What's In Blue

Posted Sun 27 Nov 2022

The Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question: Briefing and Consultations

Tomorrow morning (28 November), the Security Council will convene for an open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on: “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland is the expected briefer.

The deteriorating security situation in the West Bank and Israel is a likely focus of tomorrow’s meeting. Council members are expected to condemn the 23 November attack in which two explosive devices detonated near separate bus stops in Jerusalem, killing a 15-year-old Canadian-Israeli and injuring around 20 people, one of whom died of his wounds on 26 November. According to media reports, this was the first bus-related bombing attack in Jerusalem since 2016. In a statement on the same day, outgoing Israeli Prime Minister Yair Lapid said that intelligence efforts were underway to find the “heinous terrorists, those behind them, and those who provided them with weapons”. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Hamas and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad have reportedly “praised the perpetrators”.

Following the attack, far-right member of Knesset (parliament) and leader of the Otzmah Yehudit party Itamar Ben-Gvir made a call for renewing “targeted assassinations of members of Palestinian terror groups”. Former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu—whose Likud party won the majority of votes during Israel’s 1 November elections and who has been tasked with forming a government by Israeli President Isaac Herzog—has reportedly signed a deal with Otzmah Yehudit, promising to give Ben-Gvir the position of National Security Minister once his government is formed.

Tomorrow, Council members are expected to strongly condemn all acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric. Members may also condemn the 15 November stabbing and ramming attack during which a Palestinian killed three Israelis near the Ariel settlement in the West Bank before being shot dead by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

Several Council members are likely to express concern at the high number of Palestinians, including children, who have been killed and injured by Israeli security forces during IDF operations in the West Bank. A 25 November OCHA Protection of Civilians report said that “2022 is the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the United Nations started systematically counting fatalities in 2015, with 127 Palestinians killed so far this year”. In a recent incident, Israeli soldiers killed a 15-year-old Palestinian girl and injured a Palestinian man when they fired at a vehicle that approached, from a distance, a group of IDF soldiers during a pre-dawn search and arrest operation in the city of Beitunia near Ramallah. According to media reports, the IDF maintains that the vehicle did not heed calls to stop and accelerated towards the soldiers, but eyewitnesses reportedly said that they saw no attempt to run over the IDF soldiers. In a 14 November tweet, Wennesland called on Israel to conduct an immediate and thorough investigation into the incident. More recently, a 16-year-old Palestinian was killed by Israeli fire during clashes between Palestinians and the IDF in the West Bank city of Nablus on 23 November, according to a statement by the Palestinian Health Ministry cited by media sources. Four other Palestinians were injured during the incident, one of whom died of his injuries later that day. Tomorrow, members may urge the Israeli authorities to exercise restraint and proportionality in the use of force and call on Israel to promptly investigate all instances of alleged disproportionate use of force against Palestinians.

Members may condemn the recent violent attacks and acts of vandalism by Israeli settlers in the West Bank city of Hebron. According to OCHA, on three occasions on 18 and 19 November, about 35,000 Israeli settlers and other groups held a religious festival in the area of Hebron which is under Israeli control and were allowed to reach the area under Palestinian control, where they attacked and damaged Palestinian properties. (Pursuant to a 1997 agreement between Israel and the Palestinian Liberation Organisation, Hebron is divided into two areas: H1, under control of the Palestinian Authority, and H2, which is under Israel’s direct control.) According to media sources, several Palestinians sustained injuries during the 19 November attacks. In a tweet on the same day, Wennesland condemned the “violent attacks by Israeli extremists against Palestinian residents in the Old City of Hebron”, adding that these acts “may aggravate an already tense environment”, a message he and Council members may reiterate tomorrow. Several members may also call on all sides to take urgent steps to reduce tensions and stress that the current escalation of violence underscores the need to restore a political horizon, the unsustainability of the present situation and the urgency of resuming negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians.

Several Council members are expected to condemn the 23 November demolition by the IDF of a Palestinian school in Khirbet Isfey Al-Fouqa, within the cluster of Palestinian villages known as Masafer Yatta in the West Bank. International interlocutors such as the EU and the UK have condemned the demolition, which took place after the Israeli High Court of Justice lifted a temporary injunction prohibiting the demolition. In May, the same court had rejected appeals against eviction orders issued to the residents of Masafer Yatta, which Israel designated in the 1980s as a firing zone for the IDF. According to Amnesty International, “Israeli military activity in the area has increased since the court’s decision in May 2022, leading to fears that demolitions are imminent”, putting around 1,150 Palestinians, half of whom are children, at risk of forcible displacement. In a 23 November tweet, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) Lynn Hastings—who had recently visited the school with a delegation of UN member states and international NGOs—said that “Israel has the obligation under [international] law to ensure that children in the OPT are afforded safe [and] accessible education where they live”. Tomorrow, Wennesland and Council members may echo her messages and call on Israel to cease all settlement activities and stop evictions and demolitions of Palestinian-owned structures.

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