Terje Roed-Larsen, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, noted "a deeply unfortunate upsurge of violence in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza in recent days," citing a bomb blast in a Palestinian school, a series of deadly Israeli incursions, and two suicide bombings which took the lives of Israeli civilians. "These are repugnant and tragic events which the Secretary-General has condemned unreservedly," he said.
On Thursday, the Israeli Defence Force (IDF) once again encircled Palestinian Authority (PA) President Yasser Arafat's offices in Ramallah, carrying out "major demolitions" in a siege which continues today, the envoy reported, pointing out that the security situation was undermining reform efforts. "Yesterday's incursion and the renewed isolation of President Arafat's compound undoubtedly weaken the position of those working for major reform."
The envoy stressed that the Israelis and the Palestinians must both take steps in several areas. "Improved security performance and humanitarian delivery are essential, but it will not be possible to sustain progress in either field without parallel movement in the political area," he said, noting that the concept of 'security first' would not work. "Steps need to be taken not on a sequential basis, but in parallel and with reciprocity."
Mr. Roed-Larsen also recalled that the diplomatic Quartet on the Middle East - the UN, European Union (EU), Russian Federation and United States - had agreed that the humanitarian situation, security issues and the political process are all closely linked, and that no one aspect could be resolved without attention to the others.
Citing new statistics from a new report produced by his office, Mr. Roed-Larsen said that Palestinian unemployment now hovered around 50 per cent, poverty levels have reached 70 per cent in Gaza and 55 per cent in the West Bank, and income loses were estimated at $7.6 million a day, or $3.3 billion since October 2000. "On top of this, the PA is facing a fiscal crisis; this month, for instance, the cost of PA operations and supplies stands at $90 million, while the total resources available are less than $55 million."
The envoy also reported that the Secretary-General had told the parties that "in spite of high-level assurances of increased Israeli cooperation with humanitarian agencies" there had been only marginal improvements on the ground. "The bottom line is that there can be no real progress on the humanitarian front if Israel does not alter its system of security which, while based entirely legitimate and understandable concerns, is hurting an increasingly significant portion of the Palestinian population."