UN Security Council discusses crisis in Middle East as violence, deaths increase


By Cecilia Ologunagba

The UN Security Council on Friday discussed the situation in the Middle East against the backdrop of escalating violence between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the occupied West Bank and the relentless bombardment in the war-ravaged enclave.

José Javier De La Gasca, Ambassador and Permanent Representative Ecuador, the President of the Security Council for December expressed regret over the increase in violence, deaths and detentions in the Middle East.

De La Gasca, who spoke in his national capacity said his country unequivocally condemns the terrorist attacks perpetrated by Hamas on October 7.

Demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, he said the magnitude of the violence in Gaza has meant that events in other localities have slipped away from the spotlight.

Nevertheless, the negative trends since the beginning of October in the West Bank have also increased, he continued, noting that the level of violence has grown, as have deaths and detentions.

Those responsible for violent attacks must be brought to justice, he stressed, condemning all terrorist attacks and adding that security forces must always use restraint.

The Ecuadorian Ambassador also voiced his strong opposition to all unilateral measures that make peace more difficult, including construction and expansion of settlements, and the confiscation of Palestinians’ land, demolition of their homes and their displacement.

Also speaking, Barbara Woodward, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom (UK) to the UN underscored her country’s commitment to Israel’s security and the need to address the threat posed by Hamas.

“But, too many civilians have been killed,” she said, stating that Israel must comply with international humanitarian law and clearly differentiate between terrorists and civilians.

Further, as the situation in the occupied West Bank underlines the urgent need to progress towards peace, Israel must stop settler violence immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable, Ambassador Woodward added.

She further called on Israel to adhere to its commitments and cease all settlement activity in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and stressed that approving further settlements serves only to raise tensions in the West Bank.

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should demonstrate – through their policies – a genuine commitment to a two-State solution, the Ambassador urged.

She also warned of the spillover potential of the conflict and underscored that a full-blown conflict between Israel and Hizbullah would be “catastrophic” for Lebanon and the wider region.

On his part, GENG Shuang, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of China to the UN said that the protracted nature of the war would only cause more casualties on both sides.

“There is no safe place in Gaza,” he said, warning that the situation on the ground is not allowing humanitarians to carry out their work and reach people in need with aid.

Israel’s settlement activities in the West Bank and its continued escalation of raids have eroded the basis of a two-State solution, he added, stressing that Israel must cease all settlement activities and hold perpetrators accountable.

He further highlighted the importance of implementing the two-State solution and as well as guarantee the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people.

“We support Palestine’s full membership in the UN, and the early resumption of direct negotiations between Palestine and Israel,” Ambassador Geng added.

Nicolas de Rivière, French Ambassador and Permanent Representative, expressed his country’s “deep concern” over the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

“The priority must go the immediate implementation of a lasting ceasefire, with the help of all regional and international partners,” he said, adding that humanitarian aid must urgently be delivered to civilians in the enclave along with guarantees of access “without restrictions”.

He also stressed the need for implementing the two Security Council resolutions adopted recently.

Also speaking, Vassily Nebenzia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN, said that his country is following the “very tense” situation in the West Bank, against the background of crisis in Gaza.

“We are seeing continued operations by Israeli security forces and violent settlers, which not only threaten a large-scale humanitarian disaster but also to spread the crisis to the rest of the region,” he said.

He noted increasing tensions in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, while Egypt and Jordan are facing unprecedented risks of a massive exodus of Palestinians from Gaza and the West Bank.

Ambassador Nebenzia also said that 302 Palestinians, including 79 children, were killed by Israeli military and settlers in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, since 7 October.

John Kelley, Minister Counsellor and Political Coordinator at the Permanent Mission of the United States (US) to the UN, said that his country shared the concern regarding the “sharp increase” in violence by extremist settlers in the West Bank and the “unprecedented” number of Palestinian fatalities there as well as in Gaza.

“We know 2023 has been the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank,” he said, stressing “the death of any civilian, whether they were one of the individuals killed by Hamas terrorists on  October7 , or one of the Palestinians killed in the West Bank or in Gaza is a tragedy.”

“The United States continues to stress to the Israeli Government the importance of preventing extremist settler violence as well as investigating and holding accountable those who commit acts of violence,” he added.

Gilad Menashe Erdan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Israel to UN, questioned why an “urgent briefing” of the Security Council is not called when Israeli civilians and civilian sites are attacked.

“Do these attacks sound like a mere spillover, is this violence occurring magically on its own. Is it not clear genocidal terrorists are seeking to murder Israeli citizens every single day,” he said.

“This Council is quick to show solidarity with civilians across the Middle East so long as they are not Israelis,” he added, asking why the Security Council is silent when innocent Israeli civilians are targeted.

“Why have you not condemned the rocket fire from Lebanon, Syria and Yemen,” he said, warning that the situation in northern Israel is “reaching the point of no return.”

“Every day, innocent Israelis are under attack. If these attacks persist, Israel will ensure that these acts of terror stop,” Ambassador Erdan said, reiterating that if the attacks continue, “the situation will escalate and may lead to a full scale war.” (NAN)