UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland has expressed grave concern over increased violence in the West Bank.
“I brief you today as the security situation in the occupied West Bank is caught in a downward spiral. Too many people, overwhelmingly Palestinians, have been killed and injured in daily violence,” he told the UN Security Council on Friday.
Mounting hopelessness, anger and tension have once again erupted into a deadly cycle of violence that is increasingly difficult to contain. Decades of violence and its toll on both Israelis and Palestinians, as well as a prolonged absence of meaningful negotiations and a failure to resolve the key issues fueling conflict, have created fertile ground for this dynamic, he said.
So far, 2022 is on course to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs began systematically tracking Palestinian fatalities in 2005, he added.
“I am alarmed by the intensity of violence in the occupied West Bank, including the high number of Palestinians killed by Israeli security forces, numerous armed attacks by Palestinians against Israelis, including killings, and settler violence,” said Wennesland.
“I reiterate that perpetrators of all acts of violence must be held accountable and that security forces must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.”
The immediate priority is to work to calm the situation and reverse the negative trends on the ground. This will require determined actions by both parties, supported by the international community. Efforts are also urgently needed to empower and strengthen the Palestinian Authority and build toward a return to a political process. A failure to implement strategies to address both the symptoms and the root causes of violent escalation will only worsen an already explosive situation, the UN Special Coordinator added.
Despite the overall deteriorating situation, there were some positive developments. On October 13, following an inter-factional dialogue hosted by the government of Algeria, 14 Palestinian factions, including Fatah and Hamas, signed the Algeria Declaration. In the declaration, the factions agreed to recognise the Palestinian Liberation Organisation as the sole legitimate representative of the Palestinian people and to hold elections for the presidency of the Palestinian Authority, the Palestinian Legislative Council, and the Palestinian National Council, he noted.
Wennesland called on the Israeli and Palestinian leadership to recognise what is at stake and to take the necessary steps to restore calm with the full support of the international community. At the same time, efforts must be made to address the root causes of conflict, Xinhua news agency reported.
The UN remains actively engaged with all relevant parties and is committed to supporting Palestinians and Israelis to resolve the conflict by ending the occupation and realising a two-state solution on the basis of the 1967 borders, in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements, he said.