8256th Security Council Meeting: Situation in Middle East

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15-May-2018 02:32:26
Cycle of violence in Gaza must stop, top United Nations official in Middle East tells Security Council while reporting 60 demonstrators killed overnight at 8256th meeting.

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A reported 60 Palestinians were killed on 14 May during protests at the perimeter fence between the Gaza Strip and Israel, the deadliest day of violence since 2014, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council today, condemning the actions leading up to the bloodshed and calling for an independent investigation.

“The cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end,” Nickolay Mladenov emphasized during an emergency session of the Council called by the delegation of Kuwait following the violence. “If it does not, it will explode and drag everyone in the region into another deadly confrontation,” he warned, noting that tens of thousands of Gazans had been protesting for more than six weeks.

He said an estimated 35,000 Gazans had participated in demonstrations on 14 May, while other Palestinians had marched in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus and East Jerusalem, speaking out against the relocation of the United States embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. More than 100 people had been killed since the start of the protests on 30 March, including 13 children, more than half of them yesterday alone, he said.

Hamas and Islamic Jihad had acknowledged that members of both organizations had been among those killed, he continued. While Israel was obliged not to use lethal force except as a last resort, Hamas, which controlled Gaza, must not use the protests as cover to place bombs at the perimeter fence or hide among protestors to threaten civilian lives.

Urging the Council to step up efforts in support of a peaceful resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he called upon all parties to refrain from taking unilateral measures. They should instead advance the goal of two States, Israel and Palestine — of which Gaza was an integral part — living side by side in peace, security and prosperity, he stressed.

In the ensuing debate, delegates voiced different views of the violence unrest, with Israel’s representative laying the blame squarely on Hamas for radicalizing Gaza’s people. Rioters had thrown Molotov cocktails, planted explosive devices and attempted to forcibly breach the fence and infiltrate Israeli territory, he said. A Hamas-led mob had also torched the Kerem Shalom border crossing, a major entry point for goods going into Gaza, setting gas lines and electricity infrastructure on fire. If the Council sought to uphold security, justice and truth, it must call out the lies, condemn Hamas violence and place itself on the right side of history, he said.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine pointed out that the occupying Power had killed more than 60 people in less than 24 hours, adding that employing such force against civilians could be defined as terrorism. Rejecting the idea that Palestinians were responsible for their own deaths because they were protesting Israel’s actions, he called for a full investigation and questioned why one State had blocked other Council members from demanding independent inquiries into what amounted to a war crime against the Palestinian people.

Delegates widely condemned the fighting, with Kuwait’s representative expressing regret that the Council had failed to adopt his delegation’s 14 May draft resolution calling for a full investigation. Kuwait would take action in the General Assembly to ensure the perpetrators of the killings were held to account. He also called for measures that would offer international protection to the Palestinian people.

The representative of the United States emphasized that the opening of her country’s embassy in Jerusalem a day earlier had not undermined the prospects for peace in any way. The city was Israel’s capital and no plausible peace agreement would change that. “We want nothing more than peace, in which the rights of all people are respected,” she added.

Bolivia’s representative pointed out that the situation was not a conflict, but an occupation, emphasizing that the two sides were painfully unequal in the current colonial equation. The unilateral decision by the United States to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem had inflamed the situation, he added, recalling that resolution 478 (1980) prohibited such actions. The United States, which supported the occupying Power, was not merely an obstacle to peace; it was now part of the problem, not the solution, he noted. While exhaustive mention had been made of Iran and Hamas, no mention had been made of the real reason for the current situation — the occupation.

The Russian Federation’s representative expressed deep concern that the escalation of tensions had coincided with the transfer of the United States embassy and the anniversary of the Day of Catastrophe. Negotiations on pressing issues, including Jerusalem, must be conducted by Israelis and Palestinians, he emphasized. He emphasized that, despite the ambitious plans of some international players in unfolding their grandiose projects, the world had not become any safer. While the situation in Palestine was a good example that such efforts were going in the wrong direction, he said those undertaking such steps had made clear their intentions to continue on that path.

Several other delegates took issue with Israel’s use of force and urged all parties to act with utmost restraint. France’s representative, describing the response of the Israel Defense Forces as both inadequate and disproportionate, called for full and immediate respect for international humanitarian law and for human rights, especially the right to peaceful protest. The United Kingdom’s representative said the death toll alone warranted an inquiry, which should be made public and hold perpetrators to account.

Other delegates defended the two-State formula as the only viable way forward, with Ethiopia’s representative underlining that all arguments to the contrary were unrealistic. Ways and means must be found to save the two-State formula premised on dependable security for Israel and the realization of Palestinian national aspirations, he said.

Also speaking today were representatives of Sweden, Peru, Equatorial Guinea, China, Kazakhstan, Côte d'Ivoire, Netherlands and Poland.

The meeting began at 10:07 a.m. and ended at 12:40 p.m.
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Parent ID
2151225
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2152012