11 MAY 2021
The following is a near-verbatim transcript of today’s noon briefing by Stéphane Dujarric, Spokesman for the Secretary-General.
Secretary-General — Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel
I have two statements to share with you. The first one is on the Middle East.
The Secretary-General is gravely concerned by the serious escalations in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, including the latest escalation in Gaza, which add to the heightened tensions and violence in occupied East Jerusalem.
He is deeply saddened to learn of the increasingly large numbers of casualties, including children, from Israeli airstrikes in Gaza, and of Israeli fatalities from rockets launched from Gaza.
The Secretary-General’s thoughts are with the families of the victims.
Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. The indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israeli population centres is unacceptable.
This spiralling escalation must cease immediately.
The United Nations is working with all relevant parties to de-escalate the situation urgently.
Question: And on, a follow‑up to the Secretary… your statement on what’s going on between Israel and the Palestinians, has the Secretary‑General himself been in contact with any of the key players?
Spokesman: Contacts are continuing to be held at all levels with all interested parties in an effort to help de‑escalate the situation.
Question: Thank you, Steph. On your statement of the Secretary‑General regarding the situation in Israel and Palestine, so, given the fact that more than 20 civilians, Palestinian civilians were killed, and among them are nine children, I would like to ask you again today, does the Secretary‑General condemn the killing of Palestinian civilians by Israeli occupation forces? Thank you.
Spokesman: The Secretary‑General stands against the killing of any, any and all civilians. What we want to see is a stop to this spiral of violence. We have said it clearly that the Israeli security forces must exercise restraint and calibrate their use of force and that the firing, indiscriminate firing and launching of rockets from Gaza must… is also completely unacceptable.
Question: A follow‑up, I mean, yesterday, you condemned the rockets firing from Gaza toward Israel, but you refused to condemn…
Question: …the Israeli actions against Palestinians.
Spokesman: We want to see…
Question: Today, we have…
Spokesman: We want to see an end to this cycle of violence and this spiralling, which is getting extremely concerning and extremely dangerous. There is also a broader political environment, which also needs to be addressed, and that is through negotiations to handle these, a lot of these issues which need to be settled.
Question: But… sorry. Just a follow‑up.
Question: But that doesn’t answer my question, why aren’t you condemning the killing of Palestinian civilians?…
Spokesman: We, of course, stand against any use… any killing of civilians, any targeting of civilians.
Okay. Ms. Saloomey.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. To follow up on that, yesterday, the US State Department was asked if Palestinians have a right to self‑defence. And while the United States was very clear about Israel’s right to self‑defence, the Spokesperson never really answered the question for Palestinians. So, I’m wondering, can you tell us, under international law, can you clarify, do Palestinians in the occupied territory have a right to self‑defence?
Spokesman: Look, I can’t answer that question at this point, in terms of international law.
Question: But under international law, States have a right to self‑defence. Palestine’s recognised as a State by the United Nations.
Spokesman: Look, what… I’m not intellectually qualified from this podium to get into the intricacies of international law. I’ll be honest with you. What we want to see is an end to this spiral of violence.
People, including Palestinians, have a right to demonstrate and to express themselves. When they do… when people demonstrate and express themselves peacefully, they have a right not to be shot at. Civilians who are in their homes, whether it be in Israel, in Gaza or any other place, have a right not to have rockets fired down at them.
Question: And the Spokesperson for the High Commissioner of Human Rights, Rupert Colville, has also said that the eviction of families in occupied territories is against international law and in violation of the Geneva Convention. So, if a Palestinian family…
Spokesman: We have said that. If you look back at our statements, we have talked about the evictions and how they must stop and that Israel has responsibilities under international law to ensure that those evictions in occupied territories do not happen.
Question: If a Palestinian family is being evicted from their home at gunpoint in an occupied situation, then, do they have a right to defend themselves?
Spokesman: People have a right to express themselves. People have a right to demonstrate.
Ibtisam. Oh, sorry. Betul. I’m sorry.
Question: Thank you, “Steph.” Actually… a follow‑up on Ibtisam’s question. Why does the Secretary‑General refrain from using the word “condemnation” when it comes to the killing of Palestinians? Are the Palestinians’ lives worth…
Question: …less than Israelis’?
Spokesman: …and I think… no, and I think… not at all, and I think, as I said, we stand against the killings of civilians on all and any side.
Question: Then why doesn’t he use the word “condemnation”?
Spokesman: I think, I think I’ve stated my position.
I’m not having… I’m having horrible back pains today, and my mind’s not… yes, Majeed, go ahead, and then Nabil.
Question: I’ll follow up with the same question, then two questions about Iraq.
In a statement, it says Israeli security forces must exercise maximum restraint and calibrate their use of force. Is it accurate for me, as a reporter right now going on TV, say the Secretary‑General asked for the Israelis to stop their military campaign?
Spokesman: If… listen, you’re the reporter. I’m the Spokesman. So, we all have…
Question: Is it accurate…
Spokesman: We have different… if you want to be accurate, I would just read what he said, or what the statement said.
Question: But… so “restrain” doesn’t mean stop.
Spokesman: We have seen… yesterday, we talked about the indiscriminate firing of rockets into civilian populations, as claimed by Hamas. We asked for all of these things to stop. I would just, if I were you, just stick… I’m not you. I will stick to what exactly has been said.
Question: About the Quartet on the Middle East, is the SG working on the Quartet track? Is there any discussions happening, communication? Do you expect anything from the Quartet?
Spokesman: Yeah, there is communication being done through… at all levels, including and especially through our coordinator, Tor Wennesland.
It’s important that the international community, and especially through the Quartet mechanism, do what it can to promote and create an environment that will push the parties back to a path of negotiations and create some sort of political horizon.
Question: Okay. Another question about Mr. Nickolay Mladenov. He’s now back on Twitter, at least, and he’s always commenting on the situation in the Middle East, Gaza, West Bank. Does he have any capacity in the UN anymore or not?
Spokesman: No, he has no role within the United Nations.
Question: And can you update us on any, I don’t know, reason why he stepped down from…
Spokesman: No. I mean, I would refer you back to what was said, what he said at the time.
Correspondent: Thank you.
Spokesman: Thank you. Carla, and then we’ll go to Abdelhamid.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. Can you comment on…
Spokesman: I… that’s not for me to comment on. I’m sorry.
Question: Thank you, Stéphane. I have also…
Spokesman: Your mic is… go ahead. Try again.
Question: Can you hear me? Stéphane, can you hear me?
Question: Okay. My question, Stéphane, yesterday, you issued a statement condemning the firing of rockets with the strongest term, as the statement said. It was issued at 12:00. I mean, Hamas fired the rockets at 11:00 a.m., New York time, 6:00 p.m., Gaza time. So, it took the SG one hour to condemn, with the strongest term, the firing of the rockets. But it took him over ten days to say something about what was going on in Jerusalem until 300 people were wounded in Al-Aqsa Mosque, and he only issued a statement on Sunday evening.
Can you explain the disparity between the speedy statement after the rockets and the slow motion for issuing a statement on what was going in Jerusalem?
Spokesman: I think we expressed our position on what was going on in Jerusalem through various means, through the Special Coordinator, through things that I’ve said here. Our statements are all public. You, as you’ve, as you have ably done, check the time that it has taken to things. Write what you wish. We’ve expressed our position, and we’ve expressed our opinion. I’m not going to get into a ticktock analysis of when we said what.
Spokesman: Sorry. Go ahead.
Question: Another question, please.
Spokesman: Yes, of course.
Question: Thank you. The number of people killed today and last night in Gaza is 28, including 9 children, 1 woman, and 2 Israelis, 2 civilian Israelis. So, we have 28 and 2 Israelis. Does the SG condemn, with the strongest term, killing all the civilians? And I want to ask specifically about the word “condemn”. Does… can he use the word “condemn”…
Spokesman: We have… I think I’ve answered that question…
Spokesman: …we stand… I’m not… we stand clearly against the killing of all and every civilian.
For information media. Not an official record.
Document Sources: Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), Secretary-General, United Nations Department of Global Communications, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO)
Country: Israel, Palestine, United States of America
Subject: Armed conflict, Casualties, Gaza Strip, House demolitions, Incidents, Internally displaced persons, Jerusalem, Population, Protection, Quartet, Security issues, Settlements, Terrorism, Violence
Publication Date: 11/05/2021
URL source: https://www.un.org/press/en/2021/db210511.doc.htm