Free Palestine protest in Chicago Photo: Haroon Rajaee

While specific developments within the wider context of the conflict involving Israel and Palestine fluctuate, “the structural reality has not changed,” the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process (UNSCO) recently informed the Security Council.

Mounting tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and continued settlement activity and settler-related violence continue.

“Immediate steps to reverse negative trends and support the Palestinian people are essential,” said Lynn Hastings, UNSCO’s deputy chief, UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, speaking on behalf of Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland.

“The violence must stop,” she said July 26.


Corrosive situation

For years, illegal settlement expansions in the occupied West Bank have been steadily shrinking Palestinian land and eroding the prospects for a viable Palestinian state as violence against civilians exacerbate mistrust and trigger a growing sense of hopelessness that statehood, sovereignty and a peaceful future is slipping away.

“Three hundred and ninety-nine demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned structures and evictions this year have left over 400 Palestinians displaced,” the UN official said.

Meanwhile, a crumbling Palestinian economy, lack of intra-Palestinian unity, and the urgent need to renew national institutions have also raised Israeli awareness of the perils of continuing along the current path.

Biden visit

Against the worrying backdrop of endless cycles of violence and a constant risk of escalation—with no end in sight—U.S. President Joe Biden’s visit in July signaled renewed consensus for a two-state solution based on the 1967 lines, said Ms. Hastings.

For the first time in years, Israeli, Palestinian and American leaders reiterated their support for a two-State solution as being essential for Palestinians and Israelis alike.

“We must build on these reaffirmed commitments and work collectively to encourage steps that allow for a return to a meaningful political process,” she added.

Death and violence

From clashes to shootings and stabbings throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Resident Coordinator outlined examples of violence that killed close to 300 Palestinians and some Israelis.

She recounted that the bullet used to kill Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Aqleh underwent forensic testing overseen by a senior U.S. security official. However, examiners “could not reach a definitive conclusion” due to its damaged condition.

After viewing the results of both Israeli and Palestinian investigations into Ms. Aqleh’s death, it appeared that gunfire from Israel Defence Forces positions were likely responsible but “it ‘found no reason to believe that this was intentional,’ ” said Ms. Hastings.

Shireen Abu Akleh, an Al Jazeera journalist who was shot dead while covering Israeli military operation in West Bank. Photo: MGN Online

Evictions and demolitions

Citing a lack of Israeli-issued building permits, demolitions recently displaced 61 Palestinians, including 31 children, with Ms. Hastings pointing out that the permits are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain.

And in the wake of a ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice allowing evictions in the southern West Bank hamlets of Masafer Yatta to proceed, Israeli forces continued to adopt restrictive measures affecting Palestinian communities and humanitarian actors.

“I remain deeply concerned by the potential implications of the High Court’s ruling and the humanitarian toll on the communities in question if eviction orders are carried out,” she stated.

Vulnerable in Gaza

Turning to the fragile situation in Gaza, UN and humanitarian partners continue to deliver vital assistance and further ease movement restrictions on people and goods into and out of the Strip.

However, on July 16, militants in the enclave launched four rockets towards Israel. The IDF retaliated with airstrikes against what it said were Hamas targets. No injuries were reported on either side.

For the Muslim holiday Eid al-Adha, Israel announced that 400 permits would be issued for men over 55 and women over 50, to visit Jerusalem from Gaza for the first time since 2017.

Legitimate political process needed

In closing, the deputy UNSCO chief warned that if left unaddressed, the corrosive situation will only deteriorate further and advocated for “the ultimate goal” of two states, living side-by-side in peace.

“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” she said assuring that the UN “remains committed” to a just and lasting peace and will continue to work with all concerned to achieve that objective. (UN News)