Middle East

UN envoy reports ‘sharp increase’ in violence this year in Israel-Palestine conflict

More than 150 Palestinians and over 20 Israelis have been killed in the West Bank and Israel so far in 2022 – the highest number of deaths in years, UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland told the Security Council.

He reiterated deep concern over the high levels of violence in the past several months, characterized by clashes, protests, attacks, Israeli security operations and other incidents, according to UN News.

“I am gravely concerned by the sharp increase in violence against civilians on both sides, which exacerbates mistrust and undermines a peaceful resolution to the conflict,” he said.

Wennesland – officially UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process – was presenting his latest report, which covers the period from 21 September to 7 December.

He regretted that violence continued throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory even after submitting the quarterly update.

Since 8 December, Israeli security forces have killed six Palestinians, including two children, he reported.

The envoy said he was “particularly appalled” that boys and girls continue to fall victim to violence.

Forty-four young Palestinians, and one Israeli child, lost their lives this year.

They include a 16-year-old Palestinian boy shot dead by Israeli forces in the context of alleged stone-throwing in Aboud community, near Ramallah, on 8 December.

Three days later, a 15-year-old Palestinian girl was killed in a search and arrest operation in Jenin during which Israeli forces and Palestinians exchanged fire.

“Also disturbing are the continued killings of Palestinians by Israeli security forces in incidents where they did not appear to present an imminent threat to life,” he added.

“The increase in the number of Israelis killed or injured by Palestinians, including in bombings and shooting attacks is also alarming.”

Wennesland appealed for an end to the violence and for all perpetrators to be held accountable.

“I condemn all acts of terrorism, which must be rejected and condemned by all. I call on political, religious and community leaders on all sides to help calm the situation, avoid spreading inflammatory rhetoric and speak up against those seeking to incite and escalate the situation.”

Turning to other matters, the UN envoy said Israeli settlement expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, remains deeply concerning.

Some 4,800 housing units were advanced this year in what is known under the Oslo peace accord arrangements as Area C, though none occurred during the reporting period. Still, the number is high, though slightly lower than the 2021 figure, he said, while tenders dropped from 1,800 to 150.

Meanwhile, the number of housing units advanced in occupied East Jerusalem this year more than tripled: from 900 in 2021 to 3,100. Tenders also doubled from 200 to 400.

“I also remain deeply concerned by the continued demolitions and seizures of Palestinian structures,” said Wennesland.

“I am alarmed, in particular, by the demolition of a donor-funded school in Masafer Yatta and the stated intention of Israeli authorities to demolish additional structures in the herding communities of that area, which would have a significant humanitarian toll, if implemented.”

He called on Israel to cease advancement of all settlement activities as well as the demolition of Palestinian-owned property, and to prevent possible displacement and evictions.

In conclusion, Wennesland underscored the need for a solution to the decades-long crisis.

Seeking to freeze the conflict, or manage it in perpetuity, are not viable options, he said, recalling his message to the Council last month.

“There is no substitute for a legitimate political process that will resolve the core issues driving the conflict,” he stated.

“I urge the parties, along with regional States and the broader international community to take concrete steps that will change the negative trajectory on the ground and have an immediate impact on Palestinian and Israeli lives, while, at the same time, ensuring these steps are anchored in a political framework that moves the parties forward towards the establishment of two States.”

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