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Source: United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM)
3 August 2006

Urgent Call to Stop Spiralling Middle East Violence

Statement by Noeleen Heyzer, Executive Director, UNIFEM; Convenor, International Women's Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC)

For immediate release
3 August 2006

New York — As missiles and bombs started flying across Israel, Lebanon and Gaza, taking a terrible toll in civilian lives, I convened an emergency meeting of the International Women’s Commission for a Just and Sustainable Palestinian-Israeli Peace (IWC), comprising Israeli, Palestinian and international leaders. We watched in dismay as the violence escalated, threatening to become a full-scale regional war.

Today, this violence has become regional, and civilians are bearing the highest costs. Already hundreds of civilians have been killed, thousands wounded, almost a million displaced, and billions of dollars of infrastructure destroyed. The International Women’s Commission joins with the UN Secretary-General in calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities and protection of civilian lives.

The bombing of cities, roads and water systems unfortunately targets civilians — they are the ones who cannot hide, cannot escape and cannot defend themselves. They invariably include large numbers of women and their children. Every day we see this in Lebanon, as bombs hit those trying to flee, buildings collapse on those hiding in basements afraid to leave home.

The attacks on both sides have to end. Once hostilities have stopped, a ceasefire is agreed, and protection measures are in place, the IWC calls on the international community to make a serious and concerted effort to ensure the longer-term security of Israeli, Palestinian and Lebanese people. The political vacuum resulting from the lack of a sovereign Palestinian state is fuelling the violence and empowering those with no stake in the peace process.

Time is very short. The bombs falling now are also time bombs, and the longer the attacks continue, the greater the danger of regional escalation and total political collapse. To prevent this from happening, the world’s leaders should bring together all stakeholders to jumpstart a negotiated, two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which so long as it remains unaddressed, will continue to draw in neighbouring states. These stakeholders must include those on both sides who are reaching across borders to call for such a solution. Among them also must be women, who are critical to all aspects of peacebuilding and security, as recognized by Security Council resolution 1325. This may be the last chance to bring about a sustainable peace for all people in the region.

Media Inquiries:
Nanette Braun, Communications Specialist, UNIFEM Headquarters, +1 212-906-6829

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