The following is a portion of the transcript of Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Briefing to the UN Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, 18 November 2020
PA – Israeli Ties
For these reasons, I welcome the Palestinian Authority’s (PA) decision to restart civilian and security coordination with Israel. I express my appreciation to Israel for confirming that existing bilateral agreements continue to govern relations between both parties, particularly in the context of economic, security and civilian affairs.
I have previously expressed hope that recognition of the interdependence of Israelis and Palestinians could, with political will and leadership, translate into tangible progress towards a resolution of the conflict. Both sides should understand the importance of respecting the validity and continuing force of the framework that they have agreed to govern their relations. Although the existing agreements fall short of meeting the aspirations for peace, security and statehood for the Palestinian people, they provide the basic foundation without which even the beginnings of a return to meaningful negotiations will not be possible.
West Bank Demolitions
In a concerning development, on 3 November Israeli authorities carried out the most extensive demolition in the occupied West Bank in the past decade, destroying over 70 structures, including homes, in the Bedouin village of Humsa Al Bqai’a, in Area C. Seventy-three people were displaced, including 41 children. Their vulnerability is compounded by the onset of winter and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Home demolitions in East Jerusalem also resumed during the reporting period after a pause of several weeks.
In total, 153 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and East Jerusalem were demolished or seized.
They displaced 96 Palestinians, including 22 women and 51 children, and affecting some 1,400 others. The demolitions and seizures were executed due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. In addition, three structures were demolished by their owners to avoid the payment of additional fines.
On 28 October, Israeli authorities cut a donor-funded pipe supplying water to 14 herding communities in the Masafer Yatta area of Hebron, home to about 1,400 people. Amid the pandemic, depriving these communities of water could have particularly grave health consequences.
On 2 November, the Israeli Government informed the High Court of Justice that during the next four months it would not demolish the Bedouin village of Khan al-Ahmar. In its explanation, the Government cited COVID-19 restrictions and “additional considerations” as reasons for the delay and said that it would use the additional time to exhaust efforts to reach an agreement with residents.
I reiterate my call on Israeli authorities to cease demolitions, seizures of Palestinian property and efforts to relocate communities in the occupied West Bank. Such actions are contrary to international law and could undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state.
1,200 Settlement Units
In another concerning development, on 15 November, Israeli authorities opened the bidding process for construction of 1,200 housing units in the Givat Hamatos settlement. If built, this project would further consolidate a ring of settlements between Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank. It would also significantly damage prospects for a future contiguous Palestinian State, and for achieving a negotiated two-State solution based on the 1967 lines, with Jerusalem as the capital of both states. I call for this step to be reversed.
Sporadic violent incidents unfortunately continued in parts of the OPT during the reporting period as well.
In Gaza, militants fired two rockets and released two incendiary balloons towards Israel during the reporting period, with no injuries reported. The IDF fired five shells and missiles into Gaza in retaliation, also no injuries were reported.
Turning to the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, one Palestinian was killed and 21 injured, including eight children, in clashes, attacks, search and arrest operations, and other incidents. One Israeli soldier was injured in these incidents.
On 30 October, Israeli soldiers opened fire at a Palestinian vehicle travelling near Jenin, injuring three children. The circumstances surrounding the incident remain unclear, with the IDF claiming the vehicle posed a threat.
On 4 November, an off-duty officer in the Palestinian Security Forces, who according to the IDF shot towards Israeli soldiers, was shot dead near Huwwara, south of Nablus.
On 8 November, a Palestinian man, who allegedly attempted to carry out a stabbing attack near Hebron, was injured and arrested by the Israeli Security Forces.
Meanwhile, settlers perpetrated some 17 attacks against Palestinians, resulting in the injury of one child and damage to property.
Palestinians allegedly perpetrated 23 attacks against Israeli settlers and other civilians in the West Bank, resulting in four injuries and damage to property.
As the olive harvest season continues, there were incidents of settlers damaging Palestinian olive groves and agricultural fields. Over 190 trees were burnt or otherwise damaged and large amounts of produce were reportedly stolen.
On a positive note, as in previous years, hundreds of Palestinian and Israeli volunteers joined Palestinian farmers across the West Bank to assist in the olive harvest and provide protection from harassment and violence.
All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable.