Security Council to meet for 2nd time in 3 days on Israel-Palestinian violence

NEW YORK — The UN Security Council will hold an emergency closed consultation on Wednesday — the second such session in three days — to discuss the ongoing escalation of violence in Israel and Gaza.

Such meetings are not uncommon to discuss regional conflicts, but holding two in three days is rare. Closed consultations require the agreement of all 15 member states in order to convene. It was an indication of growing international concern about the conflict and where it might lead.

The UN’s most powerful body has not yet taken any action on the matter.

As he did on Monday, the UN’s Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland was expected to brief member states on the latest developments in Israel and Gaza during Wednesday’s session, which was requested by the Chinese, Norwegian and Tunisian missions, a Security Council diplomat told The Times of Israel.

The diplomat said that Norway will once again be seeking to gain the approval of all members in order to issue a joint statement regarding the ongoing violence.

Hesitation from the US mission prevented the release of a joint statement by the Security Council’s members on the ongoing escalations in Jerusalem after Monday’s emergency consultation, a diplomat involved said at the time.

Illustrative: The Security Council meets virtually on January 26, 2020 to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. (Screen capture/United Nations)

During that meeting, the Norwegian mission introduced a draft urging Israel to prevent the looming evictions of Palestinian families in the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Sheikh Jarrah, and calling for “restraint” and respect for “the historic status quo at the holy sites,” diplomats involved in the meeting confirmed. The original statement also urged both sides to act in order to deescalate the situation, they said.

The Norwegian statement underwent a number of amendments per requests from the US and UK, whose representative made sure it included a condemnation of the firing of incendiary devices and rockets from Gaza, a  diplomat said.

The proposed statement called on Israel “to cease settlement activities, demolitions and evictions, including in east Jerusalem in line with its obligations under international humanitarian law” and refrain from unilateral steps “that exacerbate tensions and undermine the viability of the two-state solution.”

The statement also reiterated the council’s support for a negotiated solution to the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict where “two states, Israel and an independent, democratic, contiguous and sovereign Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.”

Fourteen of the 15 Security Council members backed the updated draft of the statement, but it failed to move forward after the US mission asked for more time to deliberate the matter, adding that such a step might not be useful at this time, two diplomats present said.

In response to a query on the matter, a spokesperson for the US mission said, “The United States is engaging constructively to ensure any action by the Security Council is helpful in deescalating tensions.”

Ireland’s UN Ambassador Geraldine Byrne Nason, who joined in calling for the emergency meeting, said during the session that “the Security Council should urgently speak out, and we hope that it will be able to do so today.”

One security council diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed bewilderment over the US stalling of the statement, claiming it was nearly identical to the one issued by the State Department on Sunday.

In response to the rocket attacks from Gaza, the IDF launched Operation Guardian of the Walls on Monday night, some three hours after the attack on Jerusalem, striking Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad targets in the Strip, as well as members of the terror group.

According to Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry, 32 Gazans have been killed in the fighting, including nine minors, and 220 wounded in the ongoing escalation with Israel. Fifteen Gazans sustained serious injuries, according to Hamas health ministry spokesperson Ashraf al-Qidra. Israel said more than half were Hamas fighters and that some of those killed, including at least three of the children, were struck by errant rockets fired by Palestinian terrorists, not Israeli strikes.

Palestinian terror groups have tied the attacks to the unrest in Jerusalem connected to both prayers on the Temple Mount during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan and the pending evictions in Sheikh Jarrah.

Israel has fought three large operations against Hamas and other terror groups in the Gaza Strip since 2008, most recently in 2014 with a 51-day war known as Operation Protective Edge.

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