Nickolay Mladenov - Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process
Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Nickolay Mladenov, said the UN Palestine refugee agency, UNRWA, has been undergoing serious difficulties which might affect its relief services for Palestinian refugees.
Briefing the UN Security Council (UNSCO) on the situation in the Middle East, Nikolay Mladenov reminded the Council that UNRWA continues to face major financial challenges.
“Without further financial support, critical services in Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, will be suspended as of late April”, he warned. “This would result in serious humanitarian repercussions, particularly for some of the most acutely vulnerable communities, among them female-headed households below the poverty line.”
Mladenov urged UN member states to continue supporting UNRWA’s core programs in order ensure the Agency remains operational beyond April.
“It is time to find our way back to a mutually agreed mediation framework that ensures meaningful Israeli-Palestinian negotiations can resume”, said Mladenov. “While there may be different interpretations and proposals how to achieve a two-state solution, this remains our shared objective. As stated by the Secretary-General, the UN position on the two-state solution is defined by resolutions of the Security Council and General Assembly.
Turning briefly to Israeli violations, Mladenov said that on 31 January, a 14-year old Palestinian boy died from tear gas canister wounds he sustained during demonstrations held at the Gaza fence last year.
He added that on 1 February, Israel restricted the entry of cement into Gaza, suspended some 500 crossing permits, and reduced the permissible fishing area along Gaza’s southern coast from 15 to 10 nautical miles. These decisions came one day after easing of restrictions on certain goods into Gaza was agreed.
“Women increasingly bear the brunt of the dire humanitarian conditions in the Strip. They are required to support their families while men are unemployed; many live with extended families and struggle to make an income”, he said.
“Amongst our many humanitarian concerns, today I must highlight the ongoing health disaster in the Gaza Strip. According to local interlocutors, as of the end of January, stock levels for 46 per cent of essential medicines have been completely depleted”, warned the UN official.
Turning to the West Bank, Mladenov said violence has also continued. During the reporting period, seven Palestinians, including one child were killed by Israeli forces and another 206 were injured in various incidents.
On 5 February, a Palestinian teenager was killed by Israeli forces after he reportedly threw a Molotov cocktail during clashes in Hebron. The following day, a Palestinian man was shot during clashes in Jenin.
Another Palestinian succumbed to his wounds after having been shot on 7 February during protests in the village of Qaffin in the northern West Bank.
“I reiterate that violence against civilians, and particularly against children, is unacceptable, and must be condemned by all”, he said. “Israeli security forces must also exercise maximum restraint and only use lethal force when strictly necessary. All incidents must be thoroughly investigated.”
According to Mladenov, developments on the ground continue to undermine prospects for a two-state solution, with no meaningful bilateral negotiations on the horizon.