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With 2022 Deadliest Year in Israel-Palestine Conflict, Reversing Violent Trends Must Be International Priority, Middle East Coordinator Tells Security Council

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that, even as a new year dawns, the dangerous cycle of violence that characterized recent months continues to persist, amid increased political tensions and a long-stalled peace process.RIYAD MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, noting that 15 Palestinians — including 4 children — have already been killed in 2023, underscored that “peace is still possible”, albeit less probable with every day that passes.  “Our reality is not a fatality,” he stressed, but only if the Council and the international community take immediate, sustained and collective action, grounded in international law.  Spotlighting the impunity enjoyed by those who violate the law and the collective punishment endured by those entitled to its protection, he said that Israel shows no respect, consideration or regard for anyone, and yet, demands it from everyone, even when breaching fundamental rules of international law.  Questioning whether the problem lies in the international community’s positions or in the impunity that Israel enjoys, he asked who was held accountable for Israeli settlements; the killing and maiming of Palestinians; mass arbitrary arrests; and the withholding of hundreds of Palestinians bodies, preventing their families from burying their loved ones in dignity, sometimes for decades.  “Give me one name,” he implored. Voicing grave alarm over Israel’s ongoing acts of aggression, incitement and provocation against Christian and Islamic holy places — including the Aqsa Mosque compound/Al-Haram al-Sharif — he strongly condemned the recent deplorable and provocative incursion by Israel’s Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to the Aqsa Mosque compound.  Rejecting all attempts to alter the historical and legal status quo of Aqsa Mosque compound/Al-Haram al-Sharif, he reiterated calls to fully respect the status quo, as well as international law.  “We have cautioned, time and again, that these Israeli provocative and irresponsible acts offend the feelings of Muslims across the globe, violate their religious rights and eternal attachment to this holy site, and jeopardize stability in the region and beyond,” he said.  The Council and other key actors must uphold their responsibilities, implement United Nations resolutions and protect the Palestinian people, or risk further destabilizing the fragile situation, he cautioned. MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), expressing grave concern over the constantly deteriorating situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, detailed how 2022 was the deadliest year for the Palestinian people.  Along with the hundreds of homes and civilian structures that were destroyed, he sounded the alarm over Israel’s ongoing acts of aggression, incitement and provocation against Islamic and Christian holy places and condemned the provocative visit of the Israeli Minister of national security to the holy Aqsa Mosque compound.  Violation of sanctity fuels the already-tense situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and could have a great impact on regional and international security, as well.  Thus, the Council must act swiftly to stop Israeli violations and implement its own resolutions, he asserted, citing the violence against unarmed Palestinian children, women and men as well as the blockade of Gaza as grave violations of international humanitarian law.  In this context, he supported the advisory opinion of the International Court of Justice on the legal implications of Israeli occupation.  The rising extremism in Israeli leadership must not be allowed, he asserted, noting that the two-State formula offers the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The representative of Morocco recalled that King Mohammed VI had underscored that the lack of political logic and the actions of extremists might transform the conflict from a political into an ideological conflict.  He also noted that the King had highlighted the legal and historical importance of the city of Jerusalem as common heritage of mankind in the Jerusalem Declaration signed with His Eminence, Pope Francis.  As well, an agency, created in 1995, promoted projects in education, health and culture and improve living conditions of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and preserve Jerusalem’s status as a link between monotheistic religions and a place for those religions to connect, he said. NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said the Council must mobilize to avoid an escalation on the ground.  Calling on the parties to exercise restraint, he voiced concern about the visit of the Israeli Minister for National Security to the holy sites on 3 January.  “It is the responsibility of the Council to enforce international law, including its own resolutions,” he also pointed out, citing in particular resolution 2334 (2016) relating to settlement‑expansion, which remains illegal under international law.  Calling on the new Israeli authorities to take measures to end violence perpetrated by settlers, he urged Israel to cease its legalization of outposts in the West Bank.  In addition, he also expressed his deep concern about recent Israeli measures against the Palestinian population and institutions — in particular the withholding of funds owed to the Palestinian Authority — and called on the international community to urgently relaunch the peace process, which has been stalled since 2014. Addressing the Council, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine noted that “peace is still possible”, albeit less probable with every day that passes.  Spotlighting Israel’s violations of international law, he underlined his rejection of the impunity Israel enjoys for such crimes as killing and maiming Palestinians and conducting mass arbitrary arrests.  “Whatever leverage you have, whatever tools are at your disposal, whatever influence you enjoy — they must be used now, or it will no longer matter later,” he urged Council members. ODD INGE KVALHEIM (Norway) voiced concern over the tense situation in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, and the high number of civilians killed last year, as well as this year.  Violence against civilians must come to an end and the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem must be respected, he emphasized.  He also decried Israel’s recent announcements of punitive measures against the Palestinian Authority, warning that Israel’s withholding and seizure of funds belonging to the Palestinians will weaken Palestinian institutions and place additional strains on the Palestinian economy.  “Ultimately, this will bring harm to ordinary Palestinians,” he said.  Israel’s announcement of a moratorium on Palestinian construction in Area C in the West Bank is also unacceptable as it violates Palestinians’ right to use and develop their lands.  He also expressed his rejection of the Israeli announcement of measures against organizations that carry out humanitarian work in the West Bank, stressing that humanitarian actors must be allowed to work freely.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he highlighted the resolution on cross-border humanitarian assistance to north-west Syria, which is crucial for more than 4 million people who are dependent on humanitarian assistance. MARÍA DEL CARMEN SQUEFF (Argentina) reaffirmed her country’s support for the Palestinian people’s inalienable rights to self-determination and to build an independent, viable State recognized by all nations, along with Israel’s right to live in peace side by side with its neighbours.  She went on to express concern over the persistent expansion of illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, calling for an end to the same.  She also condemned the indiscriminate launching of rockets from Gaza against civilians in Israel — along with other violent actions carried out by Hamas or other armed groups — calling on Palestinian leaders to sincerely address Israel’s security concerns.  Reaffirming the special status of Jerusalem pursuant to resolution 478 (1980), she rejected any unilateral attempt to modify the demographics of the holy city.  Further, any attempt to deny or minimize the city’s historic significance to the three monotheistic religions is unacceptable.  She added that, regarding the Syrian Golan, Argentina has a principled position concerning the illegality of the acquisition of territory by force. Retno Lestari Priansari Marsudi, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, urged the international community to break “the cycle of concern and inaction”, while welcoming the General Assembly’s adoption of its resolution requesting an International Court of Justice advisory opinion.  Calling on Israel to uphold international law and resume a credible peace process to achieve a two-State solution, she pointed to a possible economic recession in the horizon, warning that, for millions of Palestinians, hardships will only multiply. Nonetheless, South Africa’s representative noted that, since the Council last met on this topic, the situation has become even more precarious for Palestinians.  If nothing is done, the Council will meet again in a month’s time to lament more violence and death, he said, asking if the United Nations was created to receive reports on violations of human rights and international law without attempting to say or do anything.  The international community must seek a solution that facilitates equality and equity for all people who have the right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine. XOLISA MFUNDISO MABHONGO (South Africa) noted that, since the Council last met on this topic, the situation has become even more precarious for Palestinians, with increased settler violence, Apartheid-like conditions, extrajudicial killings and attacks on civilians and holy sites.  Pointing out that four children have been killed by Israeli security forces in   and that January is not even over — he underscored that this situation cannot be allowed to continue.  If nothing is done, the Council will meet again in a month’s time to lament more violence and death.  He then asked if the United Nations was created to receive reports on violations of human rights and international law without attempting to say or do anything.  While the two-State solution has been the Organization’s consistent approach since 1947, Palestinians continue to live under occupation, deprived of their right to self-determination.  The international community must seek a solution that facilitates equality and equity for all people who have the right to live in the territories of Israel and Palestine.  He added that, without such a solution, security, dignity and prosperity will not be achieved. MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates), stressing that the continuing tensions in and around the holy sites and the escalation of inflammatory rhetoric regarding those sites must end, condemned any violations that aim to change the historical and legal status quo of the city of Jerusalem, including the repeated storming of the Aqsa Mosque compound courtyard.  These provocations could fuel violence and escalate the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he cautioned.  Further, the demolitions of Palestinian properties and the forced displacement of people in Area C must be halted, he asserted, adding that, today, more than 1,200 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta live in fear due to the risk of forced removal from their homes.  He also underscored that settlement activities — which have reached unprecedented levels — must stop.  Pointing to reports that indicate that dozens of plans were approved to build thousands of new settlement units in areas such as Jerusalem, Hebron and the Jordan Valley, he said that these activities are coupled with rising levels of settler-related violence. TAREK LADEB (Tunisia) said that the occupying Power continues its disregard for United Nations resolutions by expanding its settlement activities, displacing Palestinians, confiscating homes and land, and changing the historical status of Jerusalem.  Rejecting these practices, along with repeated violations of holy sites in Jerusalem, he called for the status quo of the Aqsa Mosque compound to be preserved.  Further, the Council must act rapidly and decisively to address Israel’s provocative practices, which threaten to further destabilize the region.  Expressing concern over the stagnated peace process and continued deterioration of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, he said that limited international action to address repeated cycles of violence — the root of which is the occupation — will lead to further conflict in the region and deepen the suffering of the Palestinian people.  He added a call for urgent action to facilitate serious negotiations, within a specific time frame, to reach a lasting, comprehensive and fair solution in the Middle East. BASSAM SABBAGH (Syria), recalling the aggression of Israeli occupying forces against his country’s sovereignty by targeting the Damascus airport on 2 January, firmly condemned violent incursions and placed all responsibility for provocations on Israel and those States supporting it.  Urging Israel to stop its inhumane acts, he said that his country stands side by side with the Palestinian people.  Conveying a message of his Government regarding the occupation of the Syrian territory and the recent attack on the Damascus airport, he recalled that Israeli occupying forces had targeted two airports in Aleppo.  That action stopped resulting in halting air traffic and delaying humanitarian assistance.  He went on to say that the occupying Power has continued acts of aggression against the Syrian Arabs in the Golan Heights for the past 50 years, noting that this would not have taken place if the United States had not repeatedly granted impunity for Israel.  In this regard, he attributed responsibility for numerous attacks against Syrian sovereignty to the countries supporting Israel. Calling on Israel to uphold international law and resume a credible peace process to achieve the two-State solution, she pointed to the economic recession in the horizon.  For millions of Palestinians, the hardship will only multiply, she said, stressing the importance of humanitarian assistance for the more than 2 million Palestinians in need.  More so, 2023 must be the year of progress in resolving the Palestinian issue.  Addressing the Palestinian people, she added:  “Let this struggle unite you.”  Her country will remain steadfast in its support for their efforts, she said. TAREQ M. A. M. ALBANAI (Kuwait), condemning Israel’s flagrant violations of the Charter, expressed concern that the Palestinian people are constantly subjected to horrific attacks.  The occupation and its criminal practices are human rights violations, he said, highlighting Israel’s settlement-building policies in particular.  Stressing the importance of accountability for the occupying Power, he recalled the storming of the Aqsa Mosque compound a few weeks ago by a minister from the occupying Power.  Such acts constitute a provocation to the feelings of Muslims and are part of an attempt to change the legal and historical status quo of Jerusalem, he said.  Noting that the occupying Power recently imposed a set of punishments against the Palestinian people as a response to the General Assembly’s adoption of a resolution requesting an opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the occupation, he voiced support for full statehood for Palestine. ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), Council President for January, spoke in his national capacity and recognized Jordan’s special role as custodian of the holy sites in Jerusalem.  Attaching importance to preserving the status quo, he expressed concern about the worsening security situation and spotlighted the high level of violence in the West Bank, including a number of causalities.  In this regard, he called for restraint, while expressing support to the efforts of the Special Coordinator and regional countries — Algeria and Egypt — towards Palestinian national reconciliation.  Underlining UNRWA’s vital role in assisting the Palestinian people, he noted that Japan contributed  million to the Agency and committed another  million for 2023, including medical, education and food assistance.  Also pointing out the fragility of UNRWA’s financial base, he urged the members of the Council to consider further financial contributions to the Agency. HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said that, while the new Israeli Government could still contribute positively to stability in the Middle East, some of its early actions raise concerns about the prospect of peace — especially as it relates to the two-State solution.  These developments include:  the pledge to annex the occupied West Bank; the ban imposed on Palestinian flags in public spaces; the attempt to associate symbols of the Palestinian people with terrorism; the restrictions placed on the movement of Palestinian Authority officials; and the seizure of Palestinian tax revenue.  While the price of peace is usually high, the cost of conflict “is not worth finding out”, he pointed out, expressing hope that the Israeli Government will see beyond short-term national considerations and invest time and effort in restoring trust with the Palestinian Authority for sustainable peace.  Adding, however, that peace is “not a one-way activity”, he called on the Palestinian Authority to work with Israel and all actors to control the unauthorized use of violence by armed and militant groups, whose actions serve neither the cause of peace nor the ultimate aspiration of Palestinian Statehood. The international community has called on the Council to press Israel to end its aggression against Palestinians, cease its violation of international humanitarian law and guarantee that it does not undertake further provocations in Jerusalem. he continued.  Instead, that Government has adopted further collective punishment methods against the Palestinian people.  Israel claims to be the largest democracy in the Middle East, and yet it has regrettably committed all sorts of violations.  For its part, the Council must uphold its responsibility to defend international law, enforce it and address the serious violations of the new Government.  All United Nations entities, including the Assembly and the International Court of Justice, must fulfil their responsibilities.  He then underscored the need to revive the Middle East Quartet, and reiterated the League’s commitment to end the Israeli occupation of the Syrian Golan. Turning finally to regional developments, he noted that, on 9  10 January, senior officials from Bahrain, Egypt, Israel, Morocco, the United Arab Emirates and the United States gathered for the inaugural meeting of the Negev Forum Working Groups and released a framework through which they affirmed that the new regional relationships can be harnessed to create momentum towards a negotiated solution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.  Nonetheless, the Special Coordinator warned:  “Israelis and Palestinians remain on a collision course amid escalating political and inflammatory rhetoric, as well as heightened violence in the West Bank — both with potentially grave consequences.”  Courageous political leadership, along with concerted support from partners around the globe, is urgently needed to prevent spoilers and extremists from “pour[ing] more fuel on the fire”, he stressed. At the end of the Second World War, the international community decided to build an international law-based order, with two principles — the right of peoples to self-determination and the prohibition against the acquisition of land by force — at its heart, he continued.  “Palestine exemplifies the denial of the former and the breach of the latter,” he said, adding that the Israeli Government openly states it will advance settlements and annexation.  It does not recognize Palestinian rights anywhere but proclaims rights for its settlers everywhere.  Further, it denies the Palestinian people’s very existence as a nation, banning the Palestinian flag in public spaces as the latest manifestation of this denial.  Peace will not come from the negation of Palestinians’ existence, but from recognition of their plight and rights.  “Whatever leverage you have, whatever tools are at your disposal, whatever influence you enjoy — they must be used now, or it will no longer matter later,” he stressed. MAGED ABDELFATTAH ABDELAZIZ, Permanent Observer for the League of Arab States, warned of the negative effects that multiple global crises and political inclinations of major Powers have on accountability and the Organization’s overall credibility on the question of Palestine.  Israel’s new Government has destroyed the prospect for peace in the Middle East by affirming its intention to intensify settlement activities in violation of Council resolution 2334 (2016).  It is also demolishing homes and increasing its efforts to change the historical and demographic status of the territory to effectively end the prospect of a two-State solution.  Its recent actions violate international law, the status quo of Jerusalem and the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan over the holy sites, he stressed before condemning it in the harshest terms and spotlighting similar condemnations from the Non-Aligned Movement and OIC, among others. The international community’s immediate priority in the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be reversing the trends that marked 2022 as one of the deadliest years in recent history, the United Nations senior official working to end the long-standing Israeli-Palestinian conflict told the Security Council today as it held its regular open debate on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian Question. MOHAMED ENNADIR LARBAOUI (Algeria) said that the occupying Power perpetrates daily violations in Jerusalem, while the international community remains silent amidst efforts to change the city’s demographic composition and identity.  Algeria, for its part, supports the aspirations of a Palestinian State and its permanent membership in the United Nations, he said.  He also expressed his support for the General Assembly resolution requesting that the International Court of Justice provide an advisory opinion on the legal consequences of persistent violations of the Palestinian people’s right to self-determination.  In addition, he noted he rejected punitive measures adopted by the occupying Power against the Palestinian people and the Palestinian Authority in the wake of that request by the Assembly, reaffirming Palestinians’ right to freedom, self-determination and an independent, sovereign State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  A just, comprehensive peace is a strategic choice that can only be achieved by ending the occupation of all occupied Arab lands, he stressed. France’s representative was among those speakers who urged the Council to mobilize to avoid an escalation on the ground.  Calling on the parties to exercise restraint, he declared:  “It is the responsibility of the Council to enforce international law, including its own resolutions,” such as resolution 2334 (2016) relating to Israeli settlement-expansion.  Calling on the new Israeli authorities to take measures to end violence perpetrated by settlers, he also urged them to cease their legalization of outposts in the West Bank, and called on the global community to urgently relaunch the peace process. IBRAHIM ZUHUREE (Maldives) recalled the 3 January visit by the new Israeli National Security Minister, Itamar Ben-Gvir, who stormed the courtyards of the Aqsa Mosque compound with a large contingent of forces.  “This forceful entry violates all norms,” he stressed, adding that it escalated tensions around the holy sites, threatening to change the legal and historic status quo of Al-Haram al-Sharif.  The people of Palestine have been suffering under Israeli occupation for 56 years despite several Council resolutions, he said, stressing that settler violence continues to undermine the rights of the Palestinian people.  He voiced his support for the General Assembly resolution to request the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on the legal consequences arising from the ongoing violation by Israel of the rights of the Palestinian people.  Turning to the situation in Syria, he said that, since the start of the conflict in that country, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed, millions have been displaced and entire cities have been destroyed.  Against this backdrop, he urged the Council to undertake urgent efforts to resolve the conflict. The representative of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), voicing grave alarm over Israel’s ongoing acts against Christian and Islamic holy places, joined others in condemning the recent provocative incursion by Israel’s Minister for National Security to the Aqsa Mosque compound.  “These Israeli provocative and irresponsible acts offend the feelings of Muslims across the globe, violate their religious rights and eternal attachment to this holy site, and jeopardize stability in the region and beyond,” he warned LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), underscoring the need for de-escalation, expressed concern over the situation in the West Bank and condemned the recent terrorist attack, calling for urgent, tangible measures.  Despite the challenges in the region, she spotlighted the Negev Forum Working Groups meeting, which brough together 150 representatives from across the Middle East.  Reporting that the meeting turned out to be the largest gathering of Israeli and Arab Government officials since the Madrid Conference in 1991, she said that the Forum could provide new avenues for advancing the Israeli-Palestinian track.  She went on to urge the return of the remains of the two captive Israelis held in Gaza, as well as the remains of others, including that of the Goldin family.  Urging Member States to strengthen the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East’s (UNRWA) financial stability, she encouraged States to do everything in their power to advance regional peace and integration and support the most vulnerable regions. Decrying the fact that such false numbers are fed to the Security Council before every meeting, he pledged to use all upcoming meetings to unpack the Palestinian representative’s lies and fabrications.  Turning to another misleading and harmful statement, he said the representative alluded to a seemingly “innocent, non-toxic resolution” adopted recently in the General Assembly, requesting an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice.  In reality, that was a poisonous and one-sided text — one of more than a dozen adopted at the United Nations every year — whose aim is to destroy the Israeli State.  Israel’s guilt was predetermined in the resolution’s language, and all that remains is for the Court to hand down a sentence.  Unilateral steps must be met with unilateral steps, he emphasized, underlining that Israel is absolutely not the root of this conflict.  Only the Palestinians’ constant rejectionism stands in the way of peace, he stressed, warning:  “Supporting the Palestinians’ lies only serves to further escalate and inflame the situation on the ground.” VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), reaffirming Israel’s right to security, pointed out that the country continues to increase unilateral economic sanctions and measures to expand its settlement policy, including the 243 illegal settlements built between 1967 and 2022.  Expressing concern over the reform of the country’s legal system by the new Israeli leadership, he said that such provocative measures undermine the two-State solution.  Highlighting the significance of providing humanitarian assistance with UNRWA at the helm, he also emphasized the importance of convening a Quartet meeting at the ministerial level and called on the Secretary-General to advance multilateral efforts.  He went on to express disappointment that the issue of the Middle East settlement has been made “secondary” or “tertiary” in terms of importance, and underscored that regional conflicts should not fall hostage to geopolitical competition.  Recalling the initiative of his country’s Foreign Minister to convene a Quartet meeting with the representatives of the Arab countries, he underscored that it is a sole internationally recognized organism for supporting the Middle East settlement. The meeting began at 10:05 a.m., suspended at 1:01 p.m., resumed at 3 p.m. and ended at 5 p.m. Giving a detailed report on how violence continued to affect children, he reported that five Palestinian children killed during the reporting period.  Among them, a 16-year-old boy was killed near Ramallah as he was apparently preparing to throw stones and paint at Israeli vehicles.  On 5 January, Israeli security forces shot and killed another 16-year-old during an arrest operation in Balata Refugee Camp in Nablus, and an 18-year-old Palestinian was subsequently shot and killed by an armed Israeli near the settlement outpost of Havat Yehuda on 11 January.  Emphasizing that the perpetrators of all acts of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice, he added that security forces must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.  Children must never be the targets of violence or put in harm’s way. Representatives of the European Union, the League of Arab States and the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People also participated. MOHAMMED HUSSEIN BAHR ALULOOM (Iraq) said the solution to the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people is the implementation of the Palestinian Declaration of Independence, with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He underscored the need to bring an end to all illegal provocative measures and violations carried out by the occupying Power, including confiscation of land and property and destruction of homes and Palestinian facilities by chasing out the inhabitants.  Iraq is committed to peace as a strategic choice, he said, reiterating the need to find a fair solution to the Palestinian question.  He called upon the Council to bring an end to the Israeli occupation and ensure the military withdrawal from the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Moreover, he urged the Council to support the State of Palestine joining as a Member of the United Nations.  He also commended Jordan’s efforts to protect various places of worship. The Committee also remains concerned about high levels of violence that continue throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, he continued, calling for the violence, provocations, incitement and spreading of inflammatory rhetoric to stop and all perpetrators held accountable.  Yet, despite the Council’s repeated affirmations that settlements constitute a flagrant violation of United Nations resolutions and international law, Israel’s settlement-expansion in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, continues unabated.  In February, the Committee will finalize its independent legal study on “The legality of the Israeli occupation of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem”, commissioned in 2021, which follows the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution 77/247.  The Committee supports the decision therein to request an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice, he said, expressing concern about retaliatory measures by Israel following that adoption. PEDRO COMISSÁRIO (Mozambique) said Israel’s unilateral measures — in violation of resolution 2334 (2016) — are pushing away the prospect of direct talks between the parties and the prospect of the two-State solution.  This policy of disengagement and non-cooperation is detrimental to the security of both Israelis and the Palestinians, he underscored, urging Israel to constructively address the humanitarian situation in Palestine, halt illegal settlement-expansion and address extremism and violence amongst the settlers.  He further urged Israel to allow civil society organizations and individuals to freely do their work, without fear of reprisals.  “Given the dire humanitarian situation in Palestine and Gaza, we call for increased support for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East,” he said, emphasizing that such support will allow it to fulfil its important work of delivering essential services to refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. However, the representative of Israel, rejecting the charade of “false victimization”, said the statistics constantly fed to the Council about Palestinian fatalities are not true.  The vast majority of Palestinian fatalities and casualties are not civilians, but, instead, terrorists who were “neutralized in the midst of their acts of violence”.  Pledging to unpack those misleading claims at every forthcoming Council meeting, he went on to describe the General Assembly’s recently adopted resolution as a “poisonous and one-sided text”, but disguised as a seemingly innocent and non-toxic one. OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), condemning the provocative visit of the Israeli Interior Minister to Haram al-Sharif earlier in January, called for all parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation of the conflict.  That message was also endorsed by the recent Tripartite Summit held between Jordan, Palestine and Egypt, he recalled, while voicing support for the General Assembly’s request for an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice.  The Council should assume its responsibility vis-a-vis the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  To that end, he called for a stop to all unilateral measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory; the preservation of the legal status quo of holy sites; the lifting of all movement restrictions in Gaza, and funding for its reconstruction; international protection for the Palestinian people; and accountability for those responsible for violations against them.  In addition, he called for the establishment of an independent State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital, in line with numerous international agreements. Also speaking today were the representatives of the United States, Albania, Ghana, China, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Ecuador, Mozambique, Switzerland, Russian Federation, Malta, Japan, Lebanon, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Pakistan, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Türkiye, Iran, Syria, Malaysia, Iraq, Kuwait, Maldives, Bangladesh, Norway, Cuba, Argentina, Brunei Darussalam and the Republic of Korea. TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said a dangerous cycle of violence persists amidst increased political tensions and a stalled peace process in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, even as a new year is dawning.  “The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll,” he said, adding:  “Preventing more loss of life and reversing negative trends on the ground must be our collective priority.”  At the same time, the global community must not lose sight of the ultimate goal — to end the occupation, resolve the conflict and realize a two-State solution. MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan) said that Israel’s pursuit of illegal settlement practices is pushing the Middle East into conflict and threatening international peace and security.  Further, Israel continues to arouse the anger of Muslims due to its attacks on the Aqsa Mosque compound, which leads to religious conflict with serious regional repercussions.  This, in addition to the expulsions of Palestinians from their homes, constitutes an attempt to change the identity of Jerusalem in violation of international humanitarian law and Israel’s responsibility as an occupying Power.  The international community must cooperate to end these violations.  Underlining the Council’s responsibility to uphold international peace and security according to the Charter of the United Nations, he called on the organ to act quickly to end Israel’s illegitimate practices in Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  He added that, for its part, Jordan will spare no effort to defend Jerusalem and the holy sites therein. HAMEED OPELOYERU, speaking on behalf of the Secretary General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said it is clear that Israel’s illegal, oppressive and destructive policies aim to further entrench and perpetuate the longest belligerent occupation in modern history, in grave breach of international law.  Lack of accountability has continued to embolden Israel in its illegal policies, which are exacerbating the situation on the ground, causing immense human suffering, deepening the current political impasse and threatening the implementation of a two-State solution.  “Moreover, it is widely acknowledged that this prolonged, illegal occupation and impunity have impaired the credibility and authority of the international system — including of this Council,” he said. “The violent trends that dominated the last months of 2022 continue to take a devastating human toll,” he said, adding:  “Preventing more loss of life and reversing negative trends on the ground must be our collective priority.”  At the same time, the global community must not lose sight of the ultimate goal — to end the Israeli occupation, resolve the conflict and realize a two-State solution. OMAR KADIRI (Morocco) recalled that King Mohammed VI, in his letter for the International Day of the Solidarity with the Palestinian People, indicated that the lack of political logic and the actions of extremists might transform the conflict from a political into an ideological conflict.  He underlined that King Mohammed VI, as President of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), has done everything possible to address the Palestinian question, underscoring the legal and historical importance of the city of Jerusalem as common heritage of mankind in the Jerusalem Declaration signed with His Eminence, Pope Francis.  An agency was created in 1995 to promote projects in education, health and culture and improve living conditions of the inhabitants of Jerusalem and preserve Jerusalem’s status as a link between monotheistic religions and a place for those religions to connect.  The King also has undertaken negotiations to create a bridge that would link Jordan and the West Bank to promote freedom of circulation.  Efforts of the Kingdom of Morocco to promote the rights of the Palestinian people reflect sincere commitment to this cause, he added. He went on to recall the 3 January visit by Israel’s new Minister for National Security to the holy sites in Jerusalem, which was condemned by the Palestinian Authority and Jordanian officials, among others, calling it was a provocation and violation of the status quo.  Following the visit, senior Israeli officials, including the Prime Minister’s Office, reaffirmed that the Government is committed to upholding the status quo and stated that the visit did not represent a deviation from that.  Reiterating the Secretary-General’s call for all parties to refrain from steps that could escalate tensions in and around the holy sites, he urged all to uphold the status quo, in line with the special role of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. RONALDO COSTA FILHO (Brazil), emphasizing that improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people is an important step towards peace, said that the Special Coordinator’s report presents several measures that may strengthen the Palestinian economy and address the challenge of governance.  Economic growth can contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, which is a crucial step towards stabilization and the resumption of genuine dialogue.  Expressing concern over the situation in Gaza — where the blockade continues to violate human rights and hinder development efforts — he stressed that more must be done to address this situation and allow the economy to grow.  Palestinian refugees must not be forgotten amidst the many ongoing humanitarian crises, he added, reiterating his country’s support for UNRWA and echoing the call for renewed efforts to restore the Agency’s capabilities in light of chronic underfunding.  He also condemned all actions attempting to create fait accompli on the ground and change the demography of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.  In addition, he voiced support for the Special Coordinator’s assessment that the “mere management of this conflict in perpetuity is not an option”. RETNO LESTARI PRIANSARI MARSUDI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, noting that 2022 was the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since 2005, said the political situation remains elusive as ever.  Calling on the international community to break “the cycle of concern and inaction”, she welcomed the adoption of General Assembly resolution 77/247 in December 2022, requesting the International Court of Justice’s advisory opinion on the legal consequences of Israel’s illegal occupation.  Recalling that this will be the second advisory opinion from the Court on this matter, she said:  “There have been many mechanisms, reports and resolutions on Palestine, but no significant change.” Describing several additional developments of concern, he said that, on 27 December 2022, Israeli settlers accompanied by security forces forcibly took control of a parcel of agricultural land that a Palestinian family has leased from the Greek Orthodox Church since 1931, in occupied East Jerusalem.  Israeli forces arrested at least five Palestinians protesting the takeover.  The settlers maintain that they purchased the land from the Greek Orthodox Church, in a deal the Church has rejected as fraudulent.  In addition, on 1 January, some 30 gravestones were desecrated at the Protestant Cemetery on Mount Zion in Jerusalem.  Two Israelis, aged 14 and 18, were arrested for the act, and according to a statement issued by Israeli police following an investigation, a formal indictment is expected. Briefing GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said the statement just delivered by the Permanent Observer of Palestine is yet another award-winning, dramatic charade of false victimization.  Over and over again, the Council has heard that 2022 was the deadliest year ever for Palestinians.  However, those number and statistics are not facts, but are instead based on a fundamentally flawed methodology of discrimination.  Indeed, they vastly exaggerate Palestinian statistics, while minimizing and distorting Israeli numbers.  Stressing that no steps are taken to verify or fact-check such information, he said such data also lack any context, and therefore result in a compilation of lies and half-truths.  Outlining some examples, he said one of the civilians killed by Israeli security forces and listed today by the Palestinian delegate was in fact a terrorist who was openly targeting Israelis.  Indeed, the vast majority of Palestinian fatalities and casualties are not civilians, but, instead, terrorists who were “neutralized in the midst of their acts of violence”. FERGUS JOHN ECKERSLEY (United Kingdom), noting that 2023 started with violence and instability, recalled the visit of his country’s Minister for the Middle East to Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory where he underlined support to a two-State solution.  He also recalled the Minister expressing opposition to unilateral actions, including the measures by Israel’s Government against the Palestinian Authority and the United Kingdom’s unwavering commitment to the status quo of Haram al-Sharif and Jordan’s role as custodian of the holy sites.  Leaders of both sides must promote a culture of peaceful coexistence.  Turning to the desecration of 30 Christian graves on Mount Zion, he welcomed the swift condemnation by all sides of these acts.  Also calling for Israel to exercise restraint in the use of live fire when protecting its security interests, he noted that, in the first three weeks of the year, 14 Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli security forces, inducing 3 children. Turning to the Gaza Strip, he said the United Nations continues to deliver vital humanitarian and development assistance, while also engaging in diplomatic efforts to further ease restrictions on the movement of people and goods.  Nevertheless, Gaza’s socioeconomic situation remains of grave concern.  Neither humanitarian nor economic support alone will resolve the situation in Gaza — or the broader conflict.  “Political solutions are required, [and] there are no quick fixes,” he said.  The ultimate goal remains to fully lift the closures in line with Council resolution 1860 (2009), and to reunite Gaza and the occupied West Bank as part of a two-State solution. MUHAMMAD ABDUL MUHITH (Bangladesh) stressed that the Israel’s provocative and illegal actions on 3 January clearly demonstrate its unwillingness to respect the international community’s decision, are designed to make the solution to the crisis more elusive and reflect sheer disrespect and insolence to the unanimous decision for a two-State solution.  He urged the Council to take stern action against Israel immediately, hold them accountable for the grave injustice and violence against the people of Palestine and the repeated violations of international human rights and humanitarian law in the occupied territory, and implement its own resolutions, including resolution 2334 (2016).  It is also equally important to respect the sole authority of the Islamic Waqf at the holy site and the custodianship of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan for the Muslim and Christian holy sites in Jerusalem, he added.  He then reiterated his country’s grave concern over the dire humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and called for access to basic services to be ensured without delay.  He also expressed concern over discriminatory access to justice, attacks on innocent people, evictions and demolitions and the detention of Palestinians.  The only way to ensure the rights of the people of Palestine is through the establishment of an independent, viable and sovereign State, he said, reiterating his country’s unwavering and steadfast support. In that vein, the representative of Brazil emphasized that improving the living conditions of the Palestinian people is an important step towards peace.  Economic growth can contribute to intra-Palestinian reconciliation, which is a crucial step towards stabilization and the resumption of genuine dialogue.  He joined other speakers in condemning all actions aimed at creating a fait accompli on the ground and changing the demography of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, while expressing support for the Special Coordinator’s assessment that the “mere management of this conflict in perpetuity is not an option”. Since his last briefing, a new Government has been sworn into power in Israel, he said.  Reiterating the United Nations steadfast support to both sides in achieving a sustainable peace, he outlined recent developments on the ground, noting that a total of 14 Palestinians were killed between 8 December 2022 and 13 January 2023, and another 117 were injured by Israeli security forces.  Israeli settlers or other civilians perpetrated 63 attacks against Palestinians resulting in 28 injuries, including six children.  According to Israeli sources, five Israeli civilians and four security forces personnel were injured by Palestinians in attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents.  Palestinians perpetrated a total of 89 attacks against Israeli civilians during the reporting period. BJÖRN OLOF SKOOG, Head of Delegation of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said the international community must build upon the recent establishment of diplomatic relations between Israel and a number of Arab countries.  Underscoring the importance of upholding the status quo of Haram al-Sharif, he reiterated the Union’s strong opposition to Israel’s settlement policy and related actions, such as building the separation barrier beyond the 1967 line, demolitions, confiscation evictions and forced transfers, including of Bedouins.  The Union will not recognize changes to the 1967 lines, unless agreed to by the parties.  Condemning the indiscriminate launching of rockets into Israel by Hamas and other terrorist groups, he also called on the Palestinian Authority to hold transparent and inclusive national elections without further delay. Turning to settlement-related developments, he said that, on 2 January, the Israeli Government informed the High Court of Justice that it intends to legalize, under Israeli law, the outpost of Homesh — which is built on private Palestinian land — by repealing part of the 2005 Disengagement Law.  On the same day, the Court issued a decision giving the State 90 days to explain why the outpost should not be evacuated and the Palestinian rights holders not allowed to exercise their rights.  Reiterating that all settlements are illegal under international law and remain a substantial obstacle to peace, he said demolitions and seizures of Palestinian-owned property also continued through the reporting period, and remain a serious concern. Against that backdrop, he called for courageous political leadership, along with concerted support from partners around the globe, to prevent spoilers and extremists from “pour[ing] more fuel on the fire”. He also recalled that, on 30 December 2022, the General Assembly adopted a resolution containing a request to the International Court of Justice for an advisory opinion relating to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.  In response, on 6 January, the Israeli security cabinet approved a series of measures against the Palestinian Authority, including the withholding of Palestinian tax funds to pay damages to the families of Israelis killed in Palestinian attacks.  A directive was also issued to the Israeli police to increase enforcement of the removal of Palestinian flags from public spaces in Israel and occupied East Jerusalem. Both the recent General Assembly resolution and the Israeli Minister’s visit were widely discussed today by both Council members and the wider United Nation membership.  Delegates also raised concerns about the trend of escalating violence and the inability of the parties to re-launch formal peace process negotiations, which have been stalled since 2014. FERIT HOXHA (Albania) decried the continued deterioration of the security situation and casualties in the West Bank and in East Jerusalem, as well as in Israel.  He called on both sides to reverse this trend and protect the lives of civilians.  Underscoring the urgent need to revive the political process and break the cycle of violence and terror, he deplored all loss of life, especially women and children.  “All such acts should be properly investigated,” he stressed.  Supporting Israel’s legitimate right to self-defence, he strongly condemned all acts of terror against Israel.  Adding that no cause can justify terrorism, he condemned all forms of inflammatory rhetoric and incitement of violence.  Stressing that “no peace has ever been built over hate speech”, he also voiced concern over the continuations of expansion of settlements and reiterated the importance of preserving the status quo of the holy sites. MOHAMMAD ALI JARDALI (Lebanon) said the new Government of Israel has deliberately begun 2023 with a provocative step, namely the visit by the Israeli Minister to the Haram al-Sharif.  Also condemning attacks by extremists and the vandalism of holy sites, he called on the Council to take immediate measures to protect such sites, adding that, in the wake of the General Assembly’s adoption of resolution 77/247, the Government of Israel has taken punitive measures against the Palestinian people.  He reiterated Lebanon’s support to the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), which continues to maintain peace and stability even in light of Israeli violations in the region, and pledged that Lebanon will hold accountable all those responsible for the death of Irish peacekeeper Seán Rooney, whose convoy was attacked in southern Lebanon on 14 December 2022. Statements ABDULAZIZ ALWASIL (Saudi Arabia) said that the daily aggression of the Israeli occupying Power against the Palestinian people and continuation of hate speech will only continue to further undermine the possibility of peace in the Middle East.  Noting that security can only be achieved through a two-State solution and not through continued settlement-displacement and confiscation of property, he recalled the peace initiative launched by Saudi Arabia in 2002.  In this regard, he reiterated a call to the Council to end all unilateral measures and violations that Israel undertakes to continue building its illegal settlements and urged international protection for the Palestinian people.  Calling on Israel’s new Government to address the peace process, he emphasized that ending the conflict is the interest of the entire region. AZRIL BIN ABD AZIZ (Malaysia) said he was appalled by the recent incursion of Al-Haram al-Sharif, adding that this provocative act is another clear effort by Israel to assert its sovereignty and change the historical and legal status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem.  The international community must urge that country to fully respect Council resolution 2334 (2016).  As such behaviour cannot be condoned under any circumstances, the Council must undertake affirmative action to ensure the full protection of the Palestinian people.  So long as the international community and the Council remain in paralysis, the apartheid regime will continue with impunity, he warned.  He called for Israel to be held accountable for its crimes and deliberate breach of numerous laws and resolutions, and strongly condemned that Government’s retaliation measures which he said reflect its contempt and lack of faith towards the primacy of the Organization and its judicial body.  He then pledged his country’s continued solidarity and unwavering support with the people of Palestine. ALLEGRA PAMELA R. BONGO (Gabon), noting that clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces reached unprecedented levels in 2022, stressed that the Council must prevent the recurrence of this tragic scenario in 2023.  She called on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from unilateral actions that escalate violence and hinder the process of peacebuilding.  She went on to welcome the December 2022 visit of the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, underscoring that the impact of this conflict on children is unacceptable.  Calling on Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups to honour their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law, she stressed that the parties must respect the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution.  Turning to the issue of returning human remains to their families, she called on the parties to embrace an outcome that can build trust for lasting peace.  Underlining the sensitive nature of this issue, she emphasized that funerary rites are an integral part of the culture and identity of the parties. ZHANG JUN (China), calling the situation on the ground “a volcano that may erupt at any time”, stressed that only with rock-firm political will and concerted international efforts can the situation be prevented from spinning out of control.  Underlining the importance of safeguarding all cultural and religious sites, he said the recent visit by the Israeli Minister to the Aqsa Mosque compound was a major cause for concern.  Jordan’s custodianship over such sites must be supported and Israel in particular must end all acts of provocation.  Noting the recent announcement of a serious of punitive measures to be imposed by Israel, he warned that they will send shockwaves through the entire Palestinian community and its civil society organizations.  “Bullying will only […] diminish the prospects of a political solution,” he warned, calling for an end to all unilateral actions that undermine trust and escalate tensions.  He also decried all acts of violence by any party, rejected the disproportionate use of force by security troops, called for an end to Israeli settlement-expansion and encouraged the full and urgent implementation a long-overdue two-State solution. Turning to the situation in Syria, he expressed support for Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen’s efforts, including his “steps-for-steps” approach in resuming the work of the Constitutional Committee.  However, lifting sanctions or reconstruction will not be possible until the Syrian regime engages in a credible and inclusive political transition, in the framework of resolution 2254 (2015).  In the absence of international processes, the prosecution of war crimes and other serious crimes under national jurisdiction where possible, now under way in several of the Union’s member States, represents a crucial contribution towards securing justice.  Also highlighting the Dutch-Canadian initiative to hold Syria to account for breaching the Convention Against Torture, he expressed support for efforts to gather evidence with a view to future legal action, including through the International, Impartial and Independent Mechanism for Syria.  Commending Syria’s neighbouring countries for hosting Syrian refugees for more than a decade, he highlighted the importance of uninterrupted delivery of cross-border humanitarian assistance for 4 million people living in north-west Syria. KIM DONGJOON (Republic of Korea) voiced his concern over the rising tensions around the holy sites in Jerusalem and the Israeli Government’s recent measures in response to the Assembly resolution requesting the International Court of Justice to render an advisory opinion on Israeli’s occupation of Palestinian territory.  Such measures are not conducive to a two-State solution and would undermine efforts to create an environment to resume peace talks, he emphasized, urging their reversal.  As the status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem must be respect, he called on all sides to exercise restraint and refrain from any actions which would erode the likelihood of a two-State solution.  He also expressed his country’s deep concerns over Israel’s ongoing settlement-expansion, demolitions and evictions in the occupied West Bank and cautioned that such actions would only exacerbate tensions.  Further, he voiced concern over the rising number of civilian casualties over the last year and the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip; condemned all terrorist attacks in the strongest terms; and reaffirmed his country’s continued humanitarian support for the Palestinian people. CHEIKH NIANG (Senegal), Chair of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, expressed that body’s deep concern and dismay at the recent provocations at the holy sites in Jerusalem — the first such incursion by an Israeli minister since 2017.  “The long history of this conflict reveals that the cost of such violations of the historic status quo, breaches of international law and unilateral measures and provocations is very high, and is the primary cause of the rising levels of violence and instability,” he said.  Such illegal actions have repeatedly undermined the efforts to find a just and peaceful solution to the conflict and are undermining the viability of a two-State solution. PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) called on all parties to take the necessary measures to protect civilians and non-combatant persons.  Also calling for investigations into allegations of disproportionate use of force by the Israeli security forces, she noted the high number of violent incidents by settlers and called on Israel to respect its international legal obligations towards the occupied population.  Deploring the number of children that were among the victims of violence, she welcomed the dialogue launched by the Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory and urged all parties to engage in it.  She welcomed the willingness of the new Government of Israel to pursue normalization agreements with Arab States, stressing that Palestinians must also be able to benefit from that dynamic.  In addition, she voiced concern about the weakening of the Palestinian Authority, calling for elections to be held throughout the Palestinian territory. VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), echoing other speakers in condemning provocative decisions and unilateral actions, said the developments in and around the holy sites on 3 January were an example of such acts.  She reiterated the need to uphold the integrity of the sites, as well as to respect their legal and historic status quo, while voicing concern about unilateral acts that seek to punish political actors from seeking international legal remedies.  Malta, as a Member State, is committed to multilateralism and the rules-based international order, she said, stressing that such an approach is unconstructive.  More broadly, she warned, political announcements that proclaim a commitment to advance and develop settlement in all parts of the land of Israel — in the Galilee, Negev, Golan Heights, Judea and Samaria — “similarly move us further away from a two-State solution”.  Condemning all violence, including terrorist acts committed against Israelis, she went on to voice concern about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, underline the importance of opening crossing points and ensuring unhindered humanitarian access, and express support for UNRWA’s work and funding. He added that the 3 January visit by Israel’s new Minister for National Security, Itamar Ben-Gvir, to the holy sites in Jerusalem — which was widely viewed as a provocative act — and following the Council’s 5 January meeting on the visit, is still sparking tensions.  Meanwhile, an additional source of friction was a resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 30 December 2022, which requested the International Court of Justice to issue an advisory opinion relating to the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory. CEREN HANDE ÖZGUR (Türkiye), expressing deep regret at the large number of civilian fatalities in 2022, as well as the undermining of the two-State solution, said the punitive measures taken by Israeli officials against the Palestinian people and leadership do not help to solve any issues.  Further, the continuing violations against the sanctity and status of Haram al-Sharif, including the provocation earlier in January, are unacceptable.  The international community’s lack of interest to find a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the Palestinian question is deeply frustrating, she said, noting that the situation in the occupied territory is a major source of destabilization in the wider region.  There cannot be lasting peace in the Middle East without an independent and sovereign State of Palestine, on the basis of 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, she stressed, also expressing her country’s support for the humanitarian activities of UNRWA. JASSIM SAYAR A. J. AL-MAAWDA (Qatar) said that the year 2022 witnessed an increase in violence and indiscriminate attacks against Palestinian civilians.  Today’s meeting takes place against the backdrop of continued escalation by the Israeli authorities, he said, denouncing it as a flagrant violation of international law by the occupying Power.  It is an attack against the rights of the Palestinians and provocation of Muslim sentiment around the world, he continued, rejecting any attempt to increase the Jewish character of holy sites in Jerusalem.  The continued escalation and provocation by the Israeli occupying Power demonstrates disregard for international law and could threaten international peace and security, as well.  Stressing that the Palestinian people must fulfil their legitimate aspirations, including their right to self-determination, he called for urgent action to end the Israeli aggression and to provide protection for the Palestinian people. Noting that a new Government has just been sworn into power in Israel, he said that country’s settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory have regrettably continued, and more violence has been observed at the hands of both parties.  A total of 14 Palestinians were killed between 8 December 2022 and 13 January 2023, and another 117 were injured by Israeli security forces.  According to Israeli sources, five Israeli civilians and four security forces personnel were injured by Palestinians in attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents. Egypt’s delegate also condemned the Israeli Minister’s recent visit to Al-Haram al-Sharif.  Calling on the parties to refrain from any steps that could lead to a further escalation, he said the Council should assume its responsibility vis-a-vis the legitimate rights of the Palestinian people.  Among other things, he said, that would require a stop to all unilateral measures in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the lifting of all movement restrictions in Gaza, international protection for the Palestinian people and accountability for those responsible for violations against them. HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador), describing the situation on the ground as concerning and dangerous, said every loss of life is a tragedy.  The parties must refrain from all acts of violence, terror and provocation, and respect human life and safety in line with international law.  Reiterating calls for an end to all instances of incitement, provocation and incendiary speech, he added that respecting the status quo of all holy sites — as well as Jordan’s role as their custodian — is critical.  Calling for efforts to build on positive changes in the flow of goods and people into Gaza, he condemned the demolition of a donor‑financed school, as well as all efforts to target children or deprive them of their right to education.  He reaffirmed Ecuador’s solidarity with the Palestinian people, as well as its commitment to the right of the Israeli people to live in peace.  Those goals can only be achieved through a two-State solution, he stressed, voicing deep concern over ongoing settlement activities that make it more difficult to relaunch negotiations. AMIR SAEID JALIL IRAVANI (Iran) said the Israeli regime’s oppressive, expansionist and apartheid practices against Palestinians continued unabated in 2022.  The Israeli regime’s recent incursion into the Aqsa Mosque compound on 3 January violated the mosque’s sanctity and worship rites and was a brazen provocation of Muslim feelings.  “This illegality and recklessness have serious consequences that should not be underestimated,” he said, noting that, if not properly addressed, it can further destabilize an already fragile situation and endanger regional and international peace and security.  The Israeli regime has committed atrocities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory without accountability for more than 70 years, and Palestinian self-determination must be fully recognized, upheld and protected.  “But as long as the Security Council remains silent, this is impossible to do,” he stressed, calling on the Council to act immediately to support the Palestinian people.  “Sympathy alone is not enough,” he added. NOOR QAMAR SULAIMAN (Brunei Darussalam) underscored the international community’s responsibility to help the Palestinians in their struggle for peace and justice, as well as the Council’s duty to uphold the Charter and ensure the implementation of its resolutions, in particular, resolution 2334 (2016).  Turning to the recent incursion into the Aqsa Mosque compound, she condemned this deliberate provocation and aggression which clearly violates international law and has the intention of changing the status quo of Jerusalem and Al-Haram al-Sharif.  Such blatant action affects the sanctity of the holy site and has the potential to exacerbate tensions, provoke violence and result in the loss of innocent lives.  She also strongly rejected and condemned the occupying Power’s ongoing illegal settlement activities, calling on it to cease all acts of provocation and aggression and comply with its international law obligations.  Brunei Darussalam supports international efforts to achieve comprehensive, lasting peace and security in the Middle East in accordance with the rule of law, remains committed to the two-State solution and is steadfast in its support for the State of Palestine to have full membership within the Organization, she reiterated. PEDRO LUIS PEDROSO CUESTA (Cuba) said that, despite systematic appeals from the international community, the Council has regrettably been unable to correct “one of the greatest wrongs of the last century” and end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory.  Scandalous violations of international law continue in violation of the Geneva Conventions, and in East Jerusalem alone, the Palestinians have seen a third of their land appropriated by Israel.  Meanwhile, the Palestinians live in a situation tantamount to apartheid, against the backdrop of fear, oppression and forced displacement.  Condemning selectivity and double standards which undermine the credibility of the Security Council, he said the United States repeatedly obstructs that organ’s actions on the Palestinian question through its unilateral actions and the granting of impunity to Israel.  Among other things, he voiced Cuba’s support for a two-State solution and for the inclusion of Palestine as a full United Nations Member State, and demanded a full withdrawal by Israel from the territory of all other States in the region.

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