Situation in the Middle East
Mr. Ben Yahmed said that Secretary-General Kofi Annan yesterday deplored the "deepening spiral of violence" between Israel and the Palestinians. Mr. Annan expressed dismay at Israel's shelling of facilities belonging to the Palestinian Authority in Gaza near civilian areas with bombs of heavy tonnage, which caused substantial damage to UN offices and injury to two UN employees. The Secretary-General reiterated his belief that no solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would be found through violence and retaliation. He called on both sides to make every effort to achieve a durable ceasefire and return to the negotiating table, as there was no alternative to a political solution of this conflict.
The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Terje Roed-Larsen, had expressed outrage that Israel had deployed heavy tonnage bombs so near to civilians and UN facilities. Noting that the blasts had blown out all first-floor UN office windows - including his own - Mr. Roed-Larsen had expressed relief that there were no fatalities. He emphasized Israel's security needs would not be met by hitting civilian targets or by destroying the Palestinians' ability to police and maintain order.
Mr. Peter Hansen, the Commissioner General of the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Peter Hansen, acting on behalf of the all United Nations Agencies represented in the occupied Palestinian territory, had also protested the bombing in "the strongest possible terms". Expressing dismay at the use of heavy weaponry in close proximity to UN offices, Mr. Hansen reminded the Government of Israel of its responsibility under international law to ensure the safety and security of UN staff working in the area.