Israel-Hamas cease-fire remains fragile: UN Mideast envoy

A Kenyan representative watches a screen showing the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland (on the screen) briefing a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, at the UN headquarters in New York, on June 24, 2021. Tor Wennesland warned Thursday that the cessation of hostilities reached last month between Israel and Hamas remains very fragile. (Loey Felipe/UN Photo/Handout via Xinhua)

UNITED NATIONS, June 24 (Xinhua) -- The UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, Tor Wennesland, warned Thursday that the cessation of hostilities reached last month between Israel and Hamas remains very fragile.

In this regard, the United Nations is working closely with all concerned parties and partners, including Egypt, to solidify the cease-fire, allow the entry of urgent humanitarian assistance and stabilize the situation in Gaza, he told the Security Council in a briefing.

"I urge all sides to refrain from unilateral steps and provocations, take steps to reduce tensions, and allow these efforts to succeed. Everyone must do their part to facilitate ongoing discussions to stabilize the situation on the ground and avoid another devastating escalation in Gaza," he said.

Despite the cease-fire, violent incidents have continued on a daily basis throughout the occupied Palestinian territory in the past two weeks, said Wennesland.

Clashes have repeatedly broken out in Beita village near Nablus in the West Bank, in the context of protests against the construction of a new Israeli settlement outpost. On June 11, Israeli security forces shot dead a 16-year-old Palestinian. On June 17, another 16-year-old Palestinian succumbed to his wounds from shots sustained by Israeli security forces the previous night. Since May 3, five Palestinians have been killed and some 100 Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition in and around this area, he said.

On June 15, several thousand right-wing Israeli activists, including members of Knesset, marched through Jerusalem's Old City, with many participants chanting racist slogans against Arabs and Muslims. In protests and clashes that occurred in the context of the march, in East Jerusalem as well as other parts of the West Bank, 66 Palestinians, including 12 children, were injured by rubber bullets, sound grenades and physical assaults, he said.

On the same day, rallies were organized throughout the Gaza Strip by national and Islamic forces. Protests erupted at the perimeter fence and militants in Gaza released incendiary balloons toward Israel, starting dozens of fires. In response to these incendiary balloons, Israel Defense Forces targeted what it said were five Hamas facilities in Gaza, causing damage but no injuries.

On Wednesday, Palestinian activist and parliamentary candidate Nizar Banat was pronounced dead, hours after being arrested by Palestinian security forces at a house in Hebron. According to the victim's family, the victim was aggressively beaten and physically assaulted during the arrest, said Wennesland.

"I would like to again highlight the significant risks we face over the coming period as we confront the prospect of a renewed escalation," he said.

While immediate international efforts are rightly focused on solidifying the cessation of hostilities, providing humanitarian assistance and beginning the process of Gaza reconstruction, recent events have also highlighted the urgent need to re-establish a political horizon and restore hope to Palestinians and Israelis, he said.

The United Nations remains committed to supporting the parties to resolve the conflict and end the occupation in line with relevant UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements, he said. "Even as we focus on the pressing challenges in Gaza, I reiterate our determination to work with Israelis and Palestinians, fellow members of the Middle East Quartet and key regional and international partners to lay the groundwork for a return to meaningful negotiations toward a viable two-state solution."

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