UN pushes for lasting ceasefire, humanitarian deliveries in Gaza

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The UN has said that cessation of hostilities negotiated in May between Israel and Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip, remained “very fragile”.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process told the Security Council at UN headquarters, New York, on Thursday, that the UN was working closely with all parties.

“The UN is working closely with all concerned parties and partners to solidify a ceasefire, allow the entry of urgent humanitarian assistance and stabilize the situation in Gaza.

Referring to the conflict that erupted between Israel and Palestinian armed groups in the occupied enclave,   Wennesland said ceasefire was declared on May 20.

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The ceasefire was declared on 20 May, after 11 days of rocket and air attacks across the border area between Gaza and southern Israel, leaving more than 240 reportedly dead, the majority on the Palestinian side, with thousands injured.

More than 230 Palestinians were killed as a result of Israeli fire, and at least 12 were killed in Israel, as Hamas and other extremist groups, unleashed rocket attacks.

Wennesland urged all sides to “refrain from unilateral steps and provocations” and reduce tensions.

“Everyone must do their part to facilitate ongoing discussions to stabilise the situation on the ground and avoid another devastating escalation in Gaza.”

The UN envoy congratulated Israeli’s new coalition Government of Prime Minister Naftali Bennett and Alternate Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Yair Lapid, with hopes of advancing a two-State solution and lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Turning to reports of more violence across the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT), he said that since 3 May, five Palestinians had been killed and some 100 others injured by live ammunition in the West Bank.

And on June 15, during a right-wing Israeli activist march through Jerusalem’s Old City, 66 Palestinians, including 12 children, were injured by rubber-bullets and physical assaults while rallies throughout the Gaza Strip by national Islamic forces had seen further incendiary balloon attacks, launched towards Israel.

Citing Resolution 2334 of 2016, whereby the Security Council demanded that Israel “immediately and completely cease all settlement activities”, the Special Coordinator said he remained “deeply troubled” by continued Israeli settlement expansion.

Wennesland was particularly concerned over a plan to expand the Har Homa settlement in East Jerusalem and by new settlement outposts, which he pointed out were also illegal under Israeli law.

“Israeli settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law; they are a major obstacle to the achievement of a two-State solution and a just, lasting and comprehensive peace.

“The advancement of all settlement activity must cease immediately,” he said.

Against the backdrop of an “alarming increase” in violence between Israelis and Palestinians, “at a scale and intensity not seen in years,” the UN Coordinator expressed special concern.

He expressed concern over what he described as an attempt to “exploit the sensitive status of Jerusalem”, to justify a broader armed conflict.

He said this had only deepened the divisions and made progress towards peace an even greater challenge, appealing for an immediate halt.

“Perpetrators of violence on all sides must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice.’’

The envoy added that the authorities on both sides must carry out “thorough, independent, impartial and prompt investigations into all instances of possible excessive use of force”.

Meanwhile, as the UN continues to coordinate the delivery of urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza, following widespread destruction due to Israeli strikes, the UN envoy pushed all to “facilitate unimpeded access”.

“We are moving quickly to ensure that there is a well-coordinated international response focused on the two million people in Gaza who have suffered for far too long,” he said.

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