I. SECRETARY-GENERAL ALARMED BY ISRAEL’S LAND SEIZURE IN BETHLEHEM
The Secretary-General is alarmed by yesterday’s announcement by Israeli authorities to declare as so-called “State land” nearly 1,000 acres of land in the Bethlehem area of the West Bank.
The seizure of such a large swathe of land risks paving the way for further settlement activity, which — as the United Nations has reiterated on many occasions — is illegal under international law and runs totally counter to the pursuit of a two-State solution.
The Secretary-General calls on Israel to heed the calls of the international community to refrain from settlement activity and abide by its commitments under international law and the Quartet Road Map.
Under the impact of yet another year of prolonged occupation, 2013 proved to be one more year of lost Palestinian development. The economy continued to lose ground, and the slowdown that was had been witnessed in 2012 worsened in 2013. As a result, real per capita income in the Occupied Palestinian Territory declined, and unemployment, poverty and food insecurity worsened. Palestinian women continued to bear the brunt of occupation, which has condemned them to one of the lowest rates of labour market participation and the highest unemployment rate in the world. The Israeli occupation of Area C deprives the economy of the Occupied Palestinian Territory of much of its natural resource base and costs at the very least one third of its gross domestic product (GDP) every year. Despite difficult field conditions and limited resources, UNCTAD continues to respond to the complex needs of the Palestinian economy. However, securing extrabudgetary resources remains critical for enhancing the support of the secretariat to the Palestinian people.
The two-State solution was “disappearing before our very eyes”, while the world was falling short of protecting Palestinians and holding Israel accountable for its actions, the Palestinian Rights Committee heard today in a briefing.
Describing “a system of enslavement” in occupied Palestine, Hanan Ashrawi, a Member of the Palestinian Legislative Council who also serves on the Executive Committee of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), told the Committee — known formally as the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People — that Israel’s Government was seeking to impose “Greater Israel” on occupied Palestine.
Providing updates on political developments and the overall situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Ms. Ashrawi said the State of Palestine was still coming to grips with the latest events in Gaza, which amounted to “nothing less than a human tragedy”.
The recent announcement of further annexation of land by Israel was “the latest affront to the international community”, and a purported response to the killing of three Israel settlers, she said, adding that she thought the killing of 19 Palestinians, as well as the destruction without due process of the suspects’ homes, was supposed to have been the response.
Ms. Ashrawi went on to say that the international community owed the Palestinian people remedial action to counter the “grave historical injustice” perpetrated against them when Israel was created. It could redeem itself by ending preferential treatment of Israel and rising to the challenge of ensuring a just peace. She stressed that the conflict’s root causes and injustices must be addressed because “no amount of violence, cruelty or military force” would stop Palestinians’ pursuit of their rights.
The State of Palestine, she said, would continue the path of multilateralism as an alternative to a flawed peace process. Absent a multilateral approach, there would be no hope of non-violent means bearing fruit. Recent such efforts had included a request to convene a meeting of the High Contracting parties of the Geneva Convention, as well as a request for a meeting of the Human Rights Council. Palestinian efforts to accede to international conventions, including the Rome Statute, would continue, as would Palestine’s pursuit of membership in bodies like the International Criminal Court and the International Court of Justice.
Meanwhile, she expressed hope that the indirect talks taking place in Egypt would be a launch pad for future talks to alter the current situation. Saving lives was the priority, but the “building blocks of violence”, such as the occupation and the continued siege, must be removed. Crossing points had to be opened, as well as territorial waters, and security zones that affected farming should be dismantled. Israeli security concerns could not be the overarching objective of talks, she said, stressing the need for a firm deadline for their successful completion.
Internally, she said redefinition of the Palestinian Authority was also being pursued, particularly in terms of its functions and its relationship with Israel, including on security and economic cooperation. Work to achieve reunification among Palestinians would continue, as would efforts to strengthen institutions and improve involvement of women and youth in decision-making. The Palestine Liberation Organization needed reform and reactivation, she said, vowing to continue the pursuit non-violent popular resistance and global networking.
During an interactive dialogue that followed, Richard Wright, representative of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), in New York, described the Agency’s losses in Gaza, calling the present period an “extremely traumatic and testing time”. Many people remained displaced, with no homes to which to return, and UNRWA schools were unable to open for the new school year as they were still being used as shelters.
Several delegations expressed concern over Israel’s recent announcement to appropriate land from the occupied West Bank, including the representative of Pakistan, who called Israel’s announcement to seize more Palestinian land in the West Bank “unacceptable and condemnable”. He said Ms. Ashrawi’s briefing was “depressing”, although it undoubtedly depicted an accurate picture of the situation in Gaza. The two-State solution was the only viable and sustainable path to peace and security in the region, he added.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, Riyad Mansour, welcomed the briefing and said it was timely, as the next General Assembly session would begin in just a few weeks and provide an opportunity for the international community to again re-visit the possibility of a two-State solution.
Asked by the representative of Iraq about international aid donations and plans of the Palestinian leadership to capitalize on momentum and good will following the atrocities in Gaza, Ms. Ashrawisaid specific reconstruction proposals and projects were of great importance and would require wide-ranging efforts across several disciplines. The development of the West Bank was crucial for Gaza’s survival, as the two places were inextricably linked, she said, warning of ripple effects far beyond Gaza in the absence of peace.
7. In July 2013, Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct final status negotiations. The resumption of the peace process, for the first time since October 2010, was supported by extensive facilitation efforts led by the United States of America. In a series of preparatory meetings at the end of July in Washington, D.C., the parties set an agenda which covered all core final status issues and agreed on the goal of achieving a comprehensive settlement within a period of nine months. At the same time, the Palestinians continued to implement an ambitious State-building programme.
8. The first formal round of talks was held on 14 August in Jerusalem, after the release of the first tranche of pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, in accordance with the agreement for resuming the peace negotiations. On 15 and 16 August, I travelled to Ramallah, Jerusalem and Jordan to lend support to the leaders on both sides embarking on a process towards a negotiated solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
9. In late 2013, dialogue between the Israelis and Palestinians intensified and some 17 rounds of talks were held. The negotiation efforts were, however, complicated by the repeated announcements of settlement expansion with each release of Palestinian prisoners. Israel’s settlement announcements in November 2013, moreover, prompted the resignation of a Palestinian negotiator. In spite of these developments, President Abbas confirmed his intention to continue talks.
10. Since the beginning of 2014, negotiation efforts concentrated on crafting an agreed framework on all core issues as the guiding basis for continued negotiations towards a final status agreement. United States Secretary of State John Kerry supported the process by engaging in active shuttle diplomacy between the sides.
11. The international community has been committed to supporting the renewed peace talks, including through the Quartet and key Arab, regional and other stakeholders. Deliberations at the high-level segment of the sixty-eighth session of the General Assembly focused on advancing the Middle East peace process, with world leaders urging a negotiated settlement of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The Quartet, welcoming the resumption of the peace process, reaffirmed its determination to support the negotiations for achieving a negotiated two-State solution in the prescribed time frame.
12. The United Nations has consistently encouraged the parties to advance the negotiations towards a comprehensive settlement which must be fair and consistent with principles on all core issues outlined in Security Council resolutions, the Madrid principles — including land for peace — the road map and the 2002 Arab Peace Initiative. At the Security Council open debate on the situation in the Middle East, on 20 January 2014, alarmed by the recurrent violence, I reiterated the need to provide support to Israelis and Palestinians to escape the perilous status quo, as the lack of political progress could exacerbate negative trends on the ground.
13. On 28 March 2014, Israel postponed its decision to release the fourth and final tranche of 30 pre-Oslo Palestinian prisoners, citing lack of progress in the peace talks. In response, on 1 April, and following the announcement on the same day of 708 reissued tenders for settlement units in Gilo, President Abbas announced that the Palestinian leadership had unanimously voted to join 15 international conventions and treaties. President Abbas, nevertheless, remained committed to continuing negotiations until the agreed date of 29 April. The negotiators continued to meet in order to find a way out of the impasse and to agree to an extension of the negotiation period. On 24 April, Israel suspended the talks in response to the announcement a day earlier of an intra-Palestinian unity agreement for the formation of a national consensus government. Israel stated that it would not negotiate with any Palestinian government backed by Hamas, which does not recognize Israel’s right to exist.
14. Following the suspension of talks, negative developments on the ground in mid-2014 have severely hampered the prospects for resuming the peace talks. I have appealed to both Israelis and Palestinians to exercise prudence and avoid unilateral steps that would diminish the prospects for a resumption of negotiations for a final settlement. The United Nations remains committed to supporting the Israelis and the Palestinians in the search for a meaningful path forward in the negotiations for a two-State solution.
15. In April, President Abbas deposited the instruments of accession to 13 international conventions and treaties with the United Nations, and submitted applications for the four Geneva conventions and the Hague conventions of 1907. In May, five of the nine core human rights treaties, plus one of the substantive protocols entered into force, while Switzerland accepted Palestine as a party to the four Geneva Conventions and Additional Protocol I (relating to the protection of victims of international armed conflicts), retroactively to the submission date of its application on 2 April. Accession to these treaties brings new obligations, and the United Nations stands ready to assist the Palestinians, at their request, in the implementation and monitoring of its treaty obligations.
16. On 2 June, President Abbas announced the formation of a Government of national consensus headed by Prime Minister Hamdallah. On the basis of assurances by President Abbas that the Government would continue to abide by the PLO commitments with regard to recognition of Israel, non-violence and adherence to previous agreements, I welcomed the formation of the Government and reiterated the readiness of the United Nations to lend its full support to the Government in its effort to reunite the West Bank and Gaza, in line with the intra-Palestinian unity agreement of 23 April, under one legitimate Palestinian authority, including by addressing the serious political, security, humanitarian and economic challenges in Gaza.
17. On 12 June, three Israeli students were reported missing and were believed to have been abducted in the West Bank, which the Government of Israel blamed on Hamas. The incident led to an escalation of tension in Gaza, characterized by an increase in Israeli air strikes and rockets fired from Gaza at Israel, which undermined the November 2012 ceasefire understanding between Israel and Hamas. Tensions further increased following the discovery of the bodies of the Israeli students on 30 June.
18. The reporting period witnessed alarming escalations of tension between Gaza and Israel. The fragility of the relative calm was once again demonstrated on a number of occasions throughout the reporting period, with a dangerous ongoing escalation as from 8 July 2014 during the Israel Defense Forces so-called Operation Protective Edge, which had the stated aim of destroying Hamas infrastructure and limiting its capabilities to launch rockets into Israel. The Israel Defense Forces carried out intensified air strikes targeting the facilities and private residences of militants. Palestinian militants fired hundreds of rockets and mortars towards Israel, including its main cities. On 17 July, Israel launched the beginning of ground incursions into Gaza with the objective of destroying the tunnel network of Palestinian militants.
19. As at 26 August, Palestinian militants had reportedly fired more than 4,500 rockets and 1,600 mortars. The Israel Defense Forces had reportedly conducted more than 3,800 air strikes, firing more than 5,900 missiles. The Israeli navy had fired some 3,200 shells, and Israel Defense Forces positioned at the border had fired some 17,000 shells.
20. According to preliminary information, at least 2,104 Palestinians have reportedly been killed. That number includes at least 1,462 civilians, of whom 495 were children and 253 were women. Eleven UNRWA staff members have been killed. Some 66 Israel Defense Forces soldiers, four Israeli civilians, one Israeli whose status remains unclear and one foreign national have reportedly been killed. A few dozen Israeli citizens have been directly injured by rockets or shrapnel.
21. At the peak of the crisis, there were approximately 520,000 internally displaced persons, or nearly 30 per cent of Gaza’s population. Approximately 16,700 housing units have been destroyed or severely damaged, affecting some 100,000 Palestinians.
22. The fighting has raised serious questions about respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality in international humanitarian law. Six UNRWA schools harbouring civilians were directly hit by shelling or affected by rocket fire in their immediate vicinity, with serious loss of life and injuries. On 29 July, the premises of the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process in Gaza were hit by a number of projectiles, which caused damage to the main building and to United Nations vehicles. International humanitarian law clearly requires protection by all parties of civilians and civilian facilities, including United Nations staff and premises. Violations must be subject to accountability and justice.
23. From the onset of the crisis in Gaza, the United Nations has deployed every possible effort, including through my personal engagement, to bring about an end to the violence. I have spoken to Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel and President Abbas of Palestine, calling on both sides to exercise maximum restraint and avoid further escalation. I have also engaged with regional and world leaders, including the King of Saudi Arabia, the Emir of Qatar, the President of Egypt, the President of Turkey, the heads of the League of Arab States and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, the United States Secretary of State and the European Union High Representative, in an effort to stop the fighting.
24. It was in this context that I tavelled to the region — Qatar, Kuwait, Egypt, Jerusalem, Ramallah, Jordan and Saudi Arabia — from 20 to 25 July to support mediation efforts to broker a ceasefire. At every stop of my visit, I carried a three-part message: first, stop the fighting; second, start the dialogue; and third, tackle the root causes of the conflict. I emphasized that we cannot merely return to the status quo ante, but must reach a durable ceasefire that addresses the underlying issues of the conflict: ending rocket fire from Gaza and weapons-smuggling, opening the crossings, lifting the blockade and bringing Gaza back under one Palestinian Government that accepts and adheres to the PLO commitments. These issues were captured by core elements of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009), which, unfortunately, remains unimplemented.
25. Part of a solution is a return of the Palestinian Authority to Gaza. The underlying issues plaguing Gaza stand a far better chance of being resolved if they are part of a comprehensive effort to reunite the Palestinian territory under one legitimate Government. Redeployment of the Palestinian Authority security forces to the crossings in south-eastern Gaza, the so-called Philadelphi Corridor, would be a most useful step that would go a long way towards enabling the full reopening of the crossings.
26. On 31 July, United States Secretary of State Kerry and I jointly announced a humanitarian ceasefire for 72 hours to allow civilians to attend to the necessities of their daily lives so disrupted by the hostilities, in the hope that it could be extended and built upon by the parties to allow negotiations for a durable ceasefire to take place. However, the ceasefire was broken only a few hours after it had started. On 5 August, an Egyptian-brokered 72-hour humanitarian ceasefire went into effect while Israel and Palestinian factions commenced indirect talks through Egyptian mediation in Cairo on a durable ceasefire agreement. The ceasefire was extended three times, on 11, 14 and 18 August. I welcomed the announcement on 26 August of an open-ended ceasefire for Gaza, brokered under Egyptian auspices. The ceasefire was still holding at the time of reporting.
27. With the focus understandably on Gaza, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture. The Gaza escalation, coupled with the tense situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, is a warning of the negative repercussions on the ground when there is no credible political horizon towards a negotiated end to the occupation and settlement of the conflict. The international community must urge and support both parties in returning to meaningful negotiations and restoring prospects for a two-State solution.
28. Tensions and violence in the West Bank continued throughout the reporting period. The Israel Defense Forces conducted 3,124 search-and-arrest operations, resulting in 5,582 Palestinians being arrested. In the occupied Palestinian territory, excluding the so-called Operation Protective Edge, a total of 96 Palestinians were killed, including 58 civilians, and 5,245 Palestinians were injured. Six Israeli civilians and two Israel Defense Forces personnel were killed, and 79 Israeli civilians and 92 Israeli security forces personnel were injured.
29. The increase in settlements is particularly concerning. I have repeatedly stressed that settlement activity in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem, is illegal under international law. During the reporting period, Israel reportedly announced tenders for the construction of approximately 5,083 residential units in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
30. Settler violence remained high. Attacks by settlers resulted in one Palestinian being killed and 155 Palestinians, including 38 children, injured during the reporting period. One Israeli settler was killed and 75 Israeli settlers were injured by Palestinians.
31. The demolitions and evictions that were carried out in Area C of the West Bank are of deep concern and were condemned by the international community. Palestinians require access to a fair planning and zoning regime, so as not to resort to the building of unauthorized structures that lead to unjustified demolitions, which often impact the most vulnerable people. During the reporting period, 698 structures were demolished, leading to the displacement of some 1,179 Palestinians, including 624 children. Overall, more needs to be done to ease access and movement throughout the West Bank, including Area C, the Jordan Valley and Gaza.
32. Tension also prevailed in occupied East Jerusalem. Restrictions on access to holy sites in the Old City were imposed on Palestinians, including during the holy month of Ramadan, leading to multiple clashes between worshippers and the Israeli security forces.
33. The abduction and murder of a Palestinian teenager from the Shu’fat neighbourhood on 2 July led to days of violent demonstrations in East Jerusalem. Since July 2014, clashes between Palestinians and the Israeli security forces have spread beyond the traditional hotspots to include Beit Hanina, Shu’fat, Wadi Al-Joz and Jabal Al-Mukaaber.
34. On 24 April, some 90 Palestinian administrative detainees, including several Palestinian Legislative Council members, went on an open-ended hunger strike to protest the Israeli use of administrative detention. They were joined by other Palestinian prisoners in solidarity, including by 5,100 prisoners for one day on 8 May. In late June, the Palestinian detainees suspended their hunger strike after reportedly reaching a preliminary agreement with the Israel Prison Service for the start of negotiations on their demands.
35. There are currently more than 450 Palestinians held under administrative detention, more than twice the number being held in May. I reiterate my longstanding position that administrative detention should be used only in the most limited number of cases, for as short a period as possible, and in exceptional cases. Those detained must either be charged and brought to trial or released without delay.
36. Palestinians continued to advance their State-building programme, albeit limited to the territory under the Authority’s control, which excluded Area C, East Jerusalem and Gaza. This formed an essential complement to the political process. Despite strong international consensus that the Palestinian Authority was capable of running a State, the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee was concerned primarily about fiscal sustainability and economic viability, owing to the Palestinian Authority’s fiscal difficulties during the reporting period. The Committee also maintained that concerted action was urgently needed to stabilize the fiscal position of the Palestinian Authority and rekindle private-sector-led economic growth. Efforts by the Palestinian Authority towards structural reforms, including fiscal containment, as well as adequate and predictable assistance to the Palestinian Government by donors, were considered essential to managing the deficit.
37. The full implementation of Security Council resolution 1860 (2009) and Gaza’s recovery and long-term economic growth remain fundamental objectives of the United Nations. Some significant progress was made towards that goal, but much more needs to be done. In this context, $380 million worth of United Nations reconstruction work in Gaza has been approved by the Government of Israel. This has had a positive effect, not only for those receiving services, but also on short-term employment. However, the economic benefits of increased employment will end with the conclusion of the work. Deeper and more fundamental change is therefore required to enable a functioning economy in Gaza, beginning with the authorization of exports to Israel, as well as transfers to and from the West Bank. Without these essential steps, Gaza’s future will remain tenuous, at best.
38. I continue to worry about the state of human rights and freedoms in Gaza. Of particular concern are reports of arbitrary detention being carried out by Palestinian security forces and reports of ill-treatment in detention centres in Gaza. I am also deeply concerned about reports of multiple executions without the approval of President Abbas, which is required under Palestinian Basic Law. I call upon the de facto authorities in Gaza to refrain from carrying out further executions. I also urge the Palestinian Authority to ensure that it fulfils its responsibilities with full respect for international human rights law.
39. The Palestinian Authority has achieved what it set out to do three years ago, and this must be noted, preserved and built upon. However, I am concerned about the ability of the Palestinian Authority to maintain those gains in the light of its increasingly dire financial situation.
40. I strongly encouraged the Government of Israel to take all measures necessary to facilitate economic growth, including further easing of access and movement within, into and out of the West Bank for both goods and persons. In a positive development, Israel provided a considerable number of permits for Palestinian residents of the West Bank to visit Jerusalem and Israel during Ramadan, and applied more flexible regulations at checkpoints and points of passage during the Holy Month.
41. I would like to express my deep appreciation to Robert H. Serry, the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, as well as to the former and current Commissioners-General of UNRWA, Filippo Grandi and Pierre Krahenbilhl. I also pay tribute to all United Nations staff, who work under difficult, and at times dangerous, circumstances in the service of the Organization. In particular, we mourn the 11 UNRWA staff members in Gaza who lost their lives both on and off-duty.
42. I started the reporting period with a great sense of hope that, in the light of the ongoing negotiations towards a two-State solution, we could finally bear witness to two States living side by side in peace and security, but I ended the reporting period seriously concerned about the lack of progress and the return to violence between Israel and Palestinian militants. The search for a negotiated solution which would bring Israel and the Palestinians closer to durable peace and security, including the realization of the legitimate aspiration of Palestinians to a State of their own, and of Israel to live within recognized and secure borders, remains elusive. What is important now is for the parties to engage seriously on substance. I call upon Israeli and Palestinian leaders to show vision, courage and determination to reach a historical peace agreement that would meet the legitimate aspirations of their peoples. I remain convinced that direct and meaningful negotiations are the main avenue towards a comprehensive, fair and lasting solution, including an end to occupation, an end to conflict, and a just and agreed solution to the plight of Palestinian refugees.
43. To this end, it is my sincere hope that the parties pursue vigorously all efforts to sustain an environment that is conducive to the peace process moving forward. In particular, I urge Israel to cease all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and to take concrete steps to further ease the numerous restrictions in place, both in the West Bank and Gaza. I also strongly encourage all Palestinians on the path of non-violence and unity in line with past PLO commitments, and call upon them to pursue their efforts to improve law and order and combat extremism and incitement against Israel, and to continue building strong and democratic institutions that are essential for a viable, independent Palestinian State. In a highly volatile environment, it is crucial that any outbreaks of violence that could undermine political efforts be prevented, and that the parties refrain from provocative steps on the ground. The international community must also play its role by shaping a legitimate and balanced framework that offers a credible political path forward, combined with far-reaching steps on the ground. The international community should understand that its own efforts in pursuit of this goal will increasingly lack credibility if it continues to fail to take the steps necessary to enable an environment conducive to serious engagement.
44. As Secretary-General, I will continue to ensure that the United Nations works towards the establishment of an independent, democratic, contiguous and viable Palestinian State living side by side in peace with a secure Israel in the framework of a comprehensive regional settlement consistent with Security Council resolutions 242(1967), 338 (1973), (2002), 1515 (2003) and 1860 (2009), and in accordance with the road map, the Arab Peace Initiative and the principle of land for peace.
The Gaza conflict is an appalling human tragedy and has also exacted a terrible cost in already strained trust. While the ceasefire brokered by Egypt has largely held since 26 August, it remains worryingly fragile, with the underlying dynamics still unaddressed.
I visited Gaza last week and witnessed truly shocking levels of destruction to infrastructure, hospitals and schools. Large neighbourhoods lie in total ruin. An estimated 18,000 houses were destroyed or severely damaged. Some 100,000 people have lost their homes, leaving families shattered and despairing. Over 65,000 displaced Palestinians remain in United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) shelters, while 111 UNRWA installations sustained some sort of damage during the conflict. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed. Most were civilians, including some 500 children and 250 women and 11 UNRWA staff. More than 11,000 Palestinians were injured. On the Israeli side, 66 IDF soldiers and six civilians, including a child and a foreign national, were killed. Some 130 Israeli civilians and more than 450 soldiers were injured.
Israel struck over 5,000 locations in Gaza and reportedly demolished 32 tunnels, 14 with openings inside Israel. Over 3,500 rockets fired by Hamas and other Palestinian militants struck Israel; another 700 were intercepted by the Iron Dome defence system.
We reiterate the Secretary-General's strong belief that efforts must be undertaken to ensure that there is accountability for alleged violations of international law on both sides during the hostilities. I would also note that the Secretary-General plans to commission a board of inquiry to review and investigate a number of incidents involving United Nations premises.
Leaving aside hollow claims of victory by one side or the other, I sense a realization in my dealings with the parties that a renewed conflict would be a disaster. That means that we must change fundamentally the dynamics in Gaza. If we do not, Gaza could implode or, yet again, explode — possibly with a new and even more devastating round of violence. While distrust is acute, I hope all parties are ready to think afresh about some long-held policies. If so, we may be able, together, to walk a narrow path out of the current dangerous impasse. What does such a path look like?
First, the fragile calm between Israel and Gaza must be solidified at talks under Egyptian auspices in Cairo, which we hope will resume shortly. The ceasefire agreement already made general provision for entry of humanitarian and relief aid and construction materials and an expansion of the fishing zone to six nautical miles. We hope that any further arrangements are as clear as possible regarding the indefinite maintenance of a ceasefire and the lifting of the closure, bearing in mind the framework of resolution 1860 (2009) and any further guidance that may be provided by the Security Council.
Secondly, humanitarian issues require immediate attention. Critical priorities include emergency shelter, energy and water, the absence of which will make progress in all other sectors impossible. In that regard, on 10 September, the United Nations and the Palestinian Government called for international donors to provide $550 million in aid to help the hundreds of thousands of Gazans affected by the conflict.
Thirdly, Gaza must now be opened up for reconstruction and recovery, while legitimate security concerns with regard to dual-use material must be meaningfully addressed. The Governments of Israel and Palestine understand that, and I appreciate the constructive engagement of both sides in working to find a solution on the issue. That reality is also understood in Gaza.
In that regard, I am pleased to announce to the Security Council that the Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process has brokered a trilateral agreement between Israel, the Palestinian Authority and the United Nations to enable work at the scale required in the Strip, involving the private sector in Gaza and giving a lead role to the Palestinian Authority in the reconstruction effort, while providing security assurances through United Nations monitoring that those materials will not be diverted from their entirely civilian purpose. Reaching agreement was not without its challenges. We consider it to be a temporary mechanism, which must get up and running without delay, but it as an important step towards the objective of lifting all remaining closures and a signal of hope to the people of Gaza. We will brief the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee for the Coordination of the International Assistance to Palestinians (AHLC) next week in more detail and update it on our progress. We intend to keep the Council regularly informed.
The implementation of the agreement should be facilitated by the proper overall context, and we would welcome the Security Council's support and guidance in that regard. I also note that we will need to have sufficient resources to fulfil those additional duties, in addition to any other tasks that may be asked of the United Nations.
The temporary mechanism will also help to increase donor confidence that investment in construction and reconstruction works will be implemented expeditiously and solely for their intended civilian purpose. That is important and timely in anticipation of the Gaza reconstruction conference scheduled for 12 October to be hosted by Egypt and supported by Norway. I appreciate Israel's announcement yesterday, in advance of the AHLC meeting of 22 September, that it had approved a programme of over $105 million worth of United Nations projects that had been submitted prior to the recent conflict. I look forward to Israeli approval of an additional programme of work that the United Nations will present before the Cairo conference.
Reconstruction will require significant increases in the capacity of the crossings into Gaza to allow for the importation of the required materials. We must also look now to resume exports and West Bank-Gaza trade and links, something that would be facilitated if the Palestinian Authority were able to assume full responsibility at Gaza crossing points.
That leads me to my fourth point. The Palestinian Government of National Consensus, which is fully committed to the principles of the Palestine Liberation Organization under the leadership of President Abbas, must be empowered and enabled to assume its rightful responsibilities in Gaza and oversee the reconstruction of the Strip. Civil and administrative reform must be addressed urgently, moving beyond the current de facto existence of two separate strands of administration, in order to rationalize the public sector and create a unified payroll. In that regard, I am very concerned at the continued issue of unresolved payments to staff hired by the former de facto authorities. The problem needs immediate attention and should be linked to the rationalization process, if the situation is to be stabilized. As part of the continued efforts at Palestinian reconciliation, we believe there must be clear understanding that the control of security forces is a matter solely for the legitimate authority, that the issue of war and peace is a matter for that authority, and not for militant factions, and that, ultimately, the legitimate authority must have control over all armed personnel, assets and weapons.
I do not underestimate the difficulties that remain among the Palestinians, but I have been active in urging them to address these issues during meetings that I hope will take place this week. The United Nations also stands ready to provide increased technical assistance to the Palestinian Authority, drawing on and, as required, expanding our unique presence in Gaza, as the Government of National Consensus takes up its challenges there.
Fifthly, as we focus on Gaza, we must give new attention to the West Bank. We regularly draw attention in these briefings to developments on the ground, and I could give another recitation of statistics this month regarding violence, clashes, arrests and demolitions. However, I note in particular that Israel's declaration of 1,000 acres in the Bethlehem area as so-called “State land” risks paving the way for further settlement activity — illegal under international law and contrary to the pursuit of two States. Compounded with the April 2014 declaration of approximately 250 acres of land in the same governorate as “State land”, these are the largest “State land” declarations since the 1980s.
The commitment of President Abbas and the Palestinian Authority to coexistence and peace was demonstrated by continued security coordination in the West Bank, despite the conflict in Gaza and heightened tensions on the ground. We must also not forget that it was events in the West Bank that were part of the downward spiral towards the recent war. Maintaining the status quo in the West Bank while addressing Gaza anew would send entirely the wrong signal. I am pleased that Israel has confirmed that an additional 5,000 West Bank Palestinians will receive work permits in Israel. But positive Israeli actions on a range of issues, such as empowering and enabling Palestinian planning and construction in Area C, to say nothing of ceasing Israeli settlement activity, would send a powerful message.
Finally, all of these efforts must be put into a revised and credible political framework. This will not be easy. The gaps on substance and the mistrust evident in the last round of talks have not subsided; if anything, positions may have further hardened. The Palestinians remind us that prolonged occupation, as well as extended closure, breeds despair, particularly given the absence of an end-game based on the 1967 lines, something which will be a focus of Palestinian diplomatic efforts in the coming period.
For their part, Israelis are alarmed at the tunnelling and rocket fire from Gaza and view Hamas de facto control of the Strip with grave concern. That is also reinforcing their focus on the need for security arrangements in any future political agreement for two States. If the parties wish to break out of dynamics that seem to portend deeper conflict and mistrust, and if they still want two States, fresh thinking is urgently needed — from them, and perhaps from the international community as well.
The crisis in Gaza is far from over, and the window of opportunity to address critical needs and stabilize the situation is narrow. The devastation unleashed by this most recent round of conflict has left civilians on both sides feeling, once again, battered and embittered. Yet the interdependence of these two peoples has only been deepened, not lessened, by the latest disaster. If they fall into a new round of violence, they will be even more intertwined, yet even more distrustful in its surely appalling aftermath. We — they — all of us must act now and set a wiser and more responsible course.
The elements I have mentioned could, as a package, fundamentally change the dynamics in Gaza and rebuild the faith of both Israelis and Palestinians — in themselves, each other, and the possibilities of peace and two States, based on the end of occupation and the end of conflict. Failing that, I see a danger of a further downward spiral.
When I warn that Gaza could implode, or explode again, or the two-State paradigm could slip irreversibly away, I do not believe that I am crying wolf. The Council should not underestimate the dangers. I hope the Council will have the occasion to make its own position clear. This would be a welcome step of confidence, commitment and hope at a time when the parties and the world desperately need it.
Message of the Secretary-General
I am grateful to Norway for convening and chairing this important forum. This meeting takes place against the backdrop of an extremely challenging and volatile situation on the ground. I have been particularly worried about developments since the suspension of peace negotiations in late April.
The absence of a credible political horizon is having severe consequences. As we have seen with the recent devastation in the Gaza Strip and rising tensions and violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, it is becoming increasingly difficult to contain the situation.
The parties, with the support of the international community, must urgently reverse the negative trend. I am hopeful that the open-ended ceasefire for Gaza, brokered under Egyptian auspices, will serve as a prelude to a political process as the only way of achieving durable peace.
Any peace effort that does not tackle the root causes of the crisis will do little more than set the stage for the next cycle of violence. The closure of Gaza must end while addressing Israel's legitimate security concerns. Gaza must now be opened up for reconstruction and recovery to address the unprecedented destruction.
It is time for sustainable, transformational change in the Gaza Strip. Gaza and the West Bank must be brought back under the effective authority of one legitimate Palestinian Government that adheres to PLO [Palestine Liberation Organization] commitments. There are some real challenges ahead for the Government of National Consensus in this regard which may require our support. The United Nations stands ready to support efforts to address the structural factors of conflict between Israel and Gaza.
The current situation in Gaza is dire, with many people still displaced, unprecedented damage to social and economic infrastructure and critical shortages of water and energy. I welcome the tripartite agreement between the Government of Israel, the Palestinian Authority (PA) and the United Nations on the secure entry of construction materials into Gaza. I also welcome the planned reconstruction conference co-sponsored by Egypt and Norway, to be held on 12 October in Cairo.
The people of Gaza deserve a better future. The cycle of building and destroying must end. It is time for sustainable, transformational change in the Gaza Strip.
I am encouraged that this Committee is meeting today to discuss Palestinian-Israeli economic cooperation. While much of our focus remains on Gaza, we must give new attention to the West Bank. I hope your discussions point the way towards fiscal sustainability for the PA and economic viability for Palestine. Such positive measures are mutually reinforcing, would result in tangible benefits on the ground and foster badly needed trust.
All of these efforts must be put into a revised and credible political framework. They must restore prospects for a two-State solution by returning to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement that fulfils the aspirations of Israelis and Palestinians — for an end to the occupation that began in 1967; for Israel to live within secure and recognized borders; and for an independent State of Palestine living alongside Israel in peace and prosperity.
I appreciate Norway’s continued efforts to enable this dialogue. I hope the deliberations today will help ensure continued support for the Palestinian Authority’s state-building and development objectives, while strengthening Israeli-Palestinian economic cooperation.
Thank you once again. I wish you well in your deliberations.
AHLC members and other major donor countries met in New York today, at a meeting hosted by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The chair, Norwegian Foreign Minister Borge Brende, commended the parties for their constructive participation, and the UN, the World Bank, the IMF and the Quartet Representative for their reports and analyses.
The AHLC reaffirmed its strong commitment to the vision of an independent, democratic and sovereign state of Palestine, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. Since the suspension of the peace talks in April 2014, there has been an increase in tension and violence in the West Bank including in East Jerusalem, and a 51-day war has taken place in Gaza with devastating consequences. A political horizon for ending the occupation and the conflict is needed now more than ever.
The reports from the UN, the World Bank and the IMF described how the marked change in the political and security environment over the past months has led to a sharp deterioration in the Palestinians' economic outlook. Growth, already decelerating since 2012, slowed further to less than 2 % in 2013. One in six people in the West Bank and nearly every second person in Gaza is unemployed. The Gaza war has taken a heavy toll on an already struggling Palestinian economy.
The Palestinian Government formed in June 2014 faces massive challenges. The reports to the AHLC outline three immediate steps that need to be taken to facilitate the Palestinian economy's return to sustainable growth. First, access must be provided for imports and exports into, out of and between the West Bank and Gaza. Second, the governance framework for the West Bank and Gaza must be reintegrated under a single legitimate authority. Third, additional funding must be provided by the international community to facilitate continued reforms and the reconstruction of Gaza.
Reaffirming their assessment of 2011 of the Palestinian Authority's readiness for statehood, the donors welcomed the further progress that has been made in spite of ongoing pressures and fiscal difficulties, including in national planning, budget management and service delivery. The donors noted that the PA had managed to increase its domestic revenues and keep its fiscal deficit below targets in the first half of 2014.
Budget support from donors fell this year in comparison to last year, however, and the PA will face a serious financing gap by the end of 2014. The AHLC noted signs of donor fatigue. It concluded, nevertheless, that the PA will need high levels of budget assistance in the short and medium terms, even in the most positive scenario of rapid economic recovery. Without a resumption of the political process to end the occupation, the PA's financial situation will become unmanageable.
The impact of the political instability on the Palestinian investment climate has been severe, and has resulted in uncertainty and increased costs for businesses and investors. There are, however, a number of positive aspects to the investment climate, such as a stable financial sector, low incidence of corruption, and good firm performance. This suggests that the Palestinian private sector could respond effectively once restrictions on movement and access are lifted. Greater economic potential can be unleashed when access is assured for Palestinian activity in Area C.
The AHLC emphasised that assistance for the reconstruction of Gaza must come in addition to sustained levels of budget support to the PA and development assistance to the West Bank. It called for assistance to Gaza to be channelled through the PA. Unimpeded access to the Gaza Strip for materials, financing and persons is a necessary condition for the reconstruction of Gaza. It is a necessary condition, also, that the PA is able to function as the legitimate and responsible authority and recipient of assistance in Gaza. Protection of the lives and security of all civilian populations must be assured.
For this reason, the AHLC welcomed the UN-led preparations for a robust and efficient monitoring mechanism in Gaza, accepted by Israel and the PA. The AHLC also welcomed the declaration by the Israeli representatives that Israel will take determined measures to ease restrictions on movement and access both in the West Bank and Gaza, and will lend its full cooperation to efforts to facilitate rapid recovery and reconstruction in Gaza led by the PA.
On this basis the AHLC:
- Calls on the parties to resume negotiations to end the conflict and to refrain from all unilateral acts that undermine such talks, and reaffirms its readiness to support the political process by continuing to provide assistance to build the institutions needed for the establishment of a Palestinian state;
- Reiterates the need for substantial and sustained removal of obstacles to the movement of people and goods, as well as obstacles to development, trade and exports in the West Bank and Gaza, including in Area C and East Jerusalem; and welcomes the announcement by Israel of important steps in this direction;
- Calls on the Palestinian Authority to maintain its commitment to fiscal restraint and reforms, and to further enhance the business environment in line with the recommendations of the World Bank and the IMF;
- Calls on all Palestinian factions to facilitate the resumption of governance over Gaza by the Palestinian Authority, and reaffirms its readiness to assist in making this happen;
- Calls on donors to increase their assistance to cover the financing gap this year, and to provide timely and predictable assistance to meet the budget needs of the Palestinian Authority for 2015 — with due regard to burden sharing;
- Calls on the parties to further identify and implement measures to enhance the collection and transfer of taxes and clearance revenues;
- Calls for a resumption of local coordination efforts in order to maximise the combined effectiveness of public aid and private initiatives to strengthen growth in the Palestinian economy and the recovery of Gaza;
- Welcomes the convening of the Cairo Conference on Palestine and Reconstructing Gaza on 12 October, to be hosted jointly by Egypt, Norway and President Abbas
- Agrees to reconvene in Brussels in the spring of 2015 on invitation by the EU.
A. Situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem
Following the kidnapping of three Israeli youths on 12 June 2014, the Israeli Security Forces launched extensive search and arrest operations in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, especially in the Hebron area. Reportedly, between 1,100 and 1,500 Palestinians were detained, including 27 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council. Restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians and damage to property were reported during the operations. The bodies of the three youths were discovered on 30 June. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli authorities resumed the practice of punitive house demolitions, which had been suspended in 2005, partially demolishing the homes of two Palestinians suspected, but not convicted, of the murders. Six relatives of the suspects, including two children, were consequently displaced.1 In August 2014, complete court-sanctioned demolitions were carried out of the homes of the two suspects. Furthermore, on 31 August, the Israeli Civil Administration declared 988 acres (3,799 dunums) of Palestinian land, south of Bethlehem, as State land, reportedly “in response” to the kidnapping and murders.2
Amid the climate of incitement and racial hatred following the discovery of the three murdered Israeli youths, a 16-year-old Palestinian boy from Shu’fat, East Jerusalem, was found murdered on 2 July, in an apparent revenge killing. Israeli police arrested three suspects shortly afterwards, who have since been charged and are awaiting trial.
Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Security Forces took place throughout the reporting period. In the first wave between 12 and 30 June 2014, in the context of extensive search and arrest operations, seven Palestinians were killed and more than 780 injured. From 2 to 7 July 2014, following the murder of the Palestinian boy, some 570 Palestinians were reportedly injured by Israeli Security Forces, including 31 people injured by live fire. Seventeen Israeli Security Force officers were reportedly also injured in the violence. Clashes between Palestinians and Israeli Security Forces in the West Bank continued after Israel launched its military operation in Gaza on the night of 7 July, killing 12 Palestinians and injuring more than 1,000 people in the last two weeks of July alone. From 12 June to 26 August 2014, a total of 27 Palestinians were killed, including four children, and almost 3,000 were injured, including 980 people who were apparently hit by live ammunition.3 According to initial findings by OHCHR, in a number of cases, there did not appear to be any imminent lethal threat posed by those killed by the Israeli Security Forces. The high number of killings and injuries during the reporting period give rise to serious concerns over excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces.4
The serious deterioration in the situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, during the reporting period has been largely overshadowed by events in Gaza, but remains grave cause for concern. With regard to violations of international humanitarian and human rights law, the actions of the Israeli forces raise various concerns: excessive use of force, including use of live ammunition against unarmed demonstrators; arrest and detention of hundreds of Palestinians, including members of the Palestinian Legislative Council, in violation of fair trial rights; and restrictions on the freedom of movement of Palestinians. Some actions by the Israeli authorities, especially in the Hebron area, may amount to collective punishment.
B. Situation in Gaza
An increase in hostilities between Israel and Palestinian armed groups was already noted since early June 2014. During that month, the Israeli Defense Forces carried out targeted killings of six members of armed groups, which also resulted in the killing of one child and injury to three Palestinian civilians. Around 60 civilians were injured in Israeli airstrikes on targets across the Gaza Strip.5 The firing of rockets and mortars from Gaza towards Israel also increased noticeably. Three Israelis were reported injured in those attacks.6 Furthermore a two-year-old Palestinian girl was killed, and one adult and four children were injured by rockets that apparently fell short and landed in Gaza.7
Late on 7 July 2014, Israel launched a military operation in Gaza, code-named “Protective Edge”.8 The operation can be broken into three phases: a period of air, land and naval strikes, between 7 and 17 July; a ground operation by Israeli forces entering the Gaza Strip, from 18 July to 5 August, accompanied by continuing airstrikes; a period of alternating ceasefire and military strikes, until an indefinite ceasefire came into effect on 26 August. Between 8 July and 26 August, 5,830 missiles in 4,028 air raids, 16,507 artillery and tank projectiles and 3,494 naval shells were fired at targets in the Gaza Strip. During the same period, Palestinian armed groups fired 4,844 rockets and 1,734 mortars towards Israel, of which, at least 243 were intercepted by the Iron Dome anti-missile defence system.9
According to preliminary data as of 9 September 2014, 10 2,142 Palestinians were killed, between 7 July and 26 August, or died from injuries sustained during that period. Of those, 1,474 are believed to have been civilians, including 501 children and 257 women. Another 381 could either not be identified or their status has yet to be determined, while 287 members of armed groups are believed to have been killed.11 According to Israeli media reports, as of 4 September 2014, at least four Israeli civilians, including one child, one foreign civilian in Israel, 66 Israeli soldiers and one person, whose status is not yet known, were killed during the reporting period. 12 Dozens more Israelis, including at least six children, were directly injured by rockets, mortars or shrapnel.13 More than 180 Israeli soldiers were reportedly injured.
According to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, 11,100 Palestinians, including 2,088 women and 3,374 children, were injured between 7 July and 26 August 2014. Furthermore, during the same period, 18,080 housing units were totally destroyed or had become uninhabitable, leaving approximately 108,500 people homeless.14 As of 26 August 2014, approximately 479,000 Palestinians—more than a quarter of the entire population of Gaza—had been displaced, including approximately 289,109 people, who were sheltering in schools run by the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), 48,742 people in government shelters and at least 140,895 who were staying with relatives.15
OHCHR preliminary monitoring and external reports on the conduct of hostilities by the Israeli forces raised concerns under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law. In particular, serious questions arose over the apparent failure to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution under international humanitarian law in attacks, including the targeting of civilian objects, leading to the killing of civilians; the targeting of apparent military objectives, with possible failure to take all necessary precautions; attacks which may fail the proportionality test; indiscriminate attacks impacting the civilian population and civilian objects without distinction, especially during the ground operations; attacks on schools, including the UNRWA schools that were used as shelters for internally displaced persons, in breach of the inviolability of United Nations premises; attacks on hospitals, ambulances and ambulance staff; and allegations of the use of Palestinians as human shields.16
OHCHR preliminary monitoring and external reports on the conduct of Palestinian armed groups, including Hamas, during hostilities also raised human rights concerns and concerns under international humanitarian law. Of particular concern were the indiscriminate nature of attacks and the placing of weapons in UNRWA schools, in breach of the inviolability of United Nations premises. There were also reports of military objects placed in populated areas; killing of persons suspected of collaborating with Israel; and alleged violation of the freedom of movement and right to physical integrity of members of Fatah. In addition, Israeli authorities alleged that tunnels for military purposes had been constructed under civilian objects; rocket attacks were launched from densely populated areas; hospitals and ambulances were used for military purposes;17 and the use of human shields.18 OHCHR continues to work to verify those reports and allegations.
The scale of hostilities far exceeded that of previous hostilities in 2012 and in 2008–2009, in terms of duration and fatalities, and have resulted in an unprecedented level of destruction in Gaza. It has not yet been possible to assess the longer term impact of the destruction on the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights by Palestinians, but it is seems clear that enormous effort will be necessary to rebuild basic infrastructure and deal with the psychosocial consequences of the traumatic events.
C. Promoting accountability for violations of international humanitarian and human rights law
At this stage, it would be premature to even attempt to offer a comprehensive assessment of necessary accountability measures. Further information gathering, verification and analysis will be necessary in the coming months, before definite conclusions on violations and required accountability measures can be drawn. Current monitoring and investigation efforts are essential in order to establish the facts and pave the way for the establishment of such measures at the international level. Investigations and accountability measures by parties to the conflict, at the domestic level, are of critical importance. The adequacy of the measures taken at the domestic level will necessarily inform the measures taken at the international level.
OHCHR continues its monitoring activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and is verifying information which appears to indicate violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, including war crimes, during the reporting period, for presentation in future reports. It is expected that the commission of inquiry will undertake its own investigations in parallel.
The events that took place between June and August 2014, in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and in Gaza, saw both sides once again resorted to violence. Yet, respect for human rights and international law remains the only way to guarantee peace and justice for all. The primary responsibility for ensuring accountability, remedies for victims and ending impunity rests with both the Israeli and the Palestinian authorities. Serious shortcomings in the systems of accountability have been highlighted in the past by the Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and the Fact-finding mission on the Gaza conflict, 19 with the latter recommending that the situation be referred to the International Criminal Court. Given the ongoing failure to ensure effective accountability, that recommendation remains relevant. Accountability for violations committed by both sides is an essential step towards restoring respect for human rights and ensuring non-repetition of recurrent violent crises in the area.
The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Makarim Wibisono, today expressed alarm at the terrible cost paid by Palestinian civilians, especially children in Gaza, as a result of Israel’s military operation that lasted 50 days from 7 July to 26 August this year.
The latest round of violence has left 1,479 civilians, including 506 children dead. A staggering 11,231 Palestinian civilians, including 3,436 children were injured, many, now struggling with life-long disabilities. Tens of thousands of children live with the trauma of having witnessed the horrific killings of family members, friends, and neighbours before their own eyes.
“This raises serious questions about possible violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law,” Mr. Wibisono said at the end of his first mission to the region.
“Israel’s claim of self-defence against an occupied population living under a blockade considered to be illegal under international law is untenable,” he said. “In a population where over half of the 1.8 million people are under 18, this is truly a tragedy, which will be felt for generations to come.”
The Special Rapporteur noted that there wasn’t a single child in Gaza who has not been adversely affected by the conflict. Children now suffer from bedwetting, difficulties in sleeping, nightmares, a loss of appetite, and schools are seeing more aggressive behaviour in pupils.
It is estimated that 7,000 unexploded ordinances are still littered across the Gaza Strip, continuing to pose a serious threat to Gazans, including children.
In the 50 days of relentless bombing and shelling, 228 schools in Gaza were damaged, including 26 destroyed or damaged beyond repair. 87 schools are now operating double shifts. The Special Rapporteur was informed that temporary psychosocial support has been made available for those children lucky enough to be able to return to school, but those children who have lost parents will require long-term professional support and counseling.
An estimated 60,000 civilians remain in 19 shelters across the Gaza Strip. With winter coming soon, there is need for rapid reconstruction, and an urgent need for temporary housing to restore hope and dignity to the Palestinian people in Gaza.
Meanwhile, health professionals in Gaza also reported a critical shortage of medicines and equipment, and doctors expressed frustration at the shortage of electricity, as mobile generators were overburdened beyond their capacity.
“Israel must immediately lift the seven year land, sea and air blockade of Gaza, and urgently allow needed materials for reconstruction and recovery,” Mr. Wibisono urged.
The Special Rapporteur also raised serious concerns on the deteriorating situation of human rights in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, regarding the excessive use of force by Israeli Security Forces in the context of demonstrations and clashes in recent months.
Wibisono urged Israel to comply with the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms, noting that during the period from 12 June to 31 August 2014, a total of 27 Palestinians were killed, of whom five were children, with the youngest victim only 11 years-old.
“The use of live ammunition against Palestinians even if they were throwing stones, is unjustifiable,” the United Nations expert said.
On the imminent risk of 6 Plans being approved which would lead to the forcible transfer and forced eviction of thousands of Bedouins and herders from the East Jerusalem periphery and the Jordan Valley, and the demolition of Bedouin homes and schools, Mr. Wibisono stated that such practices would violate international humanitarian and human rights law and must cease immediately. No one should be moved against their will.
“The affected communities have opposed these plans, and wish to remain in their current location,” he said. Mr. Wibisono also called for adequate planning and access to public infrastructures for these Bedouin communities.
If implemented, these plans will further disconnect East Jerusalem from the rest of the West Bank, disrupt the territorial contiguity of occupied Palestine, and pave the way for further expansion of Israeli settlements, and of the Wall.
Mr. Wibisono noted that voices from across the Occupied Palestinian Territory called in unison for three demands: the need for accountability, an end to the blockade, and an end to the occupation.
“Those responsible for violations of international law must be brought to justice in order to avoid yet another round of deadly violence in the near future,” he said.
During his visit to the region, Mr. Wibisono met with Palestinian officials, civil society representatives, human rights defenders and victims among others in Amman, Cairo, and in Gaza via video and teleconference, as Israel did not grant access to the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
In Amman, the United Nations expert also visited patients from Gaza receiving treatment at King Hussein hospital. Among them was Manar, a 14 year-old girl from Beit Hanoun, who lost both her legs, and suffered shrapnel wounds and internal injuries when an Israeli strike hit an UNRWA school. Manar also lost her mother and three brothers in the same attack.
The Special Rapporteur will report fully on his findings and recommendations to the twenty-eighth session of the Human Rights Council in March 2015.
1See United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), Protection of Civilians Weekly Report, 24-30 June 2014, available from www.ochaopt.org/reports.aspx?id=104.
2See “Israel appropriates massive tracts of West Bank land”, available from www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.613319.
3Source: OHCHR (fatalities) and OCHA (injuries). Note: The injured include those suffering from tear gas inhalation and requiring medical attention.
4There were reports of isolated incidents of Palestinians firing live ammunition towards Israeli Security Forces, although no injuries were reported.
5Source: OCHA, Protection of Civilians Weekly Reports, available from www.ochaopt.org/reports.aspx?id=104.
8See https://twitter.com/IDFSpokesperson/status/486274187636396035; also www.idfblog.com/blog/2014/08/05/operation-protective-edge-numbers/.
9Source: United Nations Department of Security and Safety. At least 31 more fell short and landed in Gaza.
10Throughout the hostilities, OHCHR, in its capacity as leader of the Protection Cluster in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, compiled figures on fatalities. The methodology involved the compilation of initial reports of fatalities in the media and from other sources, which were then cross-checked and verified in collaboration with a number of international, Palestinian and Israeli partner organizations. Where possible, each individual’s name, age, sex, place of death as well as status (civilian or combatant) was determined and recorded. Multiple sources were cross-referenced, not only from media and various human rights organizations, but also information released by the Israeli Defense Forces and by the armed groups regarding the identity of combatants. Information from the Ministry of Health in Gaza was one, but not exclusive, source of information. Verification of the preliminary information was continuing through interviews, as the security situation eased, and preliminary data was being revised and updated. OHCHR updates the information daily and overall figures have been published on the OCHA website on behalf of the Protection Cluster.
11This fatality toll does not include the approximately 25 Palestinians reported killed by armed groups in Gaza since 21 August 2014, for allegedly collaborating with Israel.
12See www.ochaopt.org/documents/ocha_opt_sitrep_04_09_2014.pdf; and www.jpost.com/Operation-Protective-Edge/In-Memoriam-The-27-IDF-soldiers-who-gave-their-lives-to-protect-Israel-368493.
14See OCHA documents in footnotes 16 and 17 above.
19See, inter alia, A/HRC/12/48, paras. 1773–1873; A/HRC/25/40, paras. 50–60; and A/68/502, paras. \ 29-47.