Friday, 16/11/2018 | 1:28 UTC+0
Libyan Newswire

Outbreak of New Israel-Hamas Conflict ‘Almost a Certainty’, Special Coordinator for Middle East Peace Process Warns Security Council

United Nations, Egypt Behind Intensive Diplomatic Effort to Avert Fresh Military Confrontation, Says Nickolay Mladenov

The outbreak of a new conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip is “almost a certainty” unless the international community gets to work immediately to ease tensions on the ground, without losing sight of the broader aim of a sustainable peace, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today.

In a comprehensive briefing that opened the Council’s quarterly open debate on the Middle East, including the question of Palestine, Nickolay Mladenov — speaking via videoconference from Jerusalem just hours after returning from Gaza — credited intensive preventative diplomacy by the United Nations and Egypt over the weekend with averting a fresh military confrontation between Israel and Hamas.

But he warned:  “Unless we begin in earnest the crucial work required to change the current deteriorating dynamics, another explosion is almost a certainty.”  Progress, he added, will require de‑escalation and calm in Gaza; strengthened coordination with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and the United Nations; and financial support — with the human dimension at the forefront of all efforts.

He went on to report that the United Nations is closely monitoring the situation after the Israel Defense Force said it fired two missiles earlier today to shoot down a Syrian fighter jet which it claimed had infiltrated Israeli airspace.  “These hostilities demonstrate a disturbing trajectory of increasingly frequent and dangerous confrontations,” he said, calling on all parties to abide by the 1974 separation of forces agreement.

In the ensuing debate, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said Israel is continuing its oppression of Palestinians.  “It is imperative that the international community act urgently to prevent further assaults against Palestinian civilians” and ensure the lifting of Israel’s blockade, he emphasized, calling also for sustainable funding for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) after the United States announced that it would cut back its contribution to that entity.

Israel’s delegate said it is time for the Council to designate Hamas as a terrorist organization on a par with Al‑Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh).  Twelve years since Hamas seized Gaza, peace in the region is a “figment of the imagination” because Hamas values death over life, he said.  He also noted his country’s weekend rescue of “White Helmets” volunteers from Syria and the downing of the Syrian aircraft.

The representative of the United States asked where Arab countries were in terms of encouraging Palestinian reconciliation, denouncing Hamas terrorism or supporting the compromises needed for peace.  If they really do care, those countries would condemn Arab extremism and tell the Palestinian leadership that it looked foolish condemning a peace proposal it has yet to see.  Arab leaders are afraid to tell them the truth, she stated, adding that it is time for regional States in particular to help Palestinians — rather than making speeches at United Nations Headquarters, thousands of miles away.

Kuwait’s representative, the sole Arab member of the Council, said his delegation holds Israel responsible for the escalation of violence and for systematic policies that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Noting that the Gaza blockade has been in place for more than a decade, he reiterated the importance of ending the economic and humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people.

Other speakers today reiterated the support of their respective Governments for a political resolution of the Israel‑Palestinian conflict based on the two‑State formula, while at the same time condemning terrorism and appealing for restraint.  Many touched upon other Middle East issues, from the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Yemen to the formation of a new Government in Lebanon and the future of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme.

Venezuela’s representative, speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, faulted the United States for using its veto to block a draft resolution on Gaza in June.  “The Security Council has been unable to fulfil its mandate on this important question due to the prevalence of particular interests of a permanent member,” he said, also reiterating the bloc’s grave concern over the lack of accountability for violations committed by Israel.

Iran’s representative said the Israeli regime’s brutalities have only intensified since the Council’s last open debate on the Middle East, “confident in the unequivocal support of the United States and emboldened by the Council’s inaction”.  Focusing on Israel’s new “Jewish Nation‑State Law”, he said it should be revoked for contravening the United Nations Charter, international law and the basic principles of international human rights law.

Egypt’s representative said the Israel‑Palestinian conflict persisted not for a lack of ideas or resolutions, but rather, of desire for serious negotiations.  Stressing that Gazans faced an UNRWA crisis, confrontations with Israel’s security forces and obstructed movement, he said Egypt, in solidarity, is working to lessen the humanitarian crisis, while it has no legal responsibility to open the Rafah border crossing.  He went on to call for resumed negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis based on clear, defined guidelines and principles taken from Council resolutions, notably resolution 2334 (2016).  “These principles will not leave,” he said, adding that they reflected inalienable rights.

Pakistan’s representative, however, noted that some have called for both sides to exercise restraint, whereas the issue is a struggle between an occupied people and an occupying Power.  “Glossing over this incontrovertible reality would be tantamount to drawing moral equivalence between the acts of the aggressor and the aggrieved,” she pointed out.  Furthermore, recent Security Council inaction on the question of Palestine has led the General Assembly to take a more proactive role in order to fill the void, she said.

Also speaking today were representatives of the Russian Federation, China, Kazakhstan, France, Peru, Netherlands, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Côte d’Ivoire, United Kingdom, Ethiopia, Bolivia, Sweden, Lebanon, Argentina, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Norway, Japan, Nigeria, Turkey, South Africa, Maldives, Cuba, Qatar, Jordan, Ecuador, Bangladesh (on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation), Indonesia, Egypt, Malaysia, Morocco, Viet Nam and Brazil.

Also delivering statements were representatives of the European Union, League of Arab States, and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.

The meeting began at 10:08 a.m. and ended at 3:32 p.m.

Briefing

NICKOLAY MLADENOV, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, briefed the Council via videoconference from Jerusalem, saying tensions between Syria and Israel continue to rise.  Last Saturday, it took intensive preventative diplomacy by the United Nations and Egypt to avert a fourth military confrontation between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, where a fragile ceasefire has been taken for granted for four years with no improvement in the underlying dynamics.  Recalling that he travelled to Gaza on 15 July and again today in an urgent effort to de‑escalate tensions, he called on both sides to step back from the brink.  “Those who seek to provoke Israelis and Palestinians to war must not succeed,” he emphasized.

The past month has seen one of the largest escalations since the 2014 Israel‑Gaza conflict, he said, noting that 19 Palestinians – including 7 children — were killed by the Israel Defense Forces, and more than 1,000 injured amid protests, clashes and air strikes.  One Israeli soldier was killed by gunfire from Gaza, and four Israeli civilians and a soldier were moderately injured by rocket fire and a hand grenade, respectively.  In the occupied West Bank, a Palestinian teenager was killed by the Israel Defense Forces during a search‑and‑arrest operation, while some 25 Palestinians and three Israeli soldiers were injured, he said.

Summarizing a series of recent incidents, including the launching of incendiary kites and balloons from Gaza and the closure of the Kerem Shalom crossing, he said there is no point in asking donors to continue funding humanitarian initiatives without a political horizon for the future.  “This cannot be another futile exercise in conflict management and recurring humanitarian support,” he added, while noting, however, that the situation is calming down, with 100,000 litres of fuel being allowed into Gaza, to be distributed by the United Nations, with priority accorded to hospitals and emergency services.

Current efforts are focused on restoring unity between Gaza and the West Bank under a single democratic government and legal system and with all weapons under the control of legitimate national authorities, he continued.  Achieving that goal, however, means avoiding escalation, alleviating human suffering, lifting restrictions on movement and granting access in accordance with Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).  He said that, to that end, he has been engaging the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority and all stakeholders.  These developments are taking place while the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is in the midst of a financial crisis.  The possible delay of the start of a new school year for 526,000 students in UNRWA schools was a particular concern.  At present, the Agency requires $217 million to sustain its work in 2018, he said, urging the swift mobilization of support to enable assistance to continue.

Turning to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said Israeli authorities have continued the demolition and confiscation of Palestinian‑owned structures.  Detailing the situation in Khan al Ahmar‑Abu al Helu and Abu Nuwar, he said they are among 18 communities located in, or adjacent to, the controversial E1 area where plans for new settlement construction would undermine the contiguity of a future Palestinian State.  In that regard, he called anew on the Government of Israel to cease demolitions and other measures that contravene its obligations under international law.  He added that implementation of a new law passed by the Knesset on 2 July, requiring the withholding of a portion of clearance revenues collected by Israel on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, is expected to have a significant impact on the Authority’s fiscal sustainability.

Moving on to the situation in Syria, he said recent developments in the Golan have heightened tensions, including reports of shelling and tank fire in the area of separation.  By 20 July, the Government of Syria — following its offensive to recapture the south that began on 19 June — was taking control of several areas in Quneitra Governorate, and between 19 and 23 July, the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) observed a significant reduction in the number of tents set up for internally displaced persons — from approximately 2,205 to 765 — in its area of operation.  As of 20 July, almost 203,500 Syrians remained internally displaced across the country’s south‑west, mostly in the western area of Quneitra Governate, with Israeli authorities reportedly delivering food, tents, fuel, medicine and clothing.  Their living conditions are dire and the United Nations has no cross‑border or cross‑line access to Quneitra, he said, stressing that gaining unimpeded humanitarian access is critical.

Recalling Israel’s interception of unmanned aerial vehicles launched from Syria earlier this month, and the targeting of Syrian military posts in retaliation, he said the United Nations is closely monitoring the situation after the Israel Defense Force said it fired two missiles earlier today to shoot down a Syrian fighter jet which it claimed had infiltrated Israeli airspace.  “These hostilities demonstrate a disturbing trajectory of increasingly frequent and dangerous confrontations,” he said, calling on all parties to abide by the 1974 separation of forces agreement and to support UNDOF’s role in that regard.  As for the situation in Lebanon, he said consultations and United Nations advocacy for the formation of a new Government are continuing, with the situation in the south of the country and along the “Blue Line” remaining calm overall.

He concluded by underlining the importance of expediting collective efforts to address the perilous situation in Gaza.  “Unless we begin in earnest the crucial work required to change the current deteriorating dynamics, another explosion is almost a certainty,” he warned, adding that progress will require de‑escalation and calm in Gaza; strengthened coordination with the Palestinian Authority, Israel, Egypt and the United Nations; and financial support.  The human dimension must be at the forefront of all efforts, he said.  Gazans deserve to live in freedom and dignity, he said, stressing that it is their right, not a privilege that can be taken hostage or granted and withheld by others who have no regard for their suffering.  At the same time, Israelis living near Gaza deserve to be free from indiscriminate rocket, mortar and incendiary attacks that have plagued their lives for years.  “We also cannot lose sight of the broader context,” he said, warning that another missed opportunity could have disastrous consequences for an Israeli‑Palestinian peace based on a two‑State solution, with Gaza as an integral part of a future Palestinian State.

Statements

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, quoted the United States Declaration of Independence — “We hold these truths to be self‑evident, that all men are created equal” — emphasizing that those truths and rights must be recognized for every nation “with no exception”.  Yet, over the last month, Israel continued its oppression of Palestinians, entrenching its illegal occupation and committing human rights violations.  For seven decades, Palestinians have borne witness to decisions that denigrated their rights under the pretext of security and religious edicts.  In the Gaza Strip, they endure a worsening humanitarian crisis, which has placed “explosive” pressure on infrastructure and caused loss of livelihoods, all while Israel kills Palestinian civilians, he said.  “It is imperative that the international community act urgently to prevent further assaults against Palestinian civilians” and ensure the lifting of Israel’s blockade, he emphasized, calling also for sustainable funding for UNRWA.

Turning to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, he said Palestinians there endure Israel’s policy of forced displacement and home demolitions, while its illegal settlement campaign continues unabated.  Israel plans to forcibly transfer the Bedouin communities of Abu Nuwar and Khan al Ahmar, seeking to expand its settlements in that area in breach of international law, notably resolution 2334 (2016), he noted.  “One generation after the other, our people, despite their resilience and steadfastness, are confronted with the same fate,” he said, adding that, in the absence of international action, the occupying Power continues its crimes without fear of consequence.  He stressed the need to provide international protection for Palestinian civilians, saying he looks forward to the Secretary‑General’s recommendations on ways and means to provide it, including through an international protection mechanism, pursuant to General Assembly resolution ES-10/20.

Recalling Israel’s recent adoption of its “Jewish Nation‑State Law”, he said that its goal is not peace and a two‑State solution, but rather, annexation at the expense of a future Palestinian State.  Quoting United States Peace Envoy Frank Lowenstein, he said that, rather than transferring power to the Palestinian side, Israel has transferred it to Israeli settlers.  “This is the very definition of colonialism,” he stressed, advising those who think the Palestinian tragedy is not that grave to look at the greater picture.  “This is about the denial of the rights of an entire nation”, a mass displacement and replacement of a people, and a policy of confinement for Palestinians and expansion for Jewish Israeli settlers.

While agreeing that old ways and interim solutions do not work, and nor does postponing the consideration of core issues and ignoring international law, he advocated a peace plan centred on the established international terms of reference for a peaceful solution, in accordance with the relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Guiding Principles, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map, advanced through a collective process that holds the parties accountable.  The Palestinian leadership pledges its commitment to peace, international law, a two‑State solution and non‑violence, as well as to cooperate with all international and regional efforts to advance a just peace.  “Reunification of our people, land and political system are among our highest national priorities,” he said.  He pressed States to respect — and ensure respect for — international law, and commended Ireland’s Parliament for banning settlement products originating from stolen Palestinian lands.

DANNY DANON (Israel), recalling that two missiles were launched at a Syrian fighter jet that was in Israel’s airspace, warned Syria against breaching the 1974 separation of forces agreement.  He recalled that Israel rescued 422 members of the “White Helmets” and their families over the weekend, approving their passage as a humanitarian gesture.  Israel will continue to provide Syrians with food, medicine and clothing as it has since the war’s earliest days, he said, pointing out that too many in the international community criticized his country’s actions.  Describing recent events, he said an Israeli Defense Force soldier was killed by a Hamas terrorist squad, while a 17‑year‑old girl was wounded in a rocket attack, and balloon explosives landed on the roof of a kindergarten.  Some 7,400 acres in southern Israel — “half the size of Manhattan” or eight Central Parks — have been destroyed by Hamas arson attacks, he added.

Israel destroyed Hamas terror tunnels out of a need to protect its people, “just as you would do to protect yours”, he continued.  While Hamas is responsible for these acts, too many in the United Nations Headquarters have forgotten that it is a terrorist organization to blame for holding hostages in Gaza and working with both Hizbullah and the Iranian regime, he said.  It is time for the Council to acknowledge that Hamas is no different from Al‑Qaida and Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/Da’esh), and to designate it as a terrorist organization, he emphasized.  Founded in 1987 by Muslim Brotherhood members, Hamas sought to create a Palestinian State “from river to the sea”, preaching the destruction of Israel through suicide bombings, stabbings, kidnappings and other terrorist acts.

He recalled that, in 2005, Israel’s Prime Minister Ariel Sharon oversaw the withdrawal of the entire Israeli presence — every pre‑existing Jewish presence — in Gaza.  Israel left the area so that Palestinians could govern themselves.  “They had the opportunity,” he said, pointing out that there are no settlements and no occupation.  Hamas remained, however, and in 2006, the group violently overthrew the Palestinian leadership, literally throwing Fatah leaders from rooftops, he said.  It built countless terrorist attack tunnels to kill Israelis, he added, recalling that in 2017, Israel’s security forces stopped more than 400 terrorist attacks.  Twelve years since Hamas seized Gaza, peace in the region is a “figment of the imagination” because Hamas values death over life, he said.

Recalling that Hizbullah terrorized northern Israel for years, he said Hamas widened its collaboration with that group, which also exploited civilians as human shields.  Both enjoyed tremendous resources, equipment and training from Iran.  In recent months, Hamas amplified its activities in Lebanon, he said, adding that his delegation previously warned the Council, but nothing has changed.  Through that network and Iran’s sponsorship, Hamas created unmanned aerial vehicle factories in southern Lebanon.  Stressing that Iran provided $100 million annually to Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he said that just this month, at the so‑called “Wet Gun Powder” festival, a commander of Iran’s Al‑Quds force was to address all Gazans by live broadcast, he said, stressing that the ties between Hamas and Iran are stronger than ever.  Indeed, Hamas has become a regional threat with the support of Iran, which also exerts control over Syria, providing $4 billion per year and thousands of fighters.

Designating Hamas a terrorist organization would reaffirm the international community’s obligation to combat terrorism, as it shares the goal of Al‑Qaida and ISIL of killing innocent people and disrupting peace, he continued.  Recalling that Hamas still holds two Israeli civilians and the abducted bodies of two Israeli soldiers hostage, he said it has been more than four years since the killing of the two soldiers and the United Nations is responsible for ensuring their return for burial in Israel.  Failure to do so would be in violation of international humanitarian law, as one cannot not demand humanitarian assistance for Gaza, which Israel supports, while refusing to ensure the right to return Israel’s fallen.  Hamas continues to disregard all the values that the international community holds dear — humanity, protection of civilians and respect for international law.  Dozens of countries have designated the group as a terrorist organization from the understanding that it is a global terror threat, and if the Council is serious about peace and security, it will designate Hamas as a terrorist organization “once and for all”, he stressed.

NIKKI HALEY (United States) said that, while the international media pays attention to every step Israel takes in self‑defence, the Council must not lose sight of the damage it suffers under terrorist attacks from Gaza.  Noting that there is no end to speeches on behalf of the Palestinians at the United Nations, she said that if those words were useful in schools, hospitals and streets, Palestinians would not be facing such desperate conditions.  No group of countries is more generous with their words than the Palestinians’ Arab neighbours, but words in New York do not feed, clothe or educate a Palestinian child, she said, pointing out that Iran’s contribution to UNRWA in 2017 was 0, as were those of Algeria and Tunisia.  Pakistan provided $20,000, Egypt $20,000 and Oman $668,000, she said, adding that China provided $350,000, the Russian Federation $2 million, Turkey $6.7 million, Kuwait $9 million and the United Arab Emirates $12.8 million.

By contrast, the United States gave $364 million — 10 times the combined amount from every country just named — in addition to what it gave in bilateral annual assistance, which was another $300 million, she continued.  In fact, the contribution of the United States has averaged a quarter of a billion dollars annually since 1993.  But judging from the vitriol directed against that country, one could conclude that its support is unappreciated and unwelcomed.  “We are humanitarian‑oriented people”, but do not expect our hand, extended in generosity, to be bitten, she cautioned, emphasizing that the United States expects others to extend their hands as well.  She asked where Arab countries are in encouraging reconciliation among Palestinian factions; in denouncing Hamas terrorism or in supporting necessary compromises in support of peace, stressing that if they really care, they would condemn Arab extremism and tell the Palestinian leadership it looked foolish condemning a peace proposal they have not yet seen.  Arab leaders are afraid to tell them the truth, she declared, stressing that it is time for regional States in particular to help Palestinians, rather than making speeches thousands of miles away.

Mr. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, with the Middle East teetering on the brink of another escalation, with potentially catastrophic consequences for the entire world, there was a need for preventative diplomacy and focus on a peaceful solution.  Recent events in Gaza confirmed that violence is filling a vacuum created by the absence of political progress.  The ongoing construction of illegal Israeli settlements, the demolition of Palestinian structures and the inflammatory rhetoric on both sides were alarming, he said, adding that any actions prejudging the outcome of peace talks, or imposing a new reality on the ground through national legislation, are unacceptable.  Expressing support for a two‑State solution, in accordance with United Nations resolutions and the Arab Peace Initiative, he said the Russian Federation stands ready to facilitate efforts in that regard.

Recalling the separate but constructive talks that his country’s President held in Moscow recently with the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority, he said the Russian Federation’s initiative for an Israel‑Palestinian summit remained on the table.  The Palestinian side consented to such a meeting, and the idea was discussed with the Israel side during a visit to West Jerusalem this week by the Russian Minister for Foreign Affairs.  He said that his country is also facilitating, with Egypt, efforts to surmount the divide in the Palestinian ranks and to support international assistance to them, including through UNRWA.  He added hopefully, in the wake of the emotionally charged statement by the representative of the United States, the situation will improve qualitatively.  He went on to call on all Council members to pool their efforts, including with regard to the situations in Syria, Yemen and Libya.  On Syria, he said the return of refugees to their homes would help normalization in that country while also improving the socioeconomic situation in host countries including Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey.  He also emphasized the urgent need for a common, constructive and unifying agenda on the Middle East within the Council, saying joint action will help to stop the situation from spiralling out of control.

MA ZHAOXU (China), expressing deep concern over recent developments, said the use of force will solve no problems.  Urging all sides to exercise restraint, he said the dire humanitarian situation did not serve regional stability, and hopefully the Gaza blockade will soon be lifted.  Underscoring China’s support for a two‑State solution, he called for concrete action to implement Council resolution 2334 (2016) and halt Israeli settlement activities.  Steps should also be taken to prevent violence against civilians.  The international community should remain united for the early resumption of peace talks, he said, adding that all parties should meet each other halfway while refraining from inflammatory rhetoric and unilateral action.  Expressing his country’s support for a new international conference on Palestine, he also recalled the recent announcement by China’s President that it will contribute 100 million renminbi in support of Palestinian economic development, while also providing $2 million to UNRWA.  China has always supported UNRWA with no intention of competing with any other country, he emphasized.  Stability, tranquillity and happiness are the shared aspirations of people in the Middle East, he added, underlining that hotspot issues should be addressed in a peaceful, just and inclusive manner.

MANSOUR AYYAD SH. A. ALOTAIBI (Kuwait) described the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory as dire, with Israeli troops carrying out the worst attacks on Gaza since 2014, in addition to the crimes committed by Israel, the occupying Power, in targeting people with light ammunition during the “Great March of Return”.  Condemning the targeting of innocent civilians, he said that his delegation holds Israel responsible for the escalation of violence, noting that its systematic policies amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.  Kuwait calls upon the Council to implement relevant resolutions to protect the Palestinian people.  Noting that the blockade on Gaza has been in place for more than a decade, he reiterated the importance of ending the economic and humanitarian crisis facing the Palestinian people, particularly those in Gaza, and called for exerting international pressure to end the blockade.  Turning to UNRWA, he said funding the Agency is an international responsibility, adding that Kuwait has earmarked $55 million for UNRWA and will continue to support it.  Israel continues to change rules on the ground, undermining the basic rights of the Palestinian people, with the Knesset adopting illegal decisions, he said, calling upon that country to immediately cease all settlement activities, which are in violation of international law, United Nations resolutions and the fifth Geneva Convention as well as a war crime under the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.  As for efforts to improve health, energy and water infrastructure, he said Kuwait has agreed to provide $2 million to rehabilitate and develop infrastructure in the south of the Gaza Strip, while expressing his country’s commitment to a two‑State solution, the Arab Peace Initiative and the Quartet road map.

KAIRAT UMAROV (Kazakhstan) said that terrorist groups have found a strong foothold in unstable areas, resulting in an exodus of refugees from many countries.  The burden is being borne by host countries such as Jordan and Lebanon and requires international support.  Expressing alarm about ongoing demonstrations in Iraq, he called for the final certification of results of recent elections in the country to be fully accepted by all political actors.  The United Nations should continue supporting the ongoing partial recount, which must be completed by the end of July.  He also expressed concern about Israel’s decision to temporarily suspend imports and exports through the Kerem Shalom crossing.  “All parties of the conflict should come forward to maintain calm, stop incendiary kites and prevent other provocations,” he urged.  In addition, UNRWA is facing a financial gap of $26 million, risking the education, health care, emergency and social services for 5.3 million Palestine refugees.

FRANÇOIS DELATTRE (France) said the false status quo on the ground shields the reality of the deteriorating situation, warning that it is liable to morph into a full‑blown crisis.  The Council must not abdicate its responsibility nor divert its attention, he said.  Condemning the indiscriminate use of disproportionate force, he expressed support for the right of Palestinians to protest, while recalling also France’s condemnation of Hamas’ exploitation of those protests to breach the security fence, as well as to launch rockets and incendiary devices against Israel’s territory.  The Council must “speak with a strong voice” to pre‑empt an escalation of the current violence, he stressed, adding that respect for the 2014 ceasefire was also required in the immediate term.  Turning to the West Bank, including Jerusalem, he said Israel’s settlement policies undermine the two‑State formula, citing the announcement of new settlements and forced displacements in areas long identified as “red lines”, notably the E1 zone, which will separate the northern West Bank from the south and isolate East Jerusalem from other Palestinian territories.  France’s position on settlement activities as illegal under international law remains unchanged, he said, stressing that there is no viable alternative to a two‑State solution.  While it is essential to fill the political gap, a peace plan that “turns its back” on the internationally recognized parameters is doomed to fail, he cautioned.

GUSTAVO MEZA-CUADRA (Peru) expressed concern over inflexible positions, the absence of dialogue and intensified activities that have created an unpredictable climate, especially in Gaza.  Hamas and the protest leaders must refrain from provoking incidents near the Israeli security fence, he said, condemning the group’s use of incendiary devices.  The legitimacy of Israel’s defence hinged on respecting humanitarian principles, notably of proportion, he added, rejecting the generalization that all Gazans belong to Hamas.  The situation requires leaders from both sides to commit to moderation, notably by halting settlement construction and home demolitions on the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, he said, emphasizing also the importance of Palestinian Authority control over Gaza and its border crossings, and of Israel ceasing such retaliatory measures as restricting the fishing zone around Gaza.

KAREL J.G. VAN OOSTEROM (Netherlands), highlighting the dire situation in the Gaza Strip, said that in order for daily life in the enclave to improve, economic development, humanitarian aid and rebuilding infrastructure must go hand in hand.  He voiced his strong opposition to incendiary kites and balloons from the Gaza Strip being sent into Israel, leading to forest fires and crop damage.  Welcoming Israel’s decision to begin reopening the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods, he also urged easing restrictions while safeguarding security needs.  “The situation in Gaza is a stark reminder of the urgent need for a political horizon and a genuine peace process leading to a two‑State solution, within existing parameters, based on 1967 lines,” he said.  However, he was concerned about the recent legislative developments and a rapid deterioration of the situation on the ground, he noted, objecting to Israel’s planned demolitions in Area C and the Jewish Nation‑State bill.  “It is difficult to see how this contributes to a two‑State solution,” he said, underlining the important role of the Quartet in the peace process.

JOB OBIANG ESONO MBENGONO (Equatorial Guinea) recalled that more than 100 Palestinians lost their lives during the Great March of Return, and that Israeli air strikes countered incendiary devices and missiles.  Israel should respect Palestinian protests as long as they are peaceful, he said, calling upon radical Islamist movements to refrain from exploiting protest marches because Israel also has a right to guarantee the security of its civilians.  Expressing support for Egypt’s plan for inter‑Palestinian reconciliation, he noted that it recognizes the Palestinian Authority as the only legal representative of Palestinians and guarantees its return and reestablishment in Gaza.  He urged Council members, especially those with influence, to seek a formula that will bring the parties back to the negotiation table, in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative.

PAWEL RADOMSKI (Poland) said that the humanitarian situation of 2 million people in the Gaza Strip is even more desperate now than during the last debate on the topic.  While recognizing Israel’s right to protect its borders and defend its legitimate security interests, he urged that country to both ensure proportional use of force by its security services and respect the fundamental right to peaceful protest.  At the same time, Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have a responsibility to avoid provocations.  Highlighting the risk of a regional spillover of the conflict, he said it is the Security Council’s responsibility to address the situation effectively.  He also urged all Palestinian factions to work together to achieve a sustainable development of the intra‑Palestinian reconciliation process, allowing the Palestinian Authority to resume its full responsibilities in the Gaza Strip.

Mr. IPO (Côte d’Ivoire), calling on all sides to exercise restraint, expressed alarm at the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza.  The blockade must be eased and import constraints on fuel lifted.  He also urged Hamas and the Palestinian Authority to pursue dialogue.  Reaffirming support for a two‑State solution in line with Council resolutions, he said the Middle East is facing a myriad of security challenges, including Syria where a resumption of the political process is urgently needed.  Expressing grave alarm at the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Yemen, he called for a cessation of hostilities as well as meaningful political efforts to end the conflict in that country.  Turning to Iran, he said the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action is a solid guarantor for the implementation of the Treaty on the Non‑Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, and he encouraged all stakeholders to iron out their differences.

STEPHEN HICKEY (United Kingdom) stressed that, more than ever, a political process that delivers a two‑State solution is needed.  The United Kingdom is ready to support and contribute to all credible efforts to restart the peace process and he urged others to do the same.  Expressing support for a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel and a viable Palestinian State, he added no one wants a return to conflict.  Hamas must immediately and permanently stop directing rocket fire and incendiary devices at Israel, which in turn must end punitive actions and work instead with the international community to improve access to Gaza.  The Palestinian Authority must, for its part, resume salary payments and work to restore its presence in Gaza.  Meanwhile, the international community must support the Special Envoy’s efforts.  The risk of tensions boiling over into conflict is very real.  Israel must abandon the demolition of Palestinian property, which causes unnecessary suffering and runs counter to international law.  With regards to UNRWA, he said it is clear that the Agency needs a bigger pool of financial support and that it must continue to promote realistic reforms.  Council members should consider what more they can do to support Palestinian refugees and ease the current financial pressure on UNRWA.

MAHLET HAILU GUADEY (Ethiopia) said the humanitarian situation cannot be alleviated without fixing water, fuel, electricity and health care services, or easing the movement of people, goods and services.  Underscoring the importance of greater support for humanitarian agencies serving Gaza, she expressed support for Egypt’s efforts to restore control by the legitimate Palestinian Authority Government in Gaza and commended its hosting of talks with senior Hamas and Fatah officials in that regard.  She expressed support for two States living side by side in peace and security as the only option, stressing that everything must be done to support the return of both sides to direct negotiations.

SACHA SERGIO LLORENTTY SOLÍZ (Bolivia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed deep concern over Israel’s actions against Gazans, while similarly deploring rocket launches against Israel’s civilian areas.  Noting that recent events marked Israel’s largest campaign of daily air strikes against Palestinians since 2014, he recalled that for 11 years, Palestinians lived under collective punishment by Israel, which denied them water and sanitation while restricting electricity supply.  He also expressed concern over the “Nation‑State of the Jewish people” law, a colonial and discriminatory measure, which can impose ideological beliefs as official State policy, heedless of Palestinian rights.

OLOF SKOOG (Sweden), Council President for July, said efforts for lasting peace and an end to the occupation must be intensified.  Interventions with quick, direct and immediate impacts on people’s daily lives are urgently needed. “This must be given utmost priority,” he emphasized, recognizing that the causes of the humanitarian crisis are political in nature.  Calling for the lifting of Israel’s closure regime, he advocated Palestinian reconciliation and the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.  Young people must be shown that there is an alternative to violence, he said, while underlining the essential need to ensure a safe childhood for all children.  He also called for greater efforts among UNRWA donors to meet their pledges and pressed others to contribute.  Stressing that Israel’s actions in the occupied West Bank undermine the contours of a contiguous future Palestinian State, he advocated reinvigorated efforts for a two‑State solution based on international law and United Nations resolutions, and with Jerusalem as the future capital of both.

AMAL MUDALLALI (Lebanon) described Israel’s new Jewish Nation‑State Law as a regrettable contravention of dozens of United Nations resolutions on the question of Palestine.  If international law and international legality are tossed aside, what is the future of peace in the Middle East? she wondered.  “My fear is we will be eternally condemned to the same cycle of violence and perpetual wars.”  Calling UNRWA a regional stabilizer, she called for building upon the momentum created at the Agency’s June pledging conference in New York and during the March Extraordinary Ministerial Conference in Rome.  No one can afford to let UNRWA die, she emphasized.  Turning to the situation in her own country, she said a new Government is in the making following parliamentary elections in May.  Its key priorities will include structural reforms to boost the economy as well as the issue of Syrian refugees, which cannot wait for a political solution to materialize in Syria.  She called upon Council members to ensure the smooth renewal of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL)’s mandate, which will expire in a few weeks, saying the Force is instrumental in preserving peace and security in southern Lebanon.  She also called on the Council to insist that Israel respect and implement resolution 1701 (2006) by withdrawing from occupied Lebanese territory and ending violations of Lebanon’s sovereignty.

MARTÍN GARCÍA MORITÁN (Argentina) reaffirmed his country’s support for a peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine on the basis of a two‑State solution and the pre‑1967 borders.  He reaffirmed the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to self‑determination as well as Israel’s right to live in peace and security alongside its neighbours within internationally recognized borders.  Argentina urged a halt to the expansion of Israeli settlements, he said, adding that they contravene international law and promote the perpetuation of an unsustainable status quo.  He went on to strongly condemn Hamas for launching rockets and incendiary devices into Israel, while urging the latter to take its obligations under international humanitarian law and international human rights law into account.  Argentina also rejects any unilateral attempt to change the status of Jerusalem, he stressed.  On Syria, he said that his delegation supports a political solution that fully respects the neighbouring country’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity.  Hopefully, tangible results will emerge from the Geneva process, he said.  Condemning terrorism in all its forms, he said anti‑terror efforts must be carried out within the framework of international law.

ABDALLAH Y. AL-MOUALLIMI (Saudi Arabia), recalling the recent centenary of Nelson Mandela’s birth, said the Palestinian cause was a big part of his struggle for freedom.  With Israel proving every day, through its attacks and deliberate killings, that it is a State above the law, he said, Israel is building apartheid walls and adopting legislation to become the nation‑State of the Jewish people, thereby paving the way for genocide in the Palestinian territories.  That put the Palestinians in dire need of international protection, he said, rejecting Israel’s attempts to entrench apartheid.  On UNRWA, he noted that the Agency’s financial challenges threaten to deny education and a decent life to millions of Palestinians.  Emphasizing that Saudi Arabia believes in actions, not words, he said that over two decades, it contributed $1 billion — “with a ‘B’” — to UNRWA and more than $6 billion — “with a ‘B’” — to the Palestinian people in the form of humanitarian, development and relief aid.

Turning to Syria, he said the misery in that country should end with a peaceful solution based on the Geneva communiqué and relevant Council resolutions.  He called for  the immediate release of detainees and the return of refugees and internally displaced persons.  As for Yemen, he said that Saudi Arabia and its sisterly coalition partners are exercising the utmost restraint, but Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, have been paying no attention to political initiatives, let alone Council resolutions.  Houthi control over parts of Yemen is the reason behind the crisis, he said, noting that a recent report of the Secretary‑General made it clear that rockets fired his country’s territory by the Houthi were manufactured in Iran.  The Iranian regime is still using all its military, scientific and financial resources to spread havoc and instability in the Middle East, he said, pointing out that the main principle of the Iranian resolution is to export extremist ideology.  It is high time for the Council to express its rejection of Iran’s irresponsible behaviour and its interference in the affairs of the region, he said, adding:  “Say to Iran:  ‘enough’”, so that terror and violence will not grow in the region.

MALEEHA LODHI (Pakistan) said essential medication services in Gaza are on the verge of a complete shutdown due to Israel’s prohibition on fuel imports, which place the lives of thousands at risk.  Noting that some have called for all sides to exercise restraint, she said that the issue is a struggle between an occupied people and an occupying Power.  “Glossing over this incontrovertible reality would be tantamount to drawing moral equivalence between the acts of the aggressor and the aggrieved,” she pointed out.  Furthermore, the Jewish Nation‑State Law, passed by Israel’s Knesset on 19 July, provided a vivid manifestation of the legally enshrined policy of discrimination by that country, which relegates the indigenous Arab population to second‑class citizen status and eliminates the official standing of the Arabic language.  She said recent Security Council inaction on the question of Palestine has led the General Assembly to take a more proactive role in order to fill the void, emphasizing that Pakistan will continue to lend support to negotiated settlements in other regional situations, including Syria and Yemen, on the basis of agreed frameworks and inclusive political engagement.

ESHAGH AL HABIB (Iran), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the only way to ensure a viable permanent solution to the question of Palestine is to restore the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  The Israeli regime’s brutalities have only intensified since the Council’s last meeting on the issue, “confident in the unequivocal support of the United States and emboldened by the Council’s inaction”.  Describing Israel’s continued attacks on civilian infrastructure, its new restrictions on humanitarian cargo, the increasing number of its illegal settlements and now the enactment of the so‑called “Basic Law” — which means Jewish supremacy over others — he said the latter represents a legal system of racism and apartheid.  The General Assembly should not allow itself to be deceived, he said, emphasizing that the new law must be condemned in the strongest terms.  Israel should be compelled to revoke it because it contravenes the United Nations Charter, international law and the basic principles of human rights law.  Responding to the representatives of Saudi Arabia and Israel, he expressed regret that the two singled out Iran as a sponsor of terrorism.  Rejecting the allegations, he said they are only aimed at distracting attention from Israel’s atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, for which that regime must be held accountable.

SAMUEL MONCADA (Venezuela), speaking for the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that the ongoing Israeli occupation and the Palestinian‑Israeli conflict continue to pose a serious threat to international peace and security.  The Security Council must uphold its Charter duties and resolutions.  Security Council resolution 2334 (2016) provides the most viable path to peace, preserving the two‑State solution on the pre‑1967 lines, he stressed, calling for its full and effective implementation, especially by the occupying Power, and for the full respect and implementation of all other relevant resolutions.

He went on to express deep regret over the most recent veto cast by the United States on the draft resolution presented in June by Kuwait, which aimed to address escalating violence and highlight the need to protect Palestinian civilians.  “The Security Council has been unable to fulfil its mandate on this important question due to the prevalence of particular interests of a permanent member,” he pointed out.  Reiterating the bloc’s grave concern about the lack of accountability for violations committed by Israel, he called for international action, particularly by the Council.  “Israel must comply with its duties and responsibilities under international law,” he stressed.

MOUNZER MOUNZER (Syria), noting that Israel targeted one of his country’s warplanes over a rural area in the Golan Heights today, emphasized that Israel must end its occupation of Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan.  Many States helped to transform the State of Palestine into an open‑air prison by helping Israel’s mushrooming settlement expansion and by turning a deaf ear to recent developments.  Instead, those countries were drawing a picture of mutual violence in the area, oblivious to the fact that occupation and displacement are the root cause of the conflict.  Moreover, Syria condemns the recent Jewish Nation‑State Law, he said, stressing that it contravenes the United Nations Charter.  Reiterating that Israel continues its settlement efforts in the occupied Syrian Golan — including by racial discrimination by extorting the Golan’s natural resources — he said that his delegation has documented Israel’s support of terrorist armed groups there, including its direct military aggression against Syrian territories to support such groups in flagrant violation of international law.  “The Israeli settlers should leave our Golan territories,” he stressed.

HALVOR SÆTRE (Norway) urged all parties in Syria to engage in the formation and subsequent work of the Constitutional Committee, while in Yemen, he noted Norway’s $34 million support to humanitarian relief.  He touched on Norway’s long engagement to resolve the Israel‑Palestine conflict, based on support for a two‑State solution.  He also noted Norway’s efforts, as chair of the international donor group for Palestine, to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza, citing water and energy distribution as priority issues.  Because Gaza is integral to Palestine and a future Palestinian State, he welcomed Egypt’s mediation efforts to address outstanding issues.  Palestinian factions must end their violence, while the closure regime must be eased and the dual‑use list revised.  Norway had hosted an informal meeting among the Palestinian Authority, United Nations, European Union and the World Bank on 18 July, followed by a donors meeting in Ramallah on 23 July. “Progress in Gaza is our priority,” he said.

YASUHISA KAWAMURA (Japan), emphasizing that violence cannot bring about a solution in the Middle East, called for a surge in diplomacy across the region.  Expressing hope that recent steps by the Egyptian‑led reconciliation process would lead to de‑escalation in Gaza, he also spotlighted the United Nations key diplomatic role.  The Council has built the basis for a comprehensive, just and lasting peace through its various resolutions.  Expressing Japan’s commitment to those efforts, and to the goal of a two‑State solution, he said his country also supports efforts to implement Council resolutions and extend humanitarian assistance to people in need in Syria.  After seven years of devastating war, he hoped the international community is “moving cautiously in the right direction” on the political front.  Diplomacy is equally critical not only to the Palestinian question and Syria but also to the situations in Yemen, Libya and elsewhere, he said.

JOANNE ADAMSON, European Union, described Gaza as a pressure cooker “on the brink of explosion”.  Two million people have only limited access to basic services amid shrinking hopes that their own lives — and those of their children — can be improved.  Condemning the violence taking place since March and committed by both Israelis and Palestinians, she said the Israeli security forces in particular must refrain from using excessive force against unarmed civilians while protecting their country’s legitimate security interests.  “The use of force taken must be proportional at all times,” she emphasized, also calling on Israel to reverse its punitive measures and work with the international community to ease conditions in Gaza, including by easing movement restrictions and ensuring access for all humanitarian actors.  Strongly urging all parties to respect international law, de‑escalate tensions and exercise restraint, she outlined five urgent and necessary steps:  ending closures and fully opening crossing points in order to reinvigorate Gaza’s economy; facilitate support from the international community to alleviate Gaza’s humanitarian crisis; support Egyptian‑led reconciliation efforts; stepped‑up financial support for UNRWA; and serious efforts towards resuming meaningful negotiations aimed at achieving a two‑State solution.  The European Union intends to work alongside Israelis and Palestinians — as well as with regional actors such as Jordan and Egypt — and with its Middle East Quartet partners to that end, she said.

TIJJANI MUHAMMAD BANDE (Nigeria), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said recent developments must not be allowed to obscure the problem underlying the Israel‑Palestine conflict.  Reviving the peace process cannot be achieved without ending or reversing Israel’s settlement expansion policy in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said, encouraging Israel to freeze and reverse all settlement‑related activities in the West Bank, including Jerusalem.  Palestinian leaders must also signal their readiness to return to the negotiating table by enhancing efforts to forge unity, deal with militancy and other internal security challenges, he emphasized.  Moreover, the Security Council must not fail in its duty and responsibility to the Palestinian people, he said, calling upon States with influence over the concerned parties to encourage them to re‑engage in dialogue on the basis of relevant United Nations resolutions, the Madrid Guiding Principles, the Quartet road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and other existing agreements.

MAKBULE BAŞAK YALÇIN (Turkey) said that the problems facing the Middle East, including civil wars, humanitarian crises, terrorism and sectarianism, are not inherent in the region’s history or culture.  “We can overcome them, and we have reasons to be optimistic,” she emphasized, citing Turkey’s operations against ISIL/Da’esh and other groups as important steps in the common fight against terrorism.  On 1 June, however, the Council failed once again to shoulder its responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security, she recalled, noting that after its failure to act, the General Assembly took action on 13 June, proving that the Palestinian people are not alone in the face of grave violations of their human rights.  She said her delegation assumed the chairmanship of the UNRWA Advisory Commission on 1 July, and will focus on placing the Agency on a sufficient, sustainable and predictable footing.  The World Bank’s Endowment Fund and the Islamic Development Bank’s Waqf Fund will create crucial new avenues for sustainable financing of the Agency, she added.

CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, pressed the Council to ensure implementation of its resolutions.  While noting that Israel must ensure the protection of Palestinian civilians, he said 146 Palestinians in Gaza lost their lives since March.  Reaffirming support for an independent, transparent inquiry into those events, as well as for the efforts of the Human Rights Council’s Commission of Inquiry, he said that he looks forward to the Secretary‑General’s proposals in that regard.  He urged Israel to lift the blockade on Gaza and to refrain from the disproportionate use of force.  He stressed the importance of reconciliation among Palestinian political actors in order to better address the challenges facing civilians.  Israel’s Jewish Nation‑State Law must be denounced and repealed, he said.

WOUTER ZAAYMAN (South Africa) expressed concern over the tightening of restrictions at crossings in Gaza — an act of collective punishment against its residents — emphasizing that such disproportionate and brutal acts constitute a grave violation of the Charter and of international law.  Also, they further exacerbate tensions in the region and hinder the possibility of efforts to resume Palestinian‑Israeli peace talks, he said, emphasizing that there can be no military solution to the conflict.  He went on to voice serious concern about Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and UNRWA’s unprecedented budgetary shortfall.  Deeply concerned about the continuation of illegal Israeli settlement activity, he warned that the construction of additional settlements represents a flagrant violation of international law.  “The Palestinian people continue to look to the United Nations, specifically the Security Council, to assist them in realizing their right to self‑determination,” he said, stressing that the current situation — “a blight on the conscience of the international community” — cannot be allowed to continue.

ALI NASEER MOHAMED (Maldives) said the situation in the Middle East continues to worsen because the rule of law is ignored, people’s fundamental rights violated and Council resolutions disregarded.  The attacks on Gaza, which have escalated in recent days, are illegal, he said, condemning such acts of aggression.   The United Nations — and the Security Council in particular — must take urgent measures to protect civilians and ensure the safe delivery of humanitarian assistance.  He said resolution 2333 (2016) is clear in reaffirming the illegality of Israel’s occupation and its settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with the former first declared “null and void” in resolutions 476 and 478 (1980).  Calling for Israel’s full implementation of those resolutions and its legal obligations under the United Nations Charter, he also urged the international community to reinvigorate talks on a peaceful settlement of the conflict.  Turning to Syria, he expressed concern about rampant terrorist activities there, stressing:  “We must tackle the enabling factors of [that phenomenon] through international cooperation, sharing information and coherent strategies.”

Ms. RODRÍGUEZ (Cuba), associating herself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, expressed regret at the Security Council’s inability even to condemn recent events in the Gaza Strip.  Condemning the illegal construction and expansion of settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, she noted that they threaten the livelihoods of Palestinians and trigger their displacement, thereby diminishing the prospects for a two‑State solution.  She urged the Council to live up to its responsibility by calling upon Israel to end its aggressive policies and settlement practices and comply with relevant resolutions.  Cuba will continue to support the accession of the State of Palestine as a full member of the United Nations, she said.  Condemning the relocation of the United States embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, she called for a halt to meddling in foreign affairs, including by providing weapons to terrorist groups.  Moreover, Cuba demanded Israel’s complete and unconditional withdrawal from the Syrian Golan and all occupied territories.

ABDULRAHMAN YAAQOB Y.A. AL-HAMADI (Qatar) said that recent events in the Gaza Strip constituted a reminder of the urgent need to find a fair solution to the crisis, which should take place in accordance with the Arab Peace Initiative and guarantee the peaceful coexistence of both parties in a two‑State solution.  There should be an immediate halt to all settlement activities and a restoration of the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.  Qatar renounces Israel’s Jewish Nation‑State Law and its actions against religious places, including breaking into the Al‑Aqsa Mosque, he said.  Turning to Syria, he said “the crisis casts its shadows and consequences to the region and worldwide”, emphasizing that there is no alternative to a political solution.  Welcoming the decision by the International Court of Justice approving his delegation’s request for interim measures against the United Arab Emirates regarding its discriminatory treatment of Qatar’s citizens, he said the unfair blockade against his country must be lifted.

SIMA SAMI I. BAHOUS (Jordan) said her country will spare no effort to counter Israel’s attempts to change the character of Jerusalem.  Condemning recent attacks against helpless civilians in the Gaza Strip, she recalled that a General Assembly resolution adopted in June guarantees international protection to Palestinian civilians.  She also denounced Israel’s adoption of a new law enshrining racial segregation in contravention of international norms, calling upon the international community to oppose that legislation — which will only exacerbate tensions and lead to greater conflict.  She also voiced concern over UNRWA’s dangerous financial shortfall, saying it will impact women and children caught up in attempts to politicize the Agency’s critical services.  Turning to Syria, she said that with the crisis now entering its eighth year, Jordan’s borders remain open, providing refuge to millions of its Syrian neighbours.  In recent weeks, diplomatic efforts have permitted a ceasefire in the south of Syria near the Jordanian border, she said, expressing hope that efforts to help Syrians exercise their right to return home will continue.

MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, expressed concern that, despite repeated calls to respect international law, “Israel still rides roughshod” over United Nations resolutions.  Its recent displacement of Bedouin communities, including children and registered refugees, represents yet another attempt to “impose a greater Israel” by demolishing homes, he said, adding that such policies — alongside the use of live ammunition against peaceful Palestinian protesters — represent a campaign of ethnic cleansing aimed at defenceless civilians.  Meanwhile, Israel’s continued closure of Gaza crossings only exacerbates the spike in the prices of basic commodities, which most residents already cannot afford, he said.  Underlining that both Israel and the United States have a moral and financial responsibility to continue to support UNRWA, he said Arab countries are no less generous, and have contributed billions of dollars to support Palestinian refugees.  Condemning Israel’s recent adoption of a law favouring Jews over other citizens — “giving a legitimate face to apartheid” and consecrating ethnic cleansing at the legal level — he stressed that such racist legislation remains null and void under international law.

HELENA DEL CARMEN YÁNEZ LOZA (Ecuador) recalled reports shared with the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People in relation to the dramatic humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.  They detail exchanges of fire, aerial bombardments using missiles and the deaths of children.  The immediate unfolding of the tragedy in the media must not desensitize onlookers to the meaning of the violence, she emphasized.  Noting that the lack of fuel jeopardizes medical care, including that of newborn babies, she said “the situation is going from bad to worse”.  The political solution to the crisis depends on a two‑State solution, she said, stressing that the Security Council must not stand idly by.  Rather, it must take tangible measures to ensure that Israel complies with its resolutions.

TAREQ MD ARIFUL ISLAM (Bangladesh), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), said Israel’s ongoing aggression and threats against the Palestinian Bedouin community of Khan al Ahmar constitutes another deplorable chapter in terms of its illegal and destructive measures.  The policy of forcibly transferring the Palestinian population constitutes a grave breach of international law and amounts to a war crime, thereby highlighting the urgent need for accountability.  He condemned Israel’s continued settlement colonization, a policy that entrenches its decades‑long military occupation.  “It is a litmus test for the collective international resolve and particularly this lofty Council,” he said, underlining that it is required to take concrete actions to ensure respect for and compliance with relevant resolutions.

It is incumbent upon the Security Council to intervene responsibly and effectively to avert dire repercussions that might plunge the volatile region into a cycle of further instability, he continued.  He went on to stress that immediate action should be taken to halt Israel’s human rights violations, end impunity, ensure accountability for its crimes and its illegal blockade on the Gaza Strip, provide protection for the Palestinian people and address their dire humanitarian situation.  Turning to UNRWA, he called on the international community to ensure that the plight and needs of Palestine refugees receives adequate attention, including in terms of funding for the Agency.  In addition, continuing Israeli settlement policies constitute a serious obstacle to a just and lasting solution to the conflict, he said, emphasizing that the Security Council must act to enhance prospects for peace, hope and justice by maintaining the viability of a two‑State solution and by launching and sponsoring a multilateral political process to resolve all final status issues.

INA H. KRISNAMURTHI (Indonesia) recalled that, following the failure of the Security Council to fulfil its duty to the Palestinian people in June, the General Assembly adopted the same draft resolution.  “However, as usual, the will of the majority prevails on paper, but the reality shows the opposite,” she observed.  The heart of the conflict in the State of Palestine is the occupation and illegal settlement, she stressed, adding that the highest form of justice is safety and security.  Common humanity demands rejecting the use of excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate violence by Israel’s forces against Palestinian civilians, which included the use of live ammunition against civilian protestors.  Her delegation has committed $2 million to assist Palestinians in capacity‑building programmes, under the Conference on Cooperation among East Asian Countries for Palestinian Development.

MOHAMED FATHI AHMED EDREES(Egypt) said the conflict persisted not for a lack of ideas or resolutions, but rather, of desire for serious negotiations that would end Israel’s occupation of Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan, and reach an international consensus on a Palestinian State along 4 June 1967 borders, with Al‑Quds Al‑Sharif as its capital.  The world has seen injustice of generations of Palestinians, who awaited return of their land and a dignified life, like the Israelis, whose State was established by a United Nations resolution.  The two‑State solution is regressing due to diminishing land, illegal settlements, home demolitions, the division between the West Bank and Gaza strip, and unilateral decisions on Jerusalem, contravening Council and Assembly resolutions.  Stressing that Gazans face an UNRWA crisis, confrontations with Israel’s security forces and obstructed movement, he said Egypt, in solidarity, is working to lessen the humanitarian crisis, while it has no legal responsibility to open the Rafah border crossing.

Such exceptional measures are not enough unless Israel lives up to its international responsibilities, he said.  The deteriorating situation in Gaza is among many and addressing it should not be pursued separately from the entire Palestinian situation.  Gaza is part of Palestinian territory, along with the West Bank and Jerusalem.  He called on Palestinians to achieve reconciliation and on international parties to build on those efforts, starting with the return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza.  He also called for resumed negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis based on clear, defined guidelines and principles taken from Council resolutions, notably resolution 2334 (2016).  “These principles will not leave,” he said.  They reflected rights that are inalienable.  Egypt will support any new serious initiatives for a comprehensive political settlement if based on returning rights to Palestinians.

KENNEDY MAYONG ONON (Malaysia), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and OIC, said the international community must continue to demand Israel to stop all violations and illegal activities, and to fully comply with all its obligations under Council resolutions, as well as international law and the United Nations Charter.  For its part, Malaysia will continue to assist the Palestinians, he said, reiterating that a two‑State solution, with Palestinians and Israelis living side by side in peace, based on pre‑1967 borders with East Jerusalem as Palestine’s capital, is the only viable solution to the conflict.

HICHAM OUSSIHAMOU (Morocco) expressed regret over the deterioration of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory due to Israel’s judaization policies, saying they are stoking tensions.  The Israeli authorities have used force against innocent civilians, exacerbating the situation and perpetuating the cycle of violence and counter‑violence.  Such actions also prevent resumption of the peace process and contravene relevant resolutions in the form of unilateral policies that flout international law, he said.  He recalled that his country’s delegation hosted the Fifth International Conference on the Question of Jerusalem in Rabat last month, noting that the King of Morocco expressed support for the Palestinian cause during that meeting, reiterating the need to resolve the conflict and calling for resumed negotiations with a clear timetable.

DANG DINH QUY (Viet Nam), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement, said that recent deadly clashes and the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip placed the whole region’s security at stake, imperilling the prospect of a two‑State solution.  He condemned all acts of violence, including the excessive use of lethal force against civilians and critical civilian facilities.  Viet Nam urged the concerned parties to exercise self‑restraint and refrain from any act escalating tensions.  Settlement construction and blockade activity must stop immediately and special attention must be paid to protecting and improving the lives of Palestinians in the enclave, he stressed.

ALEX GIACOMELLI DA SILVA (Brazil) expressed his country’s long‑standing support for the two‑State solution, at the heart of which is the need to work towards a Palestinian State that is fully sovereign, economically viable and territorially contiguous, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  Stressing that illegal Israeli settlements and inflammatory rhetoric from both sides hinder regional peace, he urged Israel to revert its decision to demolish Khan al Ahmar, which is in an area essential for the viability of the two‑State solution.  On Syria, he urged all parties to immediately suspend hostilities and take all necessary measures to safeguard both civilian lives and infrastructure.  The international community must send a unified message in support of an inclusive political solution to the crisis, based on resolution 2254 (2015).  On Yemen, he called for the Hodeidah port to remain operational and urged all actors with influence to bring the parties in the conflict to the negotiation table.

The representative of Israel took the floor a second time, saying that over three years, many States have made false accusations during the Council’s open debate on the Middle East.  Iran often demonstrated such biased and sometimes hateful remarks, which eroded United Nations principles.  The open debate is not a platform for discussions involving honesty and self‑awareness, especially for Middle Eastern delegates, she said, adding that over three years, some of them claimed to favour diplomatic solutions, while refusing to sit next to an Israeli delegate.  How can one take the Council seriously when some delegates ban even the concept of sitting together at the same table? she asked.  How can the Council think it knows best what the region needs without hearing once from Israel?  Any agreement must originate from bilateral direct negotiations, she said, emphasizing that the Council is not a substitute.  Those wishing to move the peace process forward should call on the Palestinians to return to the negotiating table, rather than supporting “profoundly ineffectual” open debates.  Hopefully the day will come when the debate will no longer be guided by double standards against Israel, she said.

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