UN’s Serry: “Gaza urgently needs houses, hospitals and schools – not rockets”

NEW YORK (CIHAN)- Just hours before the expiration of the current temporary ceasefire, the special coordinator for the Middle East Robert Serry emphasized that the efforts underway of the Israeli-Palestinian talks under Egyptian auspices was crucial to break the deadlock of violence and retaliation.

Briefing members of the Security Council on Monday (18 Aug), Serry urged the parties to reach an understanding on a durable ceasefire which also addresses the underlying issues afflicting Gaza.

The Special Coordinator told the Council that the destruction from the latest escalation was so severe that large-scale reconstruction, with the involvement at scale of the Palestinian Authority and the private sector, was needed.

He said “the basic equation must consist of ending the blockade on Gaza and addressing Israel’s legitimate security concerns. This has become even more urgent given the unprecedented amount of destruction wrought on the Strip during this latest escalation and the corresponding unprecedented level of humanitarian needs.”

Serry explained that the United Nations had a mechanism to monitor the exclusively civilian use of construction materials entering Gaza for UN projects, and was ready to explore how to expand this proven system.

The United Nations supported today’s announcement by Norway and Egypt to co-host a donor’s conference once a durable ceasefire was in place, as well as adequate access conditions to Gaza.

Recalling his recent meeting in Gaza with Palestinian Deputy Prime Minister Ziad Abu Amr, the Special Coordinator expressed his encouragement that the Government of National Consensus was resolved to spearhead the reconstruction agenda for Gaza, as part of assuming its rightful responsibilities and bringing Gaza back under one legitimate Palestinian Government that adhered to the PLO commitments.

Serry called on all in Gaza to rally behind the Government of National Consensus and empower it to take charge and effect the positive, transformative change that Gaza so badly needs.

He stressed “right now, Gaza urgently needs houses, hospitals and schools – not rockets, tunnels and conflict.”

This included the legitimate Palestinian Authority undertaking institutional restructuring, also of the security sector, and gradually redeploying restructured PA Security Forces. He underscored that the United Nations stood ready to support the Government of National Consensus in its tasks, together with other international and regional partners.

Serry reminded the Council that UN premises had repeatedly come under fire during the fighting, killing 38 Palestinians sheltering there. He also honored the memory of the 11 UNRWA workers killed in Gaza in the line of duty, noting that the Secretary-General had called for a thorough investigation into all incidents involving UN premises to ensure full accountability.

In closing, the Special Coordinator noted that several incidents in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that had resulted in numerous deaths and injuries were, together with the Gaza crisis, “a bleak warning to all concerned what the future will bring if we do not reverse the current negative trend towards a one-state reality, which is now on the parties’ doorstep.”

He called for an urgent return to peace negotiations and said “the conflict and the occupation that began in 1967 must be ended. The two-state solution is the only viable scenario in this regard, and we must urgently call on and support both parties to return to meaningful negotiations towards a final status agreement in which Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace and security.”

Speaking to the press outside the Security Council, the Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor said that he agree “for once” with Special Envoy of the United Nations about the need of more schools and hospitals in Gaza “than rockets and terror tunnels.”

Commenting on the media’s report about the disproportionate impact of the conflict on Gaza’s population, he said “I can tell you that the only thing disproportionate is the accusations being made against Israel. Have you wondered where the UN gets its casualties figures from? I tell you where: from Hamas.”

Also speaking to reporters outside the Security Council, the UN Special Envoy Robert Serry said “I’ve been quoting some numbers also in the Security Council briefing. They are based on OCHA, which is base itself in turn on statistics provided by the Palestinian Health authorities.”

Earlier today, Serry told the Security Council that a total of almost 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, of whom 459 are children and 239 are women. This total includes more than two thirds civilians. 64 Israeli soldiers, two Israeli civilians and one foreign national have reportedly been killed.