The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process,Tor Wennesland, has expressed deep concern over the relentless expansion of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem.
During the last three months, more than 10,000 housing units were advanced, he told the UN Security Council in New York on Wednesday.
“Settlements further entrench the occupation, fuel violence, impede Palestinian access to their land and resources, and systematically erode the viability of a Palestinian State as part of a two-state solution”, the senior UN envoy said.
“I call on the Government of Israel to cease all settlement activity and dismantle outposts immediately, in line with its obligations under international law,” he added.
The regular briefings stem from Security Council resolution 2334, adopted in December 2016, which demanded that Israel stop building new settlements on Palestinian land.
Wennesland also expressed concern over escalating violence in the occupied West Bank and Israel, at levels not seen in decades. He bemoaned the use of increasingly lethal weaponry, including in densely populated areas.
There have been casualties on both sides. Palestinians, including children, were killed or injured during demonstrations, clashes, security operations, and attacks, while Israelis, including members of the security forces, also suffered casualties.
Wennesland called for immediate steps to de-escalate tensions.
“I condemn all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror. Such acts can never be justified and must be condemned by all. Perpetrators must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” he said.
Additionally, Wennesland noted funding shortage affecting UN humanitarian agencies, including the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) and World Food Programme (WFP), calling on Member States to provide more support.
UNRWA urgently needs $75 million to maintain food assistance through December for 1.2 million Palestinians in Gaza, while WFP requires $32 million for aid efforts across the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT).
Concluding his briefing, the Special Coordinator said there was no substitute for a legitimate political process to resolve the core issues driving the conflict.
He reiterated his commitment to supporting both Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the decades of conflict, “in pursuit of the vision of two States – Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous, viable, and sovereign Palestinian State – living side by side in peace and security within secure and recognized borders, on the basis of the pre-1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the shared capital of both States.”
By Nadeem Faisal Baiga