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Only long-term solution for Gaza is political: UN envoy

February 22, 2024 at 6:18 pm

Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland speaks about 2024 priorities to the General Assembly at the UN headquarters in New York City on February 7, 2024. [KENA BETANCUR/AFP via Getty Images]

The UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process expressed “deep concern” on Thursday about a possible full-scale Israeli military operation in Gaza’s densely populated Rafah area, Anadolu Agency reports.

“I cannot stress enough how urgently we need a deal that will bring about a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of hostages.

“I reiterate my call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and a humanitarian ceasefire,” Tor Wennesland told a Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.

Wennesland said he was in the Gaza Strip earlier this week to see “first-hand the unfolding tragedy” and to meet teams on the ground who faced “impossible challenges” to deliver life-saving assistance to Palestinian civilians.

What he saw was “shocking and unsustainable,” he said.

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“As we approach 140 days of devastating war, there is still no end in sight. No end to the trauma of those impacted by the horrors unleashed on 7 October. No end for the people in Gaza. No end to the regional turmoil,” he stressed.

The envoy said he is convinced that there is no time to lose in laying the framework for Gaza’s recovery and a long-term political resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, including advancing “meaningful, irreversible” steps toward a two-state solution.

Stressing that the scale of the emergency is staggering and could quickly spiral out of control in the region, he appealed for a “collective, coordinated and comprehensive” response to not only address the immediate crisis in Gaza but to help restore a political horizon for Palestinians and Israelis alike, while promoting greater stability and peace in the region.

“To do this, we urgently need a deal to achieve a humanitarian ceasefire and the release of hostages. We need to create the space for moving forward through dialogue rather than violence. Ultimately, the only long-term solution for Gaza is political,” he added.

‘Holy month of Ramadan risks becoming another volatile marker’

Turning to the Occupied West Bank, Wennesland said 27 Palestinians, including eight children, were killed by Israeli security forces.

Settler attacks against Palestinians and their property also continued, he said.

“I am concerned that, if the violence in Gaza does not end, and tensions and restrictions remain high in the West Bank, including at the Holy Sites in East Jerusalem, the Holy month of Ramadan risks becoming another volatile marker rather than a time of contemplation and healing,” he said.

The envoy voiced “grave concern” about the serious risk of further regional escalation.

Israel has pounded the Gaza Strip since a 7 October Hamas attack. The ensuing Israeli attacks have killed more than 29,410 Palestinians and caused mass destruction and shortages of necessities. Less than 1,200 Israelis are believed to have been killed in the Hamas attack.

However, since then, it has been revealed by Haaretz that helicopters and tanks of the Israeli army had, in fact, killed many of the 1,139 soldiers and civilians claimed by Israel to have been killed by the Palestinian Resistance.

The Israeli war on Gaza has pushed 85 per cent of the Territory’s population into internal displacement amid acute shortages of food, clean water and medicine, while 60 per cent of the enclave’s infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, according to the UN.

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