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Reconciliation Means Upholding Human Rights, Promoting Equality, Ending Occupation, Speaker Tells Security Council Briefing on Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

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SC/14909

9046TH MEETING (AM)

The Security Council heard stories of hope for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians today, including from the mother of a boy killed in the conflict, who said that the tears that fell on the graves of both Israelis and Palestinians were of the same colour.

“It’s all very well being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but what does that mean, if you cannot be part of the solution?”, asked Robi Damelin, Spokesperson for Parents Circle, during her briefing to the 15-member organ. She said she thinks of herself as a victor and not a victim, stressing that that she was “here to talk to your hearts”.

When the army came to tell her that her son had been killed by a Palestinian sniper, she recalled telling them “you may not kill anybody in the name of my child”.

She said in an average Israeli school, many of the 17-year-olds have never met a Palestinian. Recalling how an active Palestinian women’s group began a wedding planning business, she said: “Can you imagine how joyful that is in these dark times?” Instead of sitting around this table, Council members must visit those organizations that are doing work on the ground and feel the hope, she said.

Daniel Munayer, Executive Director of Musalaha, explaining that he comes from a Palestinian Christian family, said his organization conducts reconciliation workshops between Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims. Participants are brought to the desert for five days, taking part in workshops to address themes of conflict, identity, obstacles to reconciliation, history and narrative. They then return home to engage their communities and address the core issues of the conflict. They are asked to resist the injustices that persist.

He clarified, however, that Israelis and Palestinians return to very different political realities. Palestinians return to military occupation. Many are still living in refugee camps. In contrast, Israelis return to places like Tel Aviv, where the conflict is “almost not felt”.

He said that freedom of religion and belief can be used to build bridges. Yet, Israel is trying to turn this into a religious conflict. Reconciliation means upholding human rights, working towards equality and ending the occupation, he stressed, urging the Council to “play your role” and apply the pressure from the top to the bottom.

Tor Wennesland, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, gave a regular update, saying that the killing of revered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May brought Palestinians, and countless others around the world, together in grief and anger, while serving as another reminder of the devastating human cost of this conflict. Echoing the Secretary-General’s condemnation of all attacks against journalists and his call for the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation, he said those responsible must be held accountable.

In the ensuing discussion, delegates, while exchanging views on long‑standing issues, such as violence from both sides and Israel’s settlement activities, broadly expressed concern about recent developments, including the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh.

The representative of the United States, Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, said any and all violence must be called out, including a string of terrorist attacks against Israelis. When the law is violated, perpetrators, whether Israelis or Palestinians, must be held to account, she said, condemning the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a role model for many aspiring female journalists.

The representative of China said Israelis and Palestinians both have a stake in each other’s security, stressing that, rather than crisis management, the parties must move towards a two-State solution, and relevant stakeholders with influence must uphold impartibility and objectivity.

Kenya’s representative said it is vital not to lose sight of the contextual issues in which such tragic events continue to occur, calling for constructive efforts at the official and grass-roots levels to create a conducive environment for a negotiated peaceful settlement.

France’s delegate expressed deep concern about the decision by Israel’s authorities to advance the construction of more than 4,000 housing units in many West Bank settlements, urging that country to reconsider its decision. There is an urgent need to recreate a political horizon for the relaunch of negotiations based on agreed parameters, Council resolutions and international law.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine said Ms. Abu Akleh was an exceptional being, but her killing is unfortunately not an exception. “We are not being killed by mistake, but as part of a grand design, aiming to make sure we all understand no one is safe, so that we all live with fear in our hearts and surrender,” he said. The Council took a small step in the right direction by condemning her killing in one voice. “Let us force Israel to correct course,” he said, warning that Israel’s choice is clear — aggression, annexation and apartheid.

The speaker for Israel said her country’s recent Independence Day celebrations were cut short after Israelis were murdered by Palestinians wielding axes and knives. In 2022, so far nearly 800 terror attacks have been committed by Palestinians against Israelis. She pointed to the death of Ms. Abu Akleh as an example of placing the blame on Israel before an investigation can be conducted. Ms. Abu Akleh lost her life while covering a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin, during which Palestinian gunmen fired indiscriminately at Israeli forces. Following her death, Israel called for joint impartial Israel-Palestinian investigation, which the Palestinian Authority rejected. Israel is conducting a thorough investigation.

Also speaking today were the representatives of the Russian Federation, Ireland, Norway, United Kingdom, Albania, India, United Arab Emirates, Gabon, Mexico, Ghana and Brazil.

The meeting began at 10:51 a.m. and ended at 1:24 p.m.

Briefings

TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that the killing of revered Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh on 11 May brought Palestinians, and countless others around the world, together in grief and anger, while serving as another reminder of the devastating human cost of this conflict. Echoing the Secretary-General’s condemnation of all attacks against journalists and his call for the relevant authorities to carry out an independent and transparent investigation, he said those responsible must be held accountable. Daily violence continued throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. During the reporting period, 10 Palestinians, including one woman and three children, were killed by Israeli security forces, and four Israeli civilians and one Israeli security personnel were killed by Palestinians.

On 11 May, Ms. Abu Akleh was shot and killed while covering an Israeli security forces’ operation in Jenin in which Palestinian militants exchanged fire with them, he said. Another journalist was shot and injured in the same incident. Both were wearing press vests and helmets. Subsequent scenes of violence during Ms. Abu Akleh’s funeral procession, where Israeli police entered the hospital and subsequently beat pallbearers and other mourners with batons, were deeply distressing and offensive, and were widely condemned. Settler-related violence continued during the reporting period. On 7 May, in five separate incidents, Israeli settlers, accompanied by the Israeli security forces, entered four Palestinian towns resulting in 100 Palestinians injured. He stressed that security forces must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal force only when strictly unavoidable in order to protect life.

On 12 May, for the first time in some seven months, Israeli authorities advanced plans for over 4,000 housing units in settlements in Area C of the occupied West Bank. Despite a notable reduction during Ramadan, Israeli authorities demolished, seized or forced owners to demolish 40 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and 12 in occupied East Jerusalem, as well as two structures in Area A, displacing 98 Palestinians, including 50 children. The demolitions were carried out citing the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. On 4 May, the Israeli High Court of Justice decided to allow implementation of eviction orders issued to 1,200 Palestinian residents, including 500 children, in Masafer Yatta, in the southern West Bank, he noted, calling on Israeli authorities to end the displacement and eviction of Palestinians in line with Israel’s obligations under international humanitarian law and to approve plans that would enable Palestinians to build legally and address their development needs.

Turning to Gaza, he said that the United Nations continues to deliver vital humanitarian and development assistance, as well as to make efforts towards further easing restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of the Strip. Plans are in place to support revitalization of Gaza’s fishery sector, including facilitating entry of dual-use items under the Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism. Success of this initiative should pave the way for a further easing of restrictions, including in the agriculture, industrial and health sectors.

As Jerusalem Day approaches on 29 May, with the planned provocative flag march through the Muslim quarter in the Old City, he urged authorities to take wise decisions to minimize confrontations and the risk of more violence. The status quo at Jerusalem’s holy sites must be upheld and respected. More broadly, the current dynamics, particularly in the occupied West Bank, could spiral out of control at any time. “We must push beyond the paradigm of managing the conflict and move towards resolving it,” he said, urging action that will lead back to the path of negotiations, which will end the occupation and establish two States, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.

Turning to the Golan, the ceasefire between Israel and Syria continues to be generally maintained in a volatile environment, with continued violations of the 1974 Disengagement of Forces Agreement by the parties. This includes the 11 May firing by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) across the ceasefire line and the continued presence of Syrian Arab Armed Forces in the area of separation. The parties must respect their obligations under the Agreement and prevent an escalation of the situation. In Lebanon, parliamentary elections were held on 15 May. Local and international observers expressed some concern over incidents of vote-buying and electoral violence. The United Nations looks forward to the swift formation of a new Government to implement Lebanon’s urgent recovery and reform agenda.

DANIEL MUNAYER, Executive Director, Musalaha, explaining that he comes from a Palestinian Christian family that can trace its history over 800 years through the Eastern Orthodox Church, said his organization conducts reconciliation workshops between Israelis and Palestinians, Christians and Muslims. Participants are brought to the desert for five days, taking part in workshops to address themes of conflict, identity, obstacles to reconciliation, history and narrative. They then return home to engage their communities and address the core issues of the conflict. They are asked to resist the injustices that persist.

He clarified, however, that Israelis and Palestinians return to very different political realities. Palestinians return to military occupation. Many are still living in refugee camps. In contrast, Israelis return to places like Tel Aviv, where the conflict is “almost not felt”.

Describing the obstacles to reconciliation, he turned first to civic space, stressing that the ability to meet and engage together is shrinking. Civil society within Ramallah, Bethlehem and Jerusalem are cut off from one another. Also hindering reconciliation is the imbalance of power. In response to students at Tel Aviv University protesting with Palestinian flags, a Knesset member stood in front of Parliament and said: “Do not forget what happened in 1948.”

He said that freedom of religion and belief can be used to build bridges. Yet, Israel is trying to turn this into a religious conflict. Worshippers were attacked at the Aqsa Mosque compound, damaging the holy site. Palestinian Christians were denied access to the Church of Resurrection. Church land was confiscated and church ceremonies were attacked, including those for Ms. Abu Akleh.

Reconciliation means upholding human rights, working towards equality and ending the occupation. “We need international pressure and intervention and accountability to protect the residents of Jerusalem who are returning to their homes and facing threats of demolitions,” along with settler and police violence. Stressing that 90 per cent of Silwan has been zoned for the Gardens of Solomon, leaving only 10 per cent of homes to be saved from demolition, he called for a non-violent solution through engagement, gender equality and the participation of women, advocating for a just solution from the bottom up. He urged the Council to “play your role” and apply the pressure from the top to the bottom.

ROBI DAMELIN, Spokesperson for Parents Circle, stressing that she thinks of herself as a victor and not a victim, said that she was “here to talk to your hearts”. Sixty-eight children died in Gaza — do you know the names of those children, she asked Council members. When the army came to tell her that her son had been killed by a Palestinian sniper, she recalled, she told them “you may not kill anybody in the name of my child”. Noting that her organization is a group of 600 families who have lost an immediate family member to the conflict, she said that, while the peace agreement signed on the lawn of the White House looked charming, it did not involve people on the ground.

Recalling the weekend she spent in East Jerusalem with bereaved Palestinian mothers, she said that the tears that fell on the graves of both Israelis and Palestinians were of the same colour. Underscoring the powerful message of reconciliation from those who had lost loved ones on both sides, she said: “It’s all very well being pro-Palestinian or pro-Israel, but what does that mean, if you cannot be part of the solution?” Inviting delegates to visit the schools where her group meets with young people, she noted that, in an average Israeli school, many of the 17-year-olds have never met a Palestinian but have travelled abroad. Outlining other programmes supported by her group, she recalled how an active Palestinian women’s group began a wedding‑planning business, and said: “Can you imagine how joyful that is in these dark times?” Instead of sitting around this table, she said, Council members must visit those organizations that are doing work on the ground and feel the hope.

Statements

LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), Council President for May, speaking in her national capacity, said any and all violence must be called out, including a string of terrorist attacks against Israelis. She also condemned the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, who was a role model for many aspiring female journalists, calling for an immediate, transparent and impartial investigation, and full accountability. Journalists are essential to creating a tolerant society and must be able to do their job without fear. Her killing is a tragedy and an affront to journalism everywhere. The United States shared its concern with Israel about the troubling video footage of Israeli police intruding into the procession at Ms. Abu Akleh’s funeral. These incidents added to increasing tension during the conversion of Ramadan, Passover and Easter in April, she warned, citing multiple terrorist attacks against Israelis and rockets firings from Gaza and Lebanon. She urged both sides to work collaboratively and honour the journalist by redoubling efforts to promote peace. They must refrain from unilateral actions that jeopardize a negotiated two-State solution. Such actions include the eviction of Palestinians. When the law is violated, perpetrators, whether Israelis or Palestinians, must be held to account. The Russian Federation’s war in Ukraine is impacting global food security, including the Middle East and Africa. The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) is more critical than ever, she said, inviting others to join her country in efforts to improve its effectiveness and financial sustainability.

ZHANG JUN (China) stressed that recent developments raise a red flag, calling for a well-tailored solution. Citing tensions at the holy sites, he urged all parties to respect the role of Jordan as the custodian of the sites. He also expressed concern about the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, calling for an investigation. He said he was equally concerned about the killing of a 16-year-old in the West Bank by Israeli security forces, urging them to refrain from using excessive force and uphold the principle of proportionality. Israelis and Palestinians both have a stake in each other’s security, he stressed. He also called on Israel to stop new settlement plans, as required by Council resolutions. Rather than crisis management, the parties must move towards a two-State solution. Relevant parties with influence must uphold impartibility and objectivity.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said the international community is ignoring the systematic violation of Palestinian rights, as the double standards of Western countries contravene international law. He voiced regret that Western colleagues attempt to divert international attention from Israel’s sabotage of the Israeli-Palestinian settlement. Pointing to the story that global food prices are the fault of the Russian Federation, he called instead for the cancelling of sanctions that have impeded food deliveries. The primary aim is to re-establish the possibility of restarting the peace process, he said, whose central element is the two-State solution. Emphasizing that the settlement of the conflict will only be achieved by relaunching direct negotiations between the parties, he underscored the importance of creating inter-Palestinian unity. In that context, he welcomed Egypt’s efforts to create dialogue, and similar attempts by Algiers to host talks between Fatah and Hamas. Moscow’s offer to hold Israeli-Palestinian negotiations also still stands, he said, underscoring the importance of coordinating all such efforts, a point that underpins the Russian Federation’s offer to hold a ministerial meeting of the Middle East Quartet and the League of Arab States. The attempt by the United States to impose economic peace on Palestinians is counterproductive, as is its attempt to deal with the Quartet in the manner it so wishes.

Calling on donors to support UNRWA, he described the decision not to invite the Russian Federation to the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee as “puzzling”, as his country has been involved in building the foundation for the two-State solution since the Committee’s 1993 founding. Attempts to exclude the Russian Federation from resolving the crisis will be counterproductive, he said, noting that Moscow will continue to anchor mutually beneficial relationships with countries in the region.

GERALDINE BYRNE NASON (Ireland), stressing that there is no justification for terrorism, condemned all loss of life in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and called on Israel to address its disproportionate security responses, as seen in Jerusalem and elsewhere. She deplored the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh and the excessive use of force at her funeral, calling for an investigation. She similarly condemned the decision by Israel’s High Planning Council to advance plans for 4,000 units in the West Bank and called for a reversal of it, as settlements violate international law and undermine the two-State solution. This latest decision, and demolitions and evictions in East Jerusalem and Area C, threaten the viability of a Palestinian State. She voiced deep concern over events in Masafer Yatta, which could amount to the forceable transfer of 12,000 Palestinians. She urged Israel to cease its demolitions and evictions, including of donor-funded structures. Stressing that the Palestinian Authority must be supported in its reform efforts, she encouraged Israel to ensure that essential infrastructure projects can resume in Gaza and to lift the blockade on that area. More broadly, she urged the international community to match its political commitment to Palestinian refugees with the funding required for UNRWA to carry out its work. To foster the resumption of an inclusive political process, she called for confidence-building measures, adding that Israel has a particular responsibility to refrain from the excessive use of administrative detention practices.

MONA JUUL (Norway) expressed deep concerned about the rising tensions in the Middle East, particularly in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. Condemning all acts of terrorism, and the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, she voiced her country’s support for a thorough, transparent and impartial investigation on that incident. Reiterating the call on Israeli authorities to halt all settlement expansions, evictions and demolitions, she particularly urged those authorities to revoke the plans to demolish several villages in the Masafer Yatta area, which will forcibly evict about 1,300 Palestinians. Noting positive achievements since the meeting of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee in Oslo in November 2021, she expressed concern about the announcements by the Palestinian Authority of unrealistic wage increases. The much-needed reforms aimed at balancing the budget cannot wait further, she said, calling on the two parties to further intensify their cooperation to stabilize the Palestinian economy and facilitate economic growth.

MICHAEL KAPKIAI KIBOINO (Kenya), noting the upcoming Jerusalem Day events on 28 and 29 May, urged all parties to exercise restraint in both action and rhetoric before, during and after. Stressing that the status quo of Jerusalem must be maintained, he joined in the call for an immediate and impartial investigation into the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh. It is vital not to lose sight of the contextual issues in which such tragic events continue to occur, he said, calling for constructive efforts at the official and grass‑roots levels to create a conducive environment for a negotiated peaceful settlement. Also condemning the continuing attacks by Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad and affiliated militias, he stressed the importance of high-level engagement by the Secretary-General and the Office of the Special Coordinator with the top officials of the Israeli Government, Palestinian Authority and neighbouring key States, including Jordan and Egypt. Expressing concern about the decision by Israeli authorities to advance plans for over 4,000 housing units in the West Bank, he called for cessation of Israeli settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory including East Jerusalem.

JAMES KARIUKI (United Kingdom), pointing to the appalling terror attack on Israeli citizens in Elad as they celebrated their Independence Day, condemned the recent attacks against Israelis in the strongest terms possible. He also condemned the tragic killing of Ms. Abu Akleh in the West Bank city of Jenin, and the disproportionate use of force by Israeli police at her funeral. Expressing concern about the advancement of over 4,000 settlement units in the West Bank, and the increased risk of eviction of over 1,000 Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, he called on Israel’s Government to halt all settlement expansion and evictions in the occupied Palestinian territories. Urging both parties to return to dialogue, he stressed that momentum on economic issues must be in tandem with political commitment to make progress towards peace.

FERIT HOXHA (Albania), welcoming the increase in the number of work permits that will improve Palestinian livelihoods and help build trust, said such measures should become sustained and irreversible. Expressing concern about recent tensions, he condemned the murder of Israeli citizens in terrorist attacks. Israel has the right to defend itself against terror, he said, urging the Palestinian Authority to denounce unacceptable rhetoric. Also expressing shock about the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, he called for a thorough investigation into that incident. While she was not the first journalist to be killed, may she be the last, he said, stressing the importance of protecting journalists in their noble mission of informing the public. Calling on all parties to refrain from any acts that adversely impact the two-State solution, he expressed concern about Israel’s plans to build new settlements and the court decision evicting Palestinians from their homes.

AMARNATH ASOKAN (India) noted that violent attacks and the killing of civilians have continued in Palestine and Israel. Strongly condemning such acts, which have resulted in an increasingly high number of casualties, including women and children, he urged all sides to take immediate steps to ensure the complete cessation of violence. Turning to the increased risk of eviction of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, he appealed for the status quo to be maintained in the interest of peace and stability. Also expressing concern about the continued precarious financial situation of UNRWA, he noted that his country has already contributed $20 million over the last four years and has also pledged $5 million for its 2022 programme budget. An early return to the peace process by launching credible direct negotiations, while addressing the security and economic challenges, is an immediate necessity, he said.

SHERAZ GASRI (France) condemned the recent terrorist attacks against Israel, expressing uncompromising support for that country’s security. She also expressed concern about the continued deterioration of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territories. The recent developments on the ground undermine the prospect of a two-State solution, which remains the only formula that can bring about a just and lasting peace. Together with European partners, France has expressed deep concern about the decision of the Israeli authorities to advance the construction of more than 4,000 housing units in many West Bank settlements, urging Israel to reconsider the decision. There is an urgent need to recreate a political horizon for the relaunch of negotiations on the basis of agreed parameters, Council resolutions and international law.

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) stressed that all parties have a responsibility to exercise restraint, reduce tensions and refrain from any steps that may inflame the situation on the ground. The Council must take urgent and proactive measures to help maintain calm and prevent another cycle of conflict. It is necessary to intensify contacts and diplomatic endeavours with and between the Palestinian and Israeli sides to discuss ways of restoring calm and building confidence between them. Local and regional coordination should be strengthened to maintain the historic and legal status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem, he said, underscoring the important role of Jordan as the custodian of the Islamic and Christian holy sites. While seeking to rectify the current situation, attention should not be distracted from the political process. In this context, it is possible to reactivate several international initiatives that have sought to catalyse dialogue between the two parties during the past few years.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon) described the death of Ms. Abu Akleh as a tragedy, amplified by the unspeakable violence that occurred during her funeral procession. He condemned these events and called for an independent inquiry to establish who was responsible. “This crime cannot remain unpunished,” he insisted. The calls by today’s briefers “challenge our humanity” — and the Council itself to “get out of limited thinking” and to act with a sense of hope. Suffering has become the daily bread of Palestinians and Israelis alike. “The human being in us should not remain indifferent,” he said. Flagrant breaches of Council resolutions do not foster peace. Settlement‑expansion and home demolitions only increase insecurity in the occupied Palestinian territories, he said, noting that 1,200 people — 580 of them, children — are now threatened with forced expulsion. He called on parties to invest in confidence-building measures, and more broadly, advocated for strengthened regional and multilateral cooperation to resolve the conflict. In that context, he welcomed the visit by Turkey’s Foreign Minister and called on the Middle East Quartet to bring Israeli and Palestinian leaders together in an inclusive dialogue. The creation of a Palestinian State is a sine qua non for achieving peace, he said, underscoring Gabon’s commitment to the two‑State solution and calling for resumed negotiations based on respect for international law.

ENRIQUE JAVIER OCHOA MARTÍNEZ (Mexico), citing the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, condemned attacks against civilians, including journalists, and underscored the imperative of respecting press freedom. He demanded an immediate, exhaustive and independent investigation into this act, and deplored the violence that unfolded during her funeral. He also denounced recent attacks in Elad, where three people lost their lives, and urged Israeli and Palestinian religious, political and social leaders to abstain from inflammatory rhetoric and incitement. Israel’s announcement it would build 4,000 new housing units hampers free movement, deprives Palestinians of their resources and territory, and violates international law. He called for an end to settlement‑expansion, expressing extreme concern over the recent court decision on the legality of Palestinians in Masafer Yatta, which violates the rights of those residents. It is crucial to lift the Gaza blockade. The Palestinian Authority must implement its reforms, allowing it to reduce its fiscal deficit. Mexico favours a two-State solution to meet Israel’s legitimate security concerns and the aspirations for a sovereign Palestinian State, living in peace alongside Israel within secure, internationally recognized borders.

KHALILAH HACKMAN (Ghana) called on the Council, working in concert with regional actors, to play an enhanced role in stemming the rising violence and facilitate a renewed and constructive dialogue. Expressing concern regarding the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh and the disruption of her funeral procession, she underscored that the killing of journalists in conflict situations constitute a fundamental breach of the rules of international humanitarian law. Also noting the continuing confrontations and violent clashes at Jerusalem’s holy sites, she stressed the need for the legal and historical status quo to be upheld. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has detailed the Palestinian economy as having a dire outlook and requiring “transformational” reform, she recalled, welcoming the efforts of donors, as well as the increased number of work permits for Palestinians.

JOÃO GENÉSIO DE ALMEIDA FILHO (Brazil), expressing concern about the situation of recurrent violence, including in and around holy sites in Jerusalem, and about the attacks perpetrated against Israeli civilians, reiterated the importance of refraining from incitement and inflammatory rhetoric. The safety and security of religious sites should be preserved at all costs, he said, expressing concern about attempts to challenge the historic and legal status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem. Calling for full, transparent and independent investigations on the death of Ms. Abu Akleh, he stressed that the work of journalists is indispensable for preserving the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Turning to the spiking food prices, he noted that the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNRWA will not be able to maintain their regular humanitarian assistance to Palestinian refugees without additional funding, stressing his country’s support for the funding raising efforts for the agency.

RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, asked Council members to imagine they are the parents of Gaith Yameen, a 16-years-old boy who had already written at this young age what should be done if he were to die. Imagine how they would feel once his premonition became reality after occupation forces shot him in the back of his head. His testament: “If I were to die, do not put me in the freezer, I never liked the cold. Find a place to bury me alongside other kids, I do not like to be alone. Come visit me and talk to me, I will be listening. And do not cry, I do not want for anybody to be sad or cry because of me.” Palestinian children are being killed, arrested, displaced and harassed every day. Protect them from a war waged against one Palestinian generation after another. Speaking of colonial settlements, Palestinian families wake up and see settlements being built on their land. Palestinian families, one after the other, are being uprooted from their ancestral home.

Ms. Abu Akleh was an exceptional being, but her killing is unfortunately not an exception, he said. She kept telling the stories of her people hoping that by making them known, somehow she would help alter the course of history. She was killed because she never abandoned this belief, even though, regardless how many times she told that story, it kept happening again and again, one child at a time, one home at a time, one acre of land at a time. Ms. Abu Akleh’s killing is the story. The same story she was telling. “We are not being killed by mistake, but as part of a grand design, aiming to make sure we all understand no one is safe, so that we all live with fear in our hearts and surrender,” he said. This Council spoke in a strong and united manner after the killing of Ms. Abu Akleh, condemning the killing and calling for accountability and protection of journalists. It took a small step in the right direction. Let’s take the next one, and the next. “Let us force Israel to correct course,” he said, warning that in a matter of weeks, Israel announced 4,000 new settlement units, forcible displacement in Masafer Yatta, killed dozens of Palestinians, many of them children, and announced an Israeli flags march in occupied East Jerusalem. Israel’s choice is clear — aggression, annexation and apartheid.

NOA FURMAN (Israel) said her country’s recent Independence Day celebrations were cut short after Israelis were murdered by Palestinians wielding axes and knives. In 2022, nearly 800 terror attacks have been committed by Palestinians against Israelis. As for what drives a 19-year-old terrorist to take up an axe and hack another human being to death, she blamed inciteful, hateful words. A week earlier, the leader of Hamas in Gaza had said: “Whoever does not have a gun should prepare his cleaver, axe or knife to murder Jews.” Incitement directly correlates with acts of terror perpetrated against Israelis. A Hamas cell was recently arrested in Jerusalem before a plot was carried out to murder a member of Israel’s Parliament. The same incitement is spread by the Ayatollah of Iran and Hizbullah, while Palestinian Authority leaders embrace terrorists and pay life‑long salaries to their families.

Incitement is also often spread by members of the Council, she said. When dozens of Palestinian extremists co-opted Ramadan as a pretext to incite violence, endangering peaceful worshipers in Jerusalem, Israel’s police acted with exemplary restraint: they restored law and order. Yet, the Palestinian Authority used these events to inflame incitement, blaming Israel for the violence. It is time to stop immediately adopting the narrative of terrorists before the facts are clear. Stressing that Israel is fully committed to the freedom of worship and to the status quo of the Temple Mount, she said: “Nothing will change that.” She pointed to the tragic death of Ms. Abu Akleh as an example of placing the blame on Israel before an investigation has been conducted. She said Ms. Abu Akleh lost her life while covering a counter-terrorism operation in Jenin, during which Palestinian gunmen fired indiscriminately at Israeli forces. Following her death, Israel called for joint impartial Israel-Palestinian investigation to undercover the facts and promote accountability. The Palestinian Authority rejected all such offers. While Israel is conducting a thorough investigation, what is needed is a joint inquiry and she called on the Palestinian Authority to cooperate “to get to the truth”. It is time for the Council to take a strong stance against Palestinian incitement and to help Israel bring the bodies of its soldiers home.

For information media. Not an official record.