A Hamas-Israel war will likely break out if there is another renewed escalation of violence in the coming weeks, United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov warned during a visit to the Gaza Strip on Monday.
“I hope that after a month of weekly tensions, everyone has learned that the risk of war remains imminent,” Mladenov said. “We have perhaps the last chance to consolidate the understandings that have been reached [between Israel and Hamas] and to make sure that the situation avoids another escalation. The next escalation is going to be probably the last one,” he said.
Mladenov spoke as a fragile calm between Israel and Hamas has held, since a renewed Egyptian-mediated informal truce was reached on May 5.
It ended two days of violence in which Palestinians in Gaza launched 700 rockets against southern Israel, killing four civilians. Thirty Palestinians were killed in Israeli counterattacks.
“I know that last weekend we got the closest we have ever been to another full war. Everyone is extremely nervous; everyone in the situation is very fragile,” Mladenov said.
Among the critical elements the led to the restoration of calm, was the assurance of a cash transfer of $30 million from Qatar to impoverished Gaza families. That money has now been transferred to Gaza and families began receiving those cash-in-hand payments on Monday, according to media reports.
Qatar has also pledged $480m. to the Palestinians, $300m. for the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and $180m. for UN projects in Gaza.
Mladenov on Monday met with Qatari Ambassador Mohamed Al Emadi in Gaza. He also marked the official handover of a Japanese-funded solar plant in Khan Yunis, from the World Health Organization to the Palestinian Government in Gaza.
While speaking with reporters, Mladenov said that no one was interested in war. If calm is maintained for several weeks, then the immediate crisis may have been averted and work can move forward on UN projects that would benefit the Gazans, including on the desalination plant.
“I hope that if this calm that we now have is sustained for two, three weeks, we will be able to start addressing the longer term projects that are important for Gaza,” he said.
Mladenov had sharp words for those who might try to break the calm and push the situation back to the brink of war.
“I want to send a clear message to those in the past year who have tried to disrupt the ceasefire discussions. I want to tell them very clearly that if this calm is now disrupted, they will bear the responsibility for what happens after,” Mladenov said.
“If we are to save Gaza from another war; if we are to save the people both in Israel and here in Gaza from the destruction of another conflict, we must do everything we can right now to consolidate the peace and the quiet and the understandings,” Mladenov said.
On this matter, he said that the UN and Egypt are working together as one team.
“We need the cooperation of everyone – of the people of Gaza, the Palestinians here, the Palestinian government, the Israelis and the Egyptians – to make sure that the situation in Gaza normalizes as quickly as possible,” he said.
In the long term, Mladenov said that Hamas and Fatah must reunify into a single Palestinian government, and Israel must lift its restrictions at the Gaza crossings.
“Our ultimate goal remains the lifting of the closures on Gaza, and the return of the unity between Gaza and the West Bank under a single democratic and legitimate Palestinian government,” he said.