The United Nations Security Council, on Sunday, called for an immediate end to hostilities and bloodshed between Israel and Palestine which have caused unconscionable deaths, immense suffering and damage to vital infrastructure.
In opening remarks, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said “the fighting has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis” and to foster extremism, not only in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.
He expressed deep concern over violent clashes between Israeli security forces and Palestinians across the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where Palestinian families were under threat of eviction. In Israel, violence by vigilante-style groups and mobs has added another dimension to the crisis.
“This senseless cycle of bloodshed, terror and destruction must stop immediately,” Guterres said, calling on all parties to respect international humanitarian law and international human rights law.
The secretary general disclosed that the United Nations was actively engaging all sides towards an immediate ceasefire, but stressed that leaders on all sides had a responsibility to curb inflammatory rhetoric and calm the rising tensions.
Palestinian Islamic Jihad and other militants have launched more than 2,900 indiscriminate rockets from Gaza towards Israel. In response to Palestinian militant rocket attacks that began on May 10, Israeli defence forces have conducted 950 strikes against what they said were militant targets, including weapons factories and depots, tunnel networks, Hamas training facilities, intelligence and security headquarters and offices and the homes of senior Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad operatives.
Thousands of Palestinians have been forced to leave their homes in Gaza to shelter in schools, mosques and other places with limited access to water, food, hygiene or health services. Israeli civilians, on the other hand, live in fear of rockets launched from Gaza.
The U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland said that at least 181 Palestinians, including 52 children, had been killed and 1,200 injured in airstrikes. At least 34,000 have been left homeless. In Israel, nine Israelis, including two children, and one Indian national, were killed and over 250 injured.
Minister for Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the State of Palestine Riad Malki said there were no words to describe the horrors his people were enduring, noting that “Israel is killing Palestinians in Gaza, one family at a time.”
He asked what Palestinians were entitled to do to defend themselves, questioning whether they would receive support for investigations by the International Criminal Court, or deprived of a venue for justice.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour wondered how many Palestinian lives it would take for the international community to intervene. The conflict, he said, was not between quarrelling neighbors; it was colonialism.
“There are no people on earth that would tolerate this reality. Israel keeps saying, ‘Put yourselves in our shoes,’ but they aren’t wearing shoes, they are wearing military boots,” Mansour said.
“Why not put yourself in our shoes? What would you do if your country was occupied? What would you do to achieve independence? How many Palestinians killed is enough for condemnation? We know one Israeli is enough, but how many Palestinians?”
The representative of Israel displayed a photo of a 16-year-old Arab girl from Israel, who was murdered on May 12 by the radical terrorist group Hamas. Turning to council members, he asked: “What would you do if thousands of terrorist rockets were being fired at your country?”
He said for years, Hamas had built a vast web of underground terror tunnels snaking beneath playgrounds, hospital maternity wards and mosques, all in an effort to drive up civilian casualties when clashes occurred.
Thanking the United States and all those countries that supported Israel’s right to defend itself from such acts of terrorism, he described Hamas’ attacks — which involved attacking some civilians by hiding behind other civilians — as a ‘double war crime.’
Speaking on Face the Nation on Sunday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Israel would “do whatever it takes to restore order and quiet and the security of our people and deterrence.”
“We’re trying to degrade Hamas’ terrorist abilities and to degrade their will to do this again. So, it will take some time. I hope it will not take long, but it’s not immediate,” he said.
The United Nations says it remains deeply committed to working with Israelis and Palestinians and with its international and regional partners, including the Middle East Quartet, to realise a lasting and just peace.