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The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) held a meeting on the Israel-Palestine situation on May 16, 2021. The meeting was chaired by the Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres was the first of nearly two dozen speakers on the meeting’s agenda. He called the hostilities between the two parties ‘utterly appalling’ and said, “the current violence in Gaza & Israel only perpetuates the cycles of death, destruction & despair, and pushes farther to the horizon any hopes of coexistence & peace.” He asserted that the fighting must stop immediately.
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This was UNSC’s first public meeting on the Israeli-Palestine conflict. The UNSC had met privately twice last week over the worsening violence.
Israel- Palestine Clashes
•The hostilities between Israelis and Palestinians have escalated to such a high level that was not seen since the 2014 war.
•The United Nations was forced to step up its diplomatic engagement and the UNSC met to discuss the conflict in public for the first time with the conflict stretching into its seventh straight day.
•However, the UN Security Council took no action even as all its member decried the death and devastation.
•The airstrikes in Gaza by both Israel and Hamas have killed over dozens of people including many women and children. Several buildings have been reduced to rubbles in the airstrikes with workers combing through to look for survivors.
China holds UNSC’s rotating presidency for the month of May. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said in his statement that the escalating conflict between Israel and Palestine has caused a large number of casualties, including women and children and the situation is extremely critical and severe.
He asserted that the international community must act urgently to prevent the situation from further deteriorating.
China advocated the following in response to current tensions between Israel and Palestine:
1. Ceasefire is a current priority: China called upon both parties to the conflict to immediately stop military actions and any action that worsens the situation including rocket launches, airstrikes and ground offensives.
2. Humanitarian assistance is an urgent need: China urged Israel to earnestly fulfill its international treaty obligations and lift the blockade and siege of Gaza as soon as possible and guarantee the safety and rights of civilians in the occupied Palestinian territory. It also called upon the international community to provide humanitarian assistance to Palestine.
3. International support is an obligation: China urged that the UNSC must take effective action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and reiterate its firm support for the “two-state solution,” and calm down the situation. The nation also called on the United States to support the Security Council in playing its due role in easing the tensions, rebuilding trust, and resolving the situation. China also called all the organisations and countries that have an influence in the region to play a more active role in the situation and make more effective effort.
4. Two-state solution is the ultimate way out: China outlined that an ultimate way out of the Palestinian issue lies in the implementation of the two-state solution. China extended its support to the resumption of peace talks between Palestine and Israel as soon as possible on the basis of the “two-state solution”. China also advocated for the establishment of a fully sovereign and independent Palestinian state based on the 1967 border, with East Jerusalem as its capital.
The foreign minister of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad al-Maliki implicitly rebuked the US and other powers that have defended Israel’s right to protect itself from Hamas rocket attacks. He asserted that such arguments make Israel “further emboldened to continue to murder entire families in their sleep.”
Israel’s ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan rejected any attempt to portray the actions of Israel and Hamas as moral equivalents. He urged that “Israel uses missiles to protect its children,” while “Hamas uses children to protect its missiles.”
Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu had vowed earlier to continue striking Gaza “until we reach our targets.”
US Ambassador to UN
The US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that US President Joe Biden had spoken with Israeli and Palestinian leaders, while US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had also been engaging with his counterparts in the region.
She called on Hamas to stop its rocket launches against Israel and expressed concerns about inter-communal violence and warned against incitement on both sides and said the United States is prepared to lend its support and good offices should the parties seek a cease-fire.
US President Joe Biden had earlier on May 15th spoken with Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu and President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas in separate calls to speak about efforts to broker a cease-fire.
The envoys from all of UNSC’s 15 members have though urged an immediate de-escalation, there is no indication of what next steps the council will take to resolve the situation.
What triggered the latest Israeli-Palestinian crisis?
There were two main triggers for the conflict-
1. Protests began after Israel made attempts to evict several Palestinians from their homes in the east Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah. The evictions were paused by Israel’s Supreme Court.
2. Restrictions were also imposed on Palestinians during the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. Every year, Israeli-Arabs and Palestinians used to gather at the Damascus Gate entrance to Jerusalem’s Old City to celebrate during Ramadan. However, this year the Israeli police erected barricades in the area and restricted the number of people allowed to enter the area. The barricades were removed after a series of protests.
What happened at Al Aqsa Mosque?
•Israeli police had earlier stormed the area around the Al-Aqsa Mosque, which is one of the holiest sites in Islam and Judaism. While Muslims are allowed to pray there, Jews and Christians are not.
•While the Israeli police said that they were responding to Israeli Arabs having gathered stones to use in a later riot, as per Palestinians, fighting began after police entered the compound and fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets.
•As per reports, hundreds of Palestinians were injured in the raid, while the Israeli police said at least 21 officers were also hurt.
•Hamas group, which runs the Gaza strip, one of the two main Palestinian territories, issued an ultimatum to Israel to remove its forces from Sheikh Jarrah and Al-Aqsa. Hamas is considered a terrorist organization by the US and Israel.
•Hamas then started firing rockets into Israel, which further prompted the Israeli military to launch airstrikes in the Gaza strip.