United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The protection of Palestinian civilians could be improved by the deployment of UN-mandated armed forces or unarmed observers, a beefed-up UN civilian presence, or expanded UN assistance, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres wrote on Friday in a report.
The United Nations General Assembly requested the report in a resolution adopted in June that condemned Israel for excessive force against Palestinian civilians and denounced the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, but did not mention Hamas, the Islamist group that controls the coastal enclave.
That resolution passed with 120 countries voting in favor, and 73 either voting against, abstaining or not voting. It was put forward in the General Assembly after the United States vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council.
Sixty-two countries voted for a US amendment to the General Assembly resolution that would have condemned Hamas outright, while 58 voted against it and 42 abstained. That resolution failed because it did not garner the necessary majority.
The resolution that passed in June asked for proposals to ensure “the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under 'Israeli occupation
', including ... recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism."
Guterres outlined four options but did not make specific recommendations. He noted that all options would need the cooperation of both parties, a sustained cessation of hostilities, and additional resources to ensure they were viable.
Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, Danny Danon, responded to Guterres’s report by saying that the protection the Palestinian people need is from their own leadership.
“The PA incites its people to demonize and attack Jews, and Hamas, a terrorist organization, exploits those under its control by intentionally putting them in harm’s way,” he said.
“Instead of suggesting ways to protect the Palestinian people from Israel, the UN should instead hold the Palestinian leadership accountable for continually endangering its own people. The report’s suggestions will only enable the Palestinians’ continued rejectionism,” he added.
Guterres wrote that “the combination of prolonged military occupation, constant security threats, weak political institutions, and a deadlocked peace process provides for a protection challenge that is highly complex politically, legally and practically.” Armed UN peace-keepers or armed forces from a group of like-minded states operating under a United Nations mandate could be deployed to offer physical protection, Guterres said. This option, however, would need a Security Council mandate and the United State would likely wield its veto.
A UN or non-UN civilian observer mission could be deployed “with a specific mandate to report on protection and well-being issues and provide local mediation,” Guterres said. This would also need a UN mandate.
A third option could be expanding current UN programs and development and humanitarian aid to address the needs of Palestinian civilians more effectively and strengthen Palestinian institutions, he wrote.
The final option could be to send additional UN human rights, coordination and political officers to boost monitoring and reporting on the situation and increase the UN’s visibility, Guterres said.
“The best way to ensure the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population is still the negotiation of a comprehensive, just and final settlement of the Arab-Israeli conflict,” Guterres said.
On Friday, two Palestinians were killed and 270 others were wounded in clashes with the IDF along the Gaza border in what appears to be a rise in tensions amid rumors of cease-fire negotiations between Israel and Hamas.
According to the IDF Spokesperson’s Office, thousands of Palestinians gathered and rioted in the Gaza Strip, mostly deep within its territory and not adjacent to the border fence.
A number of Molotov cocktails and IEDs were thrown toward the security fence but there were no casualties or damage to Israeli forces. The army responded in accordance with IDF regulations.
In addition, incendiary balloons launched from the coastal enclave sparked fires in the Be’eri Forest in the Besor region south of the Sa’ad Junction.
Despite the attempts to broker a cease-fire, which included a meeting between Egyptian intelligence chief Maj.-Gen. Abbas Kamel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu
, Hamas-affiliated sources stated Friday that its followers would continue to engage in weekly “Great March of Return” protests along the border. Those demonstrations and riots have been taking place every Friday since March 30.