Situation in Gaza remains fragile as violent incidents continue: UN envoy

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov said Tuesday that despite the relative calm over the past two months, the situation in Gaza remains very fragile as violent incidents continue.

Speaking at a Security Council meeting on the Middle East, Mladenov warned Israel to calibrate its use of force, and use lethal force only as a last resort, and only in response to imminent threats of death or serious injury.

On several occasions recently, some 15 Palestinian militants from Gaza breached or attempted to breach the perimeter fence, triggering retaliatory fire or airstrikes by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) killing nine militants, he said.

Mladenov said that the weekly protests at the perimeter fence continued, adding that some individuals engaged in violent activities.

According to the UN envoy, the IDF responded mostly with riot dispersal means, however live ammunition was also used. One Palestinian was killed and 545 were injured, including over 150 children.

Israel has been imposing a crippling blockade on the Gaza Strip since Hamas took over the enclave in 2007.

Hamas has intensified its campaign against the blockade with weekly rallies near the fence between Gaza and Israel. Over 200 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces since the rallies began in March 2018, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry.

“Hamas must prevent the indiscriminate launching of rockets and mortars towards Israel,” Mladenov added. “It must ensure that protests at the fence remain peaceful and prevent provocations.”

Mladenov said that some 11 rockets and mortars were launched from Gaza toward Israel recently and most were intercepted. In response Israel decided Monday to temporarily reduce the fuel transfer to Gaza by half.

This decision has already resulted in a reduction of energy supply to the Strip, he added.

The past month also saw serious movement and access constraints continue on national staff from UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations (INGOs) in Gaza by Israel, Mladenov said. “These restrictions affect nearly all our national staff who are unable to leave Gaza for practically any purpose.”

Israel must significantly improve the movement and access of goods and people to and from Gaza as a step toward the lifting of the closures, in line with Security Council resolution, he added.

The UN envoy called for “tangible steps” to reverse the negative trajectory of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict urgently.

The conflict “can only be resolved by leadership that is willing and capable of returning to the table for meaningful negotiations towards a sustainable and just peace,” he said.