All in Gaza should step back from brink: UN envoy

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United Nations, July 25 (IANS) UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov has reiterated his “call to all in Gaza to step back from the brink”, saying “those who seek to provoke Israelis and Palestinians to war must not succeed”.

In his briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Mladenov said it has taken an intense effort at preventive diplomacy by the UN and Egypt to make sure that both Israel and Hamas step back from the brink and from potentially a fourth military confrontation in Gaza over past decade, Xinhua reported.

On Friday, four Palestinians were killed and some 210 Palestinians wounded during fierce fighting between Israel and Hamas, the Islamic movement that rules Gaza. The fighting, triggered by the killing of an Israeli soldier, was the most serious one in the Gaza Strip since the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict that killed thousands.

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Also, since late March when the Palestinians staged the Great March of Return protests, the death toll of protesters has exceeded 140. The movement, which peaks every Friday, demands the return of Palestinian refugees and the lift of the blockade Israel has imposed on Gaza.

In Tuesday’s briefing, Mladenov identified the root causes of “this man-made catastrophe” as intractable conflict, over 50 years of occupation, and over a decade of Hamas control of Gaza, Palestinian division and a crippling Israeli closure regime.

He said that for four years, the UN has urged concerted action to address these causes but little has been achieved. “The underlying dynamics have not improved. The humanitarian crisis has deepened, political stalemate between Hamas and Fatah has worsened, and the prospect of another deadly round of violence is growing by the day.”

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The UN envoy said he has been in engagement with Israel and the Palestinians as well as regional and international partners to reduce tensions, to address humanitarian challenges and to support the Egyptian-led intra-Palestinian reconciliation process.

After Friday’s fierce fighting, Hamas announced it had reached a ceasefire agreement with Israel as a result of efforts led by Egypt and the UN.

In the meantime, Mladenov addressed the crippled infrastructure and dire living conditions in Gaza. He urged advancing infrastructure projects to improve water, electricity and health systems, creating employment, and improving Gaza people’s cross-border movement as means to de-escalate the situation.

“To this end, the UN is enhancing its presence on the ground to work with donors and international partners to facilitate the smooth implementation of these projects,” he said.

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Particularly, the UN envoy mentioned a week before, UNDP announced the implementation of some economic initiatives that will create more than 2,500 immediate and short-term job opportunities in Gaza.

However, Mladenov reiterated there is no point in asking donors to continue funding initiatives without a political horizon for the future, warning against a “futile exercise in conflict management and recurring humanitarian support”.

In closing, Mladenov reaffirmed the goal of reaching a broader Israeli-Palestinian peace on the basis of two-state solution, in which Gaza is an integral part of future Palestinian state.

–IANS

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