NEW YORK – During the past month, the security situation in the Middle East continued to be tense, United Nations (UN) Under-Secretary General for Political Affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, reported to the UN Security Council Wednesday.
According to Feltman, in the West Bank, in three separate incidents, three Palestinian men were killed by the Israeli security forces, while a Palestinian shot at an Israeli vehicle travelling near a settlement close to Ramallah, killing one Israeli civilian and injuring another.
Reporting on events in the region in the past few months, Feltman added that a total of 186 Palestinians were injured, including 28 children and two women, as well as five members of the Israeli security forces, while an Israeli policeman was critically wounded at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem, while his attacker remains in critical condition after being shot in return.
He said that some 400 search-and-arrest operations were conducted, resulting in the arrest of 510 Palestinians; the UN political chief also expressed the Secretary-Generalâ€™s â€œdeep concernâ€ about the situation of Palestinian prisoners in Israel, notably those in administrative detention.
Even as the demolishing of homes and structures in the West Bank continued, the planning and zoning system as it stands makes it â€œvirtually impossibleâ€ for Palestinians to build or develop their land â€œin Area C,â€ he explained.
In Gaza, a â€œdesperateâ€ situation was exacerbated by a number of security incidents, 12 Palestinians having been shot and injured by Israeli security forces.
Ten rockets were fired by Palestinian militants from Gaza, â€œthankfully without casualties or damage,â€ while a further 11 rockets were test fired towards the sea. Israeli security forces responded by conducting eleven airstrikes on militant sites in Gaza.
Concerns are also mounting around internal divisions within Gaza, including a â€œpotentially developing threat from militant Salafist individuals or groups.â€
The UN political chief said that on June 2, for example, Hamas security forces reportedly killed a Salafist accused of firing rockets at Israel and arrested a number of others.
Feltman said that the â€œever-challenging circumstancesâ€ in Gaza underscored the urgency of strengthening Palestinian unity.
Conflicts, poor governance and the closures were crushing Gazaâ€™s economy, and unemployment had surged to an incredible 43 per cent by end 2014.
He welcomed Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallahâ€™s commitment to surmount these obstacles, and emphasised that the willingness and capacity of all Palestinian factions to resolve their differences are â€œintegral to lifting the blockade of Gaza and advancing efforts to achieve statehood.â€
Briefing the Council in the aftermath of the release of the Independent Commission of Inquiryâ€™s report on Gaza, Feltman said that, while the Secretary-General does not comment â€œon the substance of such reports,â€ the UN hopes that it will contribute to â€œbringing justice to victims of last yearâ€™s warâ€ and encourages the parties â€œto engage in serious and credible examinations of their own behaviour.â€
He warned that accepting a â€œfatalistic narrativeâ€ on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict would only accelerate a deterioration of the situation. â€œThe risk of radicalisation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory is heightened by the
continued lack of a political horizon.â€ In the absence of courageous leadership, a sustainable solution would remain a distant and unachievable goal.
While the Secretary-General felt encouraged by the recent recommitment of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to â€œthe idea of a sustainable two-state solution, this must be translated into actionsâ€.
He also warned against the current â€œvacuumâ€ in Lebanon, which has been without a President for over a year, preventing the parliament from passing legislation on urgent issues, affecting the countryâ€™s economy and the Governmentâ€™s ability to function effectively. Another source of concern, according to Feltman, has been along the eastern Lebanese-Syrian border, where Hezbollah has been fighting armed extremist groups, including IS and the Nusra Front.
And in Syria, even as consultations continued with national, regional and international delegations on the operationalisation of the Geneva Communique, refugees kept crossing the borders and poured into neighbouring countries like Turkey, with an estimated 25,000 of them having sought refuge during the reporting period.
â€œIt is neither just nor possible to expect from Turkey to continue to face the refugee pressures alone,â€ Feltman emphasized. – Bernama