At Security Council, UN political chief warns of precarious situation in Middle East
24 June 2015 – During the past month, the security situation in the Middle East remained tense, the United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, today reported to the Security Council.
In the West Bank, "in three separate incidents, three Palestinian men were killed by the Israeli security forces," he said, while a Palestinian shot at an Israeli vehicle travelling near a settlement close to Ramallah, killing one Israeli civilian and injuring another.
Reporting on events over the past few months, he said a total of 186 Palestinians were injured, including 28 children and two women, as well as five members of the Israeli security forces, and added that an Israeli policeman was critically wounded at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, while his attacker remains in critical condition after being shot in return.
Meanwhile, some 400 search-and-arrest operations were conducted, resulting in the arrest of 510 Palestinians, Mr. Feltman underlined, expressing the Secretary-General's deep concern about the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, notably those in administrative detention.
While the demolishing of homes and structures in the West Bank continues, the planning and zoning system as it stands makes it "virtually impossible" for Palestinians to build or develop their land "in Area C," he explained.
In Gaza, a "desperate" situation was exacerbated by a number of security incidents, 12 Palestinians having been shot and injured by Israeli security forces. Ten rockets were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza, "thankfully without casualties or damage," while a further 11 rockets were test fired towards the sea, the Under-Secretary-General noticed. Israeli security forces responded by conducting eleven airstrikes on militant sites in Gaza.
Concerns are also mounting around internal divisions within Gaza, including a "potentially developing threat from militant Salafist individuals or groups." On 2 June, the UN official reported, Hamas security forces reportedly killed a Salafist accused of firing rockets at Israel and arrested a number of others.
"The ever challenging circumstances in Gaza highlight the urgent need for strengthening Palestinian unity. Conflicts, poor governance and the closures have crushed Gaza's economy. Unemployment spiked to 43 per cent at the end of 2014," Mr. Feltman deplored.
Welcoming Prime Minister Hamdallah's commitment to overcoming these obstacles, he emphasized how much the willingness and capacity of all Palestinian factions to resolve their differences is "integral to lifting the blockade of Gaza and advancing efforts to achieve statehood."
Briefing the Council on the aftermath of the release of the Independent Commission of Inquiry's report on Gaza, Mr. Feltman said that, while the Secretary-General does not comment "on the substance of such reports," the UN hopes that it will contribute to "bringing justice to victims of last year's war" and encourages the parties "to engage in serious and credible examinations of their own behaviour."
Accepting a fatalistic narrative on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict will only accelerate a deterioration of the situation," he warned. "The risk of radicalization in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is heightened by the continued lack of a political horizon. Absent courageous leadership, a sustainable solution will remain a distant and unachievable goal."
In that regard, the Secretary-General is encouraged, he said, by the recent recommitment of Prime Minister Netanyahu to "the idea of a sustainable two-state solution," but notes "this must be translated into actions."
He also warned against the current "vacuum" in Lebanon, which has been without a President for over a year, preventing the parliament from legislating on urgent issues, affecting the economy and the Government's ability to function effectively. Another source of concern, Mr. Feltman outlined, is rising along the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border, where Hezbollah has fought armed extremist groups, including ISIL and the Nusra Front.
Finally, in Syria, while consultations continue with national, regional and international delegations on the operationalization of the Geneva Communique, civilians keep crossing borders, including with Turkey, approximately 25,000 of them seeking refuge in Turkey during the reporting period.
"It is neither just nor possible to expect from Turkey to continue to face the refugee pressures alone," stressed the Under-Secretary-General.
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