Israel must stop attacks, evictions: UNSC members

Published May 17, 2021
A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City's Rimal residential district on May 16 during massive Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave. — AFP
A ball of fire erupts from a building in Gaza City's Rimal residential district on May 16 during massive Israeli bombardment on the Hamas-controlled enclave. — AFP

• Underline need for a two-state solution
• Palestinian FM rebukes US, other powers for defending Israel

UNITED NATIONS: All members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), who participated in an emergency meeting on the situation in Palestine on Sunday, urged Israel not to make demographic and territorial changes in the occupied territory and immediately cease its hostilities.

The UNSC members also underlined the need for a two-state solution, with Palestinians having an independent state with internationally recognised borders.

“What has happened proves once again that an enduring settlement can only be achieved on the basis of the two-state solution,” said Foreign Minister Wang Yi of China, which holds the council’s rotating presidency for the month of May.

All members also urged Hamas to immediately stop rocket attacks into Israel, reminding both sides that nothing could justify targeting civilians.

This was the 3rd Security Council meeting on Palestine convened this week. On Wednesday, the United States blocked the council from issuing a statement that expressed “deep concern over the latest situation in Gaza and called for an immediate cessation of hostilities”.

Palestinians carry one of the survivors from under the rubble of a building, after it was struck by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City.—AFP
Palestinians carry one of the survivors from under the rubble of a building, after it was struck by Israeli strikes, in Gaza City.—AFP

Mr Wang chaired the debate, which showed a growing alarm at the possibility of this conflict turning into an all-out war in the region. “We urge Israel to honestly fulfil its obligations under international law, promptly and fully lift the blockade on and besiege of Gaza and guarantee the security and rights of the civilians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory,” he said.

The Security Council, Mr Wang said, shouldered the primary responsibility for safeguarding international peace and security. But “regrettably, simply because of the obstruction by one country, the council hasn’t been able to speak with one voice”, said the chief Chinese delegate, taking a dig at the US for blocking a statement condemning Israel.

Reminding the world body that it needs to resolve the Palestinian issues now, Mr Wang said: “Justice is already running late, but it must not be forever absent.”

Palestinians recover the body of a child from the rubble of the destroyed building in Rimal. — AFP
Palestinians recover the body of a child from the rubble of the destroyed building in Rimal. — AFP

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who was the first of nearly two dozen speakers, warned that the latest round of violence “only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction and despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence and peace”.

Appealing to all parties to heed his call for peace, Mr Guterres said: “Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately.”

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Al Maliki used the meeting to vent his community’s longstanding grievances, reminding the world that Israel has always been allowed to get away excesses and atrocities it committed against the people of Palestine. He implicitly rebuked the United States and other powers for defending Israel, which “further emboldened it to continue murdering entire families in their sleep”.

Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards Gaza Strip from their positions. — AFP
Israeli soldiers fire a 155mm self-propelled howitzer towards Gaza Strip from their positions. — AFP

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, who spoke after Mr Maliki, blamed Palestinians for attacking Israeli citizens.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US Ambassador to the United Nations, said President Joe Biden had spoken with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, while Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also been engaging with his counterparts in the region. She called on Hamas to stop its rocket-barrage against Israel, expressed concern over inter-communal violence and warned against incitement on both sides.

“The human toll of this past week has been devastating,” she said, adding: “It’s time to end the cycle of violence.”

Riad Al Maliki thanked China for convening this meeting, saying: “No words can describe the horrors our people are enduring. Entire families being killed, including children as young as five and pregnant women.” Israel, he said, was working on a deliberate plan to uproot Palestinians from Jerusalem and kill them in Gaza, one family at a time.

A flare fired by Israeli forces lights up the sky above the town of Rafah. — AFP
A flare fired by Israeli forces lights up the sky above the town of Rafah. — AFP

He urged the UN members to ponder over two questions: what are Palestinians entitled to do to defend themselves? Should their actions be seen as self-defence, or terrorism?

Mr Maliki also urged the international community to decide how they were going to stop the Israeli aggression: sanctions, military intervention, further talks or by doing nothing. “Israel keeps telling you to put yourselves in their shoes, but they are not wearing shoes, they are wearing military boots,” he said.

Talking about the eviction of Palestinian families from their homes, Mr Maliki asked: “How can real estate agents steal what does not belong to them?”

The Israeli envoy, however, claimed that property dispute in Sheikh Jarrah did not cause the Hamas retaliation, it’s a political design, representing “internal Palestinian political maneuverings. Israel, he said, had decided to “stop the aggression once and for all”.

The Norwegian foreign minister noted that the situation in the region had deteriorated significantly and risked further escalation. “As long as there is no peace, no two-state solution, there will be no lasting peace,” warned the chief Norwegian diplomat.

Ireland also participated in the debate, underlining the need for “proportionality, and accountability for the actions of the Israeli security forces”.

Both Norway and Ireland condemned the Israeli attack on the media tower, calling it an attack on press freedom. Both also called for an end to the expansion of illegal settlements and eviction of Palestinians.

“Unacknowledged grievances for many years are the main source of the frustration of the Palestinian people,” said the Irish envoy.

US ambassador Greenfield told both sides that now was the time to end this “cycle of violence, halt rocket attacks and ongoing inter-communal violence in Israel. She also called for ending evictions, illegal settlements, including from Jerusalem. She said the ongoing violence would hurt the talks for a two-state solution.

Ms Greenfield spoke of a future when Israel and Palestinian states could live “side by side in peace, within internationally recognised borders”. “We need to do everything we can for the day when Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and dignity.”

The Russian representative said the main cause of this new escalation was the absence of a negotiation process on all fundamental issues. “We condemn attempts to change the historic and territorial status of the region,” he said.

Published in Dawn, May 17th, 2021

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