Brazil ceasefire holds, but hunger and tensions rise

By: anneraidxiya May. 25,2023
Tor Wennesland, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, stressed that "time is running out."

Briefing the Council on recent serious and dangerous security and humanitarian issues, he said, "We must act not only to ensure the well-being and governance of the Palestinians, but also to achieve a viable two-state solution based on UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements as an integral part of ending the occupation and restoring political prospects. "

He said that while the ceasefire that ended five days of fighting between Israel and Gaza has held, both sides must also take steps to de-escalate the conflict with the support of the international community to get back on track with the cycle of violence.

In that spirit, he called on all parties to cease unilateral and inflammatory actions that undermine the prospects for peace and to address the serious financial and institutional challenges facing the Palestinian Authority.

Food crisis looms
Vinneslain also warned of an imminent food crisis.

"I am particularly alarmed by the funding crisis facing multiple UN agencies that support the delivery of essential services and social support to Palestinians, such as emergency food assistance," he said. He encouraged Member States to seek ways to increase support immediately.

Unless new support is forthcoming, the World Food Program will suspend cash assistance to some 200,000 Palestinians next week, while UNRWA will lack the resources to provide core services in September.

Without new funding, he noted, "we will face a serious humanitarian crisis and potential security challenges."

WFP provides electronic food vouchers to poor and food-insecure families in Gaza, giving them access to local products.
WFP/Wissam Nassar The World Food Programme provides electronic food vouchers to poor and food-insecure households in Gaza, enabling them to access local products.
Diplomacy saves lives
In recent weeks, the United Nations and regional and international partners have mobilized again to end hostilities between armed factions in Gaza and the Israeli army, Vinneslan said, calling such efforts "critical to saving Palestinian and Israeli lives.

That said, we must also keep the fundamental issue of creating the conditions for a lasting peace at the forefront of our minds," he said. It is imperative to support measures to strengthen the Palestinian Authority and to continue to deliver critical services to the Palestinian people."

He said these steps should be implemented in a way that encourages the parties to engage with each other and requires action by the Israeli and Palestinian leaderships, with increased international support and attention.

Civilians "bear the brunt"
At the same time, Vinneslan said, Israel and armed Palestinian factions again fired rockets into and around the Gaza Strip enclave against a backdrop of violence and tension.

Khader Adnan, a leading figure in Palestinian Islamic Jihad, died in an Israeli prison after 86 days of hunger strike. Afterward, armed factions in Gaza fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, causing damage but no one was injured. Vinneslan said the Israeli Air Force launched air strikes against what it called Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Gaza Strip, resulting in the death of one Palestinian and causing damage.

He added that although hostilities ended on May 3, Israel conducted 323 airstrikes against Palestinian Islamic Jihad military targets in Gaza, while Palestinian militants, mainly the Palestinian Islamic Jihad's Al-Quds Brigades, fired more than 1,200 rockets and 250 mortars at Israel.

He regretted that the death toll is rising on both sides and that civilians continue to "bear the brunt of the hostilities."

West Bank violence
He said the level of violence in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains high.

According to Vinneslain, 17 Palestinians, including two children, were killed and 138 Palestinians, including two women and 23 children, were injured by Israeli security forces during demonstrations, clashes, raids, attacks and alleged attacks on Israelis.

During the reporting period, Israeli forces imposed significant movement restrictions around Jericho, Nablus and Hebron following Palestinian attacks or stone-throwing, affecting tens of thousands of Palestinians and the local economic situation.

Racist slogans
He said thousands of right-wing Israeli activists, including several high-level government ministers, participated in a provocative annual "flag march" in Jerusalem's Old City to mark Jerusalem Day. "Many chanted racist slogans such as 'Death to Arabs,' and melee broke out between Israeli participants and Palestinians."

He said, "Such provocations and incitement continued in the days following the march. This is unacceptable and must be condemned by all."

Palestinian homes and Israeli settlements in Area H2 in the West Bank.
UN News/Reem Abaza Palestinian homes with Israeli settlements in the H2 area of the West Bank.
Illegal settlements expand
Vinneslain said Israel is moving forward with more illegal settlement plans, with tenders for some 310 housing units in Area C of the West Bank announced and demolition work continuing.

He noted that during the reporting period, Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 33 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and 17 in East Jerusalem, including a donor-funded school east of Bethlehem, resulting in the displacement of 89 Palestinians, including 45 children.

Referring to the settlements, Vinneslan stressed that "they are a major obstacle to peace and must stop" and that all such expansion into the occupied territories is illegal under international law.
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