The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has expressed his alarm over the levels of violence witnessed in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Israel over the past months.
Tor Wennesland told the Security Council on Monday that in recent months, violence has continued at a high level, leading to scores of Palestinian and Israeli casualties.
Speaking via video conference from Jerusalem, Wennesland spoke of his concern over continued demonstrations and clashes; settler-related violence; and the firing of a rocket from Gaza into Israel, which he called “a concerning reminder of the fragility” within the Palestinian enclave.
“Mounting violence has been further fuelled and exacerbated by provocative steps and inflammatory rhetoric”, he said, calling for “immediate steps to lower tensions and reverse negative trends that undermine prospects for a peaceful two-State resolution of the conflict”.
The senior envoy drew attention to specific incidents, including the death of two Palestinian men, a 16-year-old boy and an Israeli settler.
In updating the ambassadors on settlement activity and the seizure of Palestinian-owned structures, including internationally funded humanitarian projects, Mr. Wennesland reminded that the Israeli Government was in “flagrant violation” of UN resolutions and international law, and called on the country to stop seizures and demolitions.
He said he was “gravely concerned by continuing violence against civilians,” calling for it to stop, and for all perpetrators to be held accountable.
The UN envoy also called recent unjustified attacks by Palestinians and Arab-Israelis against civilians in Israel “the deadliest in years,” stressing that they “must be clearly rejected by all”.
“I also condemn the continued killings of Palestinians, including children, by Israeli security forces, particularly in incidents where they did not appear to present an imminent threat to life,” he continued, noting that 15 Palestinian children had been killed in the West Bank this year, compared to nine during the same period in 2021.
Mr. Wennesland reiterated that “security forces must exercise maximum restraint”, and only use lethal force to protect life.
Turning to the fatal shooting of journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh, he flagged the disturbing behaviour of some Israeli security services at her funeral and echoed the Secretary-General’s call for an independent and transparent investigation into her killing and for those responsible to be held accountable.
“Journalists must never be the target of violence,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the persistence of conflict drivers and absence of political will to change course have empowered extremists and are eroding perceptions among Palestinians and Israelis that a lasting peace will ever be achievable, warned the Special Coordinator.
He said it was crucial to improve Palestinian lives in Gaza, and for Israel to ease restrictions and facilitate more economic activity, such as better access to the Israeli labour market for Gazan workers.
However, Mr. Wennesland acknowledged, maintaining a state of calm in perpetuity, “is neither sufficient nor sustainable”.
“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” he underscored.
“I urge Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to take steps that will enable the parties to regain the path towards meaningful negotiations and, ultimately, peace”. (Source: UN News)