The Security Council could have a diplomatic role to play in halting the Gaza violence should the Cairo cease-fire talks fail, Britain's Ambassador to the United Nations Mark Lyall Grant told reporters in New York on Monday.
“If the talks fail then there may also be a role for the security council at that point,” Grant said.
Great Britain is one of five permanent members of the council, which is comprised of 15 countries. This month it also holds the council presidency. Next month, the United States will fill that post.
Grant briefed reporters after a UNSC discussion Monday about the Gaza violence and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
“There was wide spread agreement among member states that there is no military solution,” he said.
What is needed is a sustainable ceasefire that allows for humanitarian reconstruction to take place in the 360 square kilometer area that is home to 1.8 million people.
Other factors for a sustainable cease-fire include: guarantees for Israeli security, the return of the Palestinian Authority to the Strip, greater economic life for Gaza along with verification and monitoring mechanisms for such activity, Grant said.
In addition, a cease-fire should be a bridge to some form of renewed negotiations on a final status agreement for a two-state solution, Grant said.
There was wide spread agreement among member states that there can be “no return to status quo ante” in Gaza, Grant said.
Should a cease-fire be reached, Grant said, he was of the opinion that “there should be a quick resolution of the Security Council consolidating and endorsing the agreement and building on it.”
The UN’s special envoy to the peace process Robert Serry similarly told the Security Council that a ceasefire must address the issues of Gaza governance, economy, reconstruction and Israeli security.
“I hope the Palestinian Authority will now be empowered to resume effective control of Gaza,” Serry told reporters after the meeting, adding that it should also lead reconstruction efforts.
The blockade must be lifted, he told the council. Most specifically, construction materials must be let into Gaza, so that destroyed homes could be rebuilt.
The UN estimates that 16,800 homes used by 100,000 Palestinians were destroyed or damaged by this summer’s conflict, Serry said.
“This is an unprecedented crisis when it comes to Gaza. It is much larger than what happened in 2008 and 2009 [Operation Cast Lead]. Which also means that with every day passing there is so much needed in recovery and humanitarian efforts,” he said.
Israel must let cement into Gaza, Serry said, noting of course that material should be monitored. In past years Israel was hesitant to allow concrete into Gaza fearing Hamas could divert for other uses, such infiltration tunnels.
Serry said the UN can monitor the supplies and has done so in the past.
“UN construction materials were not used for the tunnels,” he said.
“Right now, Gaza urgently needs houses, hospitals and schools – not rockets, tunnels, and conflict. We expect Hamas, and all other factions, to act responsibly in this regard and refrain from any actions that run counter to this agenda,” Serry said.
He also summarized for the council, the harm inflicted on Gaza by the conflict.
UNRWA schools were hit three times during the conflict, even though both Israel and Hamas knew that people had sought shelter there.
“A total of 38 people were killed in those three incidents, and 317 were injured. 11 UNRWA colleagues were killed in the line of duty.” In addition, he said, some 108 UNRWA installations were damaged.” He also noted that weapons caches were found in three UNRWA schools.
A branch of his office in Gaza was hit by a number of projectiles, Serry said.
The death toll from this summer’s conflict, “is appalling” he said, explaining that more than two-thirds of the 2,000 Palestinians killed were civilians.
This includes 459 children and 239 women, he said. One third of the 10,000 Palestinians who were injured were children, Serry added.
These statistics, he said, came from the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who based their numbers on data the Palestinian Health Authorities.
“We have come to the conclusion that two-thirds of the casualties were civilian,” Serry said.
A reporter quizzed him about the veracity of percentage of civilians to Hamas combatants deaths in Gaza. The IDF estimates that half the deaths in Gaza were Hamas combatants.
Serry said,“what is the difference between two-thirds, or 70 percent or 50%, it is too much.”
He described the situation in Gaza, as “the biggest crisis I have been experiencing in my job.”
That is “why I am so keen to see white smoke,” he said.
Looking at the larger picture, he said, “the Gaza crisis, should be a bleak warning to all concerned what the future will bring if we do not reverse the current negative trend towards a one-state reality, which is now on the parties’ doorstep.”
“We must urgently call on and support both parties to return to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement in which Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace and security,” Serry said.