Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland, welcomed Qatar’s $40 million contribution to provide monetary aid to needy families in the Hamas-controlled enclave, but warned of ongoing violence throughout the occupied Palestinian territory.
He told ambassadors that tensions along the fence of the Gaza Strip peaked on August 21, when hundreds of Palestinians attended a rally that described the throwing of rocks and alleged improvised explosive devices at Israeli security personnel.
Israeli troops fired on Palestinian protesters, injuring 51 Palestinians, including 25 children. Mr Wennesland reiterated that children should never be targeted and called on all parties to exercise restraint, avoid provocations at the fence and keep the protests peaceful.
He drew attention to a number of Palestinian deaths in July and August and highlighted the murder of an 11-year-old Palestinian boy in Beit Ummar on July 28, after Israeli security forces fired on the car in which he was traveling with his father and siblings.
While Israeli authorities have opened an investigation, he added that security personnel killed a 20-year-old Palestinian man the following day in clashes at the boy’s funeral.
Also expressing concern about the violence by Israeli settlers against Palestinian civilians, he said that further steps should be taken to ensure Israel fulfills its obligation to better protect Palestinian civilians.
He called on Israeli security forces to exercise maximum restraint and only use lethal force if it is strictly unavoidable to protect life.
Stop arrests of human rights defenders
Noting that on August 21, Palestinian security forces arrested 23 people, including known human rights defenders and lawyers, in Ramallah for participating in a planned demonstration, the Special Coordinator has called on the Palestinian Authority, which governs the West Bank, to immediately stop arrests of human rights defenders accused of violating their right to freedom of expression.
Mr Wennesland pointed to recent seizures of Palestinian buildings in East Jerusalem and urged the Israeli authorities to stop.
He noted a gradual and partial easing of entry restrictions into Gaza by the Israeli authorities and said permits will be given for the first time in 18 months to 2,000 Palestinian traders and 350 businessmen to cross from Gaza into Israel.
However, trade volume still remains below pre-escalation levels, he noted, adding that no amount of humanitarian or economic support by itself will address the challenges Gaza faces.
“Gaza needs political solutions that will mean a complete lifting of Israeli closures, the return of a legitimate Palestinian government and the establishment of an independent, sovereign Palestinian state,” he said.
Commenting on the Hamas militant group’s takeover of a United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) school, he said the organization had declared its institutions “inviolable at all times” and protested the move.
“While the school was subsequently evicted by Hamas, such actions undermine the inviolability and neutrality of UNRWA buildings and endanger the safety of the children getting to their school on time,” he said.
Turning to the “precarious” state of the Palestinian Authority’s finances, he said Israel continues to deduct the monthly transfer of customs clearance revenue, an amount equal to what it calculates paid by the Palestinian Authority “to the families of prisoners and martyrs”.
Noting also meetings between Israeli ministers and their Palestinian counterparts, as well as a Sunday meeting between Israeli Defense Minister Benny Gantz and President Abbas, he described the latter as “the highest level meeting between the two sides since the formation of the current Israeli Government.”
“No positive, hopeful step should be wasted,” he said, calling for serious political efforts to return to meaningful negotiations that will address all final status issues, a negotiated end to the occupation and the vision of two states living side by side. -side.