Saturday, September 2, 2023

“UN Reports Highest Casualties in Over a Decade: 200+ Palestinians and 30 Israelis Killed in 2021”


Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: Violence Surpasses Annual Figures, UN Envoy Warns

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict has reached alarming levels of violence this year, with over 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis killed so far. These figures already surpass last year’s annual statistics and mark the highest number of casualties since 2005, according to the UN Mideast envoy, Tor Wennesland.

Wennesland addressed the UN Security Council, highlighting that the upsurge in violence is fueled by growing despair about the future, particularly among Palestinians who are still striving for an independent state. He emphasized that the lack of progress in addressing the core issues driving the conflict has created a dangerous and volatile vacuum, which extremists on both sides are exploiting.

While some actions have been taken by Israelis and Palestinians to stabilize the situation, Wennesland noted that unilateral steps continue to fuel hostilities. He specifically pointed out the expansion of Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law and a substantial obstacle to peace. Additionally, he highlighted Israel’s demolition of Palestinian houses, its operations in the West Bank area under Palestinian control, and attacks by Israeli settlers. Wennesland also acknowledged the involvement of Palestinian militants in perpetuating the violence.

The current situation is further compounded by the fragile financial state of the Palestinian Authority and severe funding shortages faced by UN agencies, including the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA. Wennesland stressed the need to urgently address critical issues and de-escalate the situation on the ground while simultaneously restoring a political horizon.

During the meeting, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield condemned violence from both sides and called for immediate steps to reduce escalating tensions. She reiterated the US’s support for a two-state solution and emphasized the importance of “good-faith dialogue” between Israelis and Palestinians. Thomas-Greenfield also acknowledged the appointment of Saudi Arabia’s ambassador Jordan as a non-resident consul general in Jerusalem, expressing the US’s support for any efforts that bring the parties closer to a two-state solution.

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky highlighted the long-term stagnation of the peace process, which is further exacerbated by Israel’s ongoing illegal unilateral actions to create irreversible facts on the ground. Polyansky specifically criticized the unprecedented pace of Israel’s settlement expansion, considering it the most significant threat to reviving direct talks between Palestinians and Israelis. He called for a visit by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to the region before the end of the year and reiterated Russia’s call for a meeting of the Quartet of Mideast mediators to revive the peace process.

France’s political coordinator Isis Jaraud Darnault condemned the Israeli colonization of Palestinian territories and the continued demolitions, including a school in the West Bank’s Ramallah region. The school, financed by European donors, including France, was demolished on August 17. Darnault emphasized the essential role of the UN and regional actors in restoring a credible political horizon. She also highlighted that while the normalization of relations between Israel and several states in the region contributes to stability and security, it remains incomplete without a resumption of the political process that addresses the legitimate aspirations of both Palestinians and Israelis.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict continues to escalate, surpassing annual figures and reaching its highest casualty count in over a decade. The lack of progress in addressing core issues and the presence of extremist elements on all sides contribute to the volatile situation. Urgent steps must be taken to de-escalate tensions and restore a political horizon that addresses the legitimate aspirations of both Israelis and Palestinians. The international community, including the UN and regional actors, must play an active role in facilitating dialogue and finding a peaceful resolution to this longstanding conflict.

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