two-State solution.  He also called for the removal of the Gaza Strip blockade and encouraged more humanitarian assistance.  “The longer action is delayed, the more complex and the graver the situation is, and the greater the difficulty for achieving peace is,” he underscored.