Hamas, Islamic Jihad must be pressured to keep the peace with Israel, US special envoy Jason Greenblatt told the United Nations Security Council in New York, after incendiary balloons launched from Gaza into southern Israel threatened to destroy the fragile calm that has held in that area for the last few weeks.
“We must all speak loudly and clearly and say that these attacks upon Israel, which are perpetrated by Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, whether by rockets, incendiary balloons or other methods, must end,” Greenblatt told the United Nations Security Council on Wednesday during a debate on the Middle East.
He spoke as firefighters in Israel battled 11 blazes set by those balloons. Israel in response restricted the Gaza fishing zone to 10 nautical miles. It had just extended it to 15 nautical miles one day earlier. That extension is believed to be part of informal truce worked out between Israel and Hamas. Both Israel and Hamas have dismissed reports of such an informal truce.
Greenblatt called on the UNSC to denounce Hamas as a terror group for its actions against both Israelis and Palestinians.
Hamas and Islamic Jihad continue to use civilians in Gaza, including children, as human shields, he said. They have siphoned “the scarce resources of the people of Gaza to build their terror arsenal, while preventing donor aid from reaching the people," Greenblatt explained.
"Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad are to blame for the suffering of the people of Gaza, Greenblatt said.
Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad target Israeli communities, including hospitals and schools, in a cynical attempt to extract concessions from Israel,” Greenblatt said.
“Nothing can be meaningfully fixed until they renounce terror and cease their acts of violence and their vow to destroy Israel. When will the Security Council say this out loud? When will we clearly reject this terrorism?
In that same meeting, UN Special Coordinator to the Middle East Peace Procss Nickolay Mladenov told the UNSC that the UN and Egypt is working with all sides to ensure calm that is maintained.
“While the situation has now stabilized, it remains very tense. One thing is clear, these dangerous cycles of escalation and de-escalation are not sustainable in the future," Mladenov said.
Earlier in the month, in the most serious escalation of violence since the end of the 2014 Gaza war, 650 rockets were fired at Israel, of which 240 were intercepted by Iron Dome.
Four Israeli civilians were killed and 200 were injured, Mladenov said quoting the IDF. On the Gaza side 25 Palestinians were killed and over 150 injured during strikes against 300 military targets in Gaza.
Over the course of the following 48 hours, 650 rockets were fired from Gaza. While some 240 projectiles were intercepted by the Iron Dome system, several houses, two kindergartens, a school and a hospital in Israel were directly hit. Four Israeli civilians were killed and over 200 were injured, according to the IDF.
During the same period, the IDF reported that it hit over 300 Palestinian militant targets in Gaza, including a senior Hamas official, who was targeted and killed by an airstrike. According to sources in Gaza 25 Palestinians were killed and over 150 were injured.
"After intense efforts by the United Nations and Egypt, as of the early morning of 6 May a cessation of hostilities was established, ending the escalation," he said.
He urged both Israel and Hamas to take steps to reduce tensions, solidify the calm and commit to the understanding that have been established over the last few months.
"The closer we get to consolidating an understanding that would relieve the pressure on people in Gaza and reduce the risk of rocket fire towards Israel," there is an incident that “undermines our careful and painstaking efforts."
“UN and Egyptian teams will continue to work intensely with all sides in order to use the window of opportunity to provide assistance to the people of Gaza and further reduce the risk of conflict,” Mladenov said.
Such calm is also critical to support efforts to reunify Fatah and Hamas, he said.
Mladenov “condemned in the strongest terms the launching of rockets from Gaza into Israel, particularly the targeting of civilian population centers and also call on the Israel to exercise maximum restraint and refrain from using lethal force against protesters, except as a last resort.”
The international community, he said, has worked to address the humanitarian situation in Gaza. Some $112 million was mobilized to increase electricity produced by the Gaza Power Plant, the creation of temporary jobs and for health services.
In May Qatar pledged $480 million of which $180 is for Gaza, $250 is for loans for the Palestinian government in the West Bank, and $50 million is for grants for projects the West Bank.
Some of the funding will allow the UN to provide fuel to help increase Gaza’s electricity supply through the end of the year, he said.
Turning to the West Bank, he said, that for the third consecutive month, the Palestinian Authority has refused to accept the tax revenues which Israel has sent. The PA has refused the money to protest Israel’s decision to withhold from that sum, the monthly payments which the pays to terrorists and their family members.
Without those funds, the PA’s survival remains at risk, he said..
“Both parties should implement their bilateral agreements and avoid taking unilateral actions that undermine the stability of the Palestinian Authority,” Mladenov said.
"We must ask ourselves, how many more years will Palestinians in Gaza be forced to live on pittance from the international community, under the control of Hamas, and suffer from Israeli closures?" Mladenov said.
“How many more years will Israelis be forced to run for shelters as rockets launched by Palestinian militants in Gaza rain down indiscriminately from above?,” he asked.
He gave a nod in the direction of the US economic workshop in Bahrain on behalf on the Palestinians, but said that such steps were limited without a political resolution.