More than 200 Palestinians and nearly 30 Israelis have been killed so far this year in demonstrations, clashes, military operations, attacks and other incidents, UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland said at a briefing to the UN Security Council on Monday.
These figures already surpass last year’s death toll, according to the UN envoy. They represent the highest number of fatalities since 2005 and reflects “concerning trends” seen in recent months throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
“Palestinians and Israelis are killed and injured in near daily violence – including just hours before this briefing when another fatal shooting attack killed an Israeli in the West Bank,” he said, speaking from Jerusalem.
The violence is fuelled and exacerbated by a growing sense of despair about the future, said Mr. Wennesland, whose official title is UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process.
“The lack of progress towards a political horizon that addresses the core issues driving the conflict has left a dangerous and volatile vacuum, filled by extremists on both sides,” he told the Council.
“We are a long distance apart from the sentiments prevailing when the Oslo Accord was signed 30 years ago on 19 August,” Wennesland added.
Although the parties have taken measures towards stabilizing the situation, “unilateral steps” continue, including Israeli settlement growth, demolitions, militant activity, and settler violence.
Wennesland maintained that all perpetrators must be held accountable and brought to justice. He condemned violence against civilians, including acts of terror, and urged security forces to exercise maximum restraint and use of lethal force.
Meanwhile, a cessation of hostilities in Gaza continues to hold following the escalation in May. However, the UN envoy noted that the humanitarian situation there remains dire.
Gazans have reportedly been facing higher-than-normal electricity shortages lasting up to 12 hours a day, amid lack of capacity to meet soaring summertime demands.
Additional funding by Qatar has increased supply by nearly two hours a day.
The power cuts sparked mass protests against Hamas, which rules the Gaza Strip, under blockade now for over 17 years. Thousands took to the streets on 30 July. Hamas also sentenced seven civilians in Gaza to death for collaborating with Israel.
Wennesland underlined the UN’s strong opposition to the death penalty in any circumstances.
Furthermore, he reported on incidents such as the deadly violence at the Ein el Hilweh Palestine refugee camp in southern Lebanon that erupted in late July. Clashes between Fatah and Islamist factions left 13 people dead and over 50 injured.
Wennesland appealed for restraint and called for an end to any further violence.
In addition, updated ambassadors on the dire fiscal state of the Palestinian Authority, which controls the West Bank. It has a projected deficit of more than $370 million this year.
“Austerity measures have resulted in significant reductions to civil servant salaries and social assistance,” he pointed out.