A spike in violence in Jerusalem, the West Bank and Israel showed once more that Palestinians and Israelis must make hard the compromises needed for a sustainable peace, a top political affairs official told the Security Council this morning.
“The continued reality of the close to 50-year long occupation and lack of progress toward the two-State solution ensure that the next round of violence is never too far below the surface,” Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, Assistant Secretary-General ad interim for Political Affairs, said at the regular monthly open briefing on the Middle East.
Meanwhile, Mr. Toyberg-Frandzen said, preventing further escalation of tensions made it essential that all sides demonstrate responsible leadership, avoid taking provocative unilateral actions and refrain from inciting their supporters through inflammatory rhetoric.
He said that tensions surrounding access to the holy sites in Jerusalem were helping to feed the violence. The shooting of a prominent campaigner for Jewish prayer rights on the Haram al-Sharif/Temple Mount on 29 October was followed by two incidents of Palestinians crashing cars into light rail stations, resulting in two deaths and many injuries. Clashes between Palestinian youths and Israeli security forces had also resulted in multiple injuries.
Outside of Jerusalem, he reported fatal stabbing attacks, a police shooting of an Israeli Arab accused of wielding a knife and deaths during police clashes with protesters, in addition to the torching of a mosque near Ramallah and the throwing of a Molotov cocktail at an ancient synagogue in Shfaram. During the reporting period, a total of 494 Palestinians were injured by Israeli security forces in the West Bank; eight Israeli soldiers were injured.
He noted that the Secretary-General had welcomed assurances by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that there would be no changes to the status quo regarding the holy sites as per the long-held agreement with Jordan and in that context was encouraged by the recent lifting of age restrictions on access. He hoped that such measures and commitments would translate immediately into a de‑escalation of tensions.
However, also contributing to the animosity in Jerusalem, he said, was an increase in demolitions of Palestinian buildings, with 82 structures razed in the West Bank since 21 October, displacing 169 Palestinians. He expressed concern over the risk of forcible transfer of a Bedouin refuge community, as well as Israeli’s ongoing settlement activity and planning for hundreds of new residential units in Ramat Shlomo and Ramot in East Jerusalem. Such activity contravened international law and should be reversed.
Conveying the Secretary-General’s appeal for the parties to return to peace talks, he said that without a genuine commitment from the parties and an overall improvement in the lives of Palestinians, a further expansion of the current violence in the West Bank should be anticipated.
On Gaza, he said that despite progress, the overall state of affairs remained volatile and “fraught” with potential pitfalls. On the positive side, the temporary Gaza reconstruction mechanism had begun operations earlier this month, providing construction material for shelter repairs. By 13 November, 1,086 Gazans had purchased such material. A list of 1,926 Gazans cleared for import activities had been published by the Ministry of Public Works and Housing, with nine vendors cleared to date, four of which were selling products. That was relative to the some 60,000 shelters in need of repair that the mechanism aimed to reach.
Noting that the United Nations was facilitating such work, he urged all parties to create an enabling environment and pressed donors to honour pledges made at the 12 October Cairo Conference. He welcomed Israel’s plans to increase the amount of construction material entering Gaza to 800 trucks daily, up from 350, calling on Palestinians to ensure it was not diverted to support illegal activities. In addition, Israel and Egypt should work to ease border restrictions.
More broadly, he said, parties must use the opportunity of talks to be held in Egypt in November to agree on ceasefire and reconstruction arrangements, which should also involve discussion of steps to lift the closures which, he stated, perpetuated Gaza’s socioeconomic despair. There had been almost no progress on implementing the agreement that had established the Palestinian Government of National Consensus, he said, noting bombings against Gaza-based Fatah members and facilities, which underscored the fragility of the reconciliation agreement.
On Syria, he recalled the action plan proposed by the Special Envoy for that country, saying that work would immediately begin on the modalities of a proposed “freeze” in Aleppo. In the Golan, the situation remained volatile, which had prompted the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) to temporarily relocate from additional positions in the area of separation and Camp Faouar to the “Alpha” side.
The meeting began at 10:05 a.m. and ended at 10:27 a.m.