|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
7266th Meeting (AM)
Warning Security Council in Briefing that Gaza Could ‘Implode, or Explode Again’,
Political Envoy for Middle East Urges ‘Revised and Credible’ Political Framework
Proposing a package of measures to "fundamentally change the dynamics" in Gaza, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council this morning that it was critical to act swiftly while a fragile ceasefire held.
"The crisis in Gaza is far from over and the window of opportunity to address critical needs and stabilize the situation is short," Robert Serry, who is also the Secretary-General's Personal Representative, said in the regular monthly briefing in which he also touched briefly on Syria, Lebanon and other situations.
"When I warn that Gaza could implode, or explode again, or the two State paradigm could slip irreversibly away, I do not believe I am crying wolf," he warned, calling on the Council to make its position clear on the way forward.
Describing the aftermath of the all-out conflict that flared in the weeks leading up to the Egyptian-brokered ceasefire of 26 August, he said that large neighbourhoods in Gaza lay in total ruin, with an estimated 18,000 houses destroyed or severely damaged, leaving 100,000 homeless.
More than 2,100 Palestinians had been killed, he said, including some 500 children, the same number of women and 11 staff of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA). Some 11,000 had been injured. On the Israeli side, 66 soldiers and six civilians, including a child and a foreign national, had been killed, and some 130 Israeli civilians and more than 450 soldiers were injured.
Israel, he said, had struck more than 5,000 locations, reportedly demolishing 32 tunnels, 14 with openings inside Israel. Over 3,500 rockets had been fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants struck inside Israel; another 700 had been intercepted by the Israeli Iron Dome defence system.
In his dealings with the parties, he said, he had sensed a realization that a renewed conflict would be a disaster. In order to prevent such a development, he said the fragile calm must be solidified, with agreements made as clear as possible. On the humanitarian side, emergency shelter, energy and water must receive priority attention. Gaza must be “opened up” for recovery, with security concerns over “dual-use” materials meaningfully addressed.
He announced that his office had brokered an agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations to enable large-scale reconstruction with the required monitoring, giving the Authority a lead role. That agreement would be described in more detail to the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee next week, he said, hoping that would increase donor confidence ahead of the Gaza reconstruction conference planned for 12 October.
He welcomed Israel’s approval of $105 million for United Nations projects, which had been submitted prior to the recent conflict and looked forward to more approvals. Reconstruction would require increases in the capacity of crossings, he added, while at the same time, he anticipated the resumption of exports and trade links to the West Bank.
In that context, he underlined the importance of empowering the Palestinian Government of National Consensus in Gaza and urgently addressing civil and administrative reform, including unification of the public payroll. In that regard, he expressed concern over the unresolved issue of payments to staff hired by the “former de facto authorities”.
In addition, he said, there must be a clear understanding that control of security forces and weapons was a matter solely for the legitimate authority. The United Nations stood ready, he pledged, to provide technical assistance in those admittedly difficult matters.
Turning briefly to the West Bank, he welcomed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ continued security coordination, despite the conflict in Gaza and criticized Israel’s declaration of 1,000 acres in the Bethlehem area as State land. He said he was pleased at the 5,000 additional permits for West Bank residents to work in Israel, but hoped for additional positive Israeli actions on issues ranging from planning in Area C to cessation of settlement activity.
All such efforts must be put into a revised and credible political framework, despite the growing despair on the Palestinian side and the alarm caused in Israel by the tunnelling and rocket fire from Gaza. Fresh thinking was urgently needed to break out of those dynamics, from the parties and perhaps from the international community as well, he said.
Elsewhere in the Middle East, he said, the developments on the ground had been developing at an alarming pace and were being addressed in other meetings. He underlined, however, the Secretary-General’s appreciation of Member States’ efforts to stop the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and the Al-Nusra Front, calling for those efforts to be accompanied by political measures to end the appalling violence in Syria.
Lebanese armed forces, he said, had regained control of the border town of Arsal from the militants, but efforts to secure the release of 27 of its soldiers continued. He commended Lebanese authorities on efforts to ensure calm and contain any popular reaction against Syria refugees. The situation in the Golan remained “fluid”, he added.
Against the backdrop of the conflict in Gaza, he noted, there had been 10 rocket launchings from southern Lebanon towards Israel from 11 July to 25 August, with five occasions of Israel artillery response. A relative calm had been restored in the area, although Israeli air violations continued. He again urged Lebanon’s political leaders to elect a president without further delay.
The meeting began at 10:09 a.m. and ended at 10:24 a.m.
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