The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.
The Security Council held an emergency meeting today to assess a fragile truce between Israel and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza after three days of deadly fighting, with the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process calling on all sides to abide by the agreement and delegates denouncing the deliberate targeting of civilians, notably children.
“The ceasefire remains in place as I speak,” said Tor Wennesland, as he updated on events between 5 and 7 August, marking the worst outbreak of fighting since May 2021. He welcomed Egypt’s crucial role in brokering the accord alongside efforts by the United Nations, Qatar, United States, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority. “Together these efforts helped prevent the outbreak of a full-scale war,” and allowed for the delivery of humanitarian relief into Gaza earlier today, he said.
Preliminary numbers, which have yet to be confirmed, indicate that, from 5 August, the Israel Defense Forces launched 147 air strikes against targets in Gaza, while Palestinian militants launched 1,100 rockets and mortars into Israel, he told the Council. Forty-six Palestinians were killed and 360 injured, while 70 Israelis were injured, with damage to residential and other civilian structures.
In separate statements, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and the Prime Minister of Israel announced a ceasefire would come into effect at 11:30 p.m. local time on 7 August, he continued. The United Nations is in close contact with all parties to solidify the truce and ensure that the significant gains made towards easing restrictions, seen since last May, can be safeguarded — and ultimately expanded.
Movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza has resumed, he said, noting that the six-day closure of Erez and Kerem Shalom crossings had caused rolling power cuts of over 20 hours per day. The opening of Kerem Shalom allowed 23 fuel trucks to enter Gaza today, enabling the area’s power plant to resume normal operations. Nonetheless, he underscored that “the ceasefire is fragile”, adding that the cycles of violence will cease only when a political resolution is found that ends the occupation and allows for realizing a two-State solution.
In the ensuing debate, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine asked how many more Palestinian children die until someone says: “Enough is enough.” Pointing out that there are two constant features of Israeli policy regardless of who is in power — bombing Gaza and advancing colonial settlements — he stressed that “Israel kills our people because it can”. He pressed the Council, rather than wait for one side to be ready, to instead “drag the two parties to the process of peace, today before tomorrow”.
In turn, Israel’s representative said the debate must focus on the fact that a terrorist organization, attempting to murder Israeli civilians, also killed innocent Palestinian civilians along the way. Palestinian Islamic Jihad deliberately fired 1,100 rockets at Israeli civilians with roughly 200 landing inside the Gaza Strip. “This is not an assessment. This is the hard truth and Israel has all the proof,” he said, pointing to evidence proving that the deaths of children in Gevalia were the result of Palestinian Islamic Jihad rockets.
Egypt’s delegate meanwhile said its efforts to forge the truce were part of its comprehensive push to de-escalate tensions since May 2021. He blamed Israel for allowing settlers, under police protection, to enter the Aqsa Mosque compound, violating the legal and historical status of the holy site. However, reaffirming that Egypt’s efforts — whether mediation or reconstruction — will not change the fact that Israel is fully responsible for Gaza, as it occupies Palestinian territory according to 4 July 1967 lines, he pointed out.
In a similar vein, Jordan’s representative, speaking for the Arab Group, said Israel’s aggression against Gaza caused the violence and reflects the absence of a the basic two-State solution. He reaffirmed the right of Palestinians to extend sovereignty, including over East Jerusalem and its borders with neighbouring countries.
Echoing that, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said that gains made in the gradual opening of Gaza crossings must be maintained, as this has the potential to revive Gaza's fragile economy and respond to humanitarian needs.
On that point, Norway’s delegate said improvements made over the past year in Gaza — including increased work permits, expanded fisheries zones and eased restrictions on trade — must be secured. The international community must do all it can to prevent the situation from getting any worse.
The United States delegate, stressing that Palestinian Islamic Jihad is a designated terrorist organization in her country and other nations, said it is also an Iranian proxy group. Palestinian Islamic Jihad — not Israel — held up agreement on the ceasefire accord, callously prolonging the hostilities. “Their actions must be condemned by all countries in no uncertain terms,” she said.
Others pointed to the need for direct dialogue, including the Russian Federation’s delegate, who stressed that such negotiations — supported by the Quartet on the Middle East — are the only way forward. The United States approach is unconstructive and does nothing to support détente or inspire confidence, especially for Palestinians, who are in the more vulnerable situation.
India’s delegate, as well, emphasized that the absence of direct negotiations has only widened the trust deficit. She pressed the United Nations and the international community at large to prioritize the revival of negotiations towards the two-State solution.
Also speaking today were representatives of France, Ireland, Brazil, Mexico, Ghana, Albania, Gabon, United Kingdom, Kenya and China.
The meeting began at 3:05 p.m. and ended at 5:06 p.m.