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Israeli settlement expansion threatens peace, UNSC warns

The UN Security Council has unanimously denounced Israeli plans to greatly expand its construction of settlements in the occupied West Bank, which are considered illegal under international law.

The lengthy statement, read aloud in the council chambers, “expresses deep concern and dismay with Israel’s announcement on Feb. 12, 2023 announcing further construction and expansion of settlements and the legitimisation of settlement outposts.”

“The Security Council reiterates that continuing Israeli settlement activities are dangerously imperilling the viability of the two-state solution based on the 1967 lines,” said Vanessa Frazier, Malta’s UN envoy who is serving as the council’s president for the month of February.

“The Security Council strongly underscores the need for all parties to meet their international obligations and commitments, strongly opposes all unilateral measures that impede peace, including, inter alia, Israeli construction and expansion of settlements, confiscation of Palestinian lands, and the legitimate legalization of settlement outposts, demolition of Palestinians homes and displacement of Palestinian civilians,” she added.

The statement further condemned all acts of violence against civilians, including those that have targeted Palestinians and Israelis, and called “on all parties to observe calm and restraint and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric, with the aim, inter alia, of escalating the situation on the ground.”

Israel’s government on February 13 moved to advance 10,000 new settlement homes in the occupied West Bank, and moved to retroactively legalize nine settler outposts that were previously illegal under Israeli law. The announcement drew stern international backlash, including from Palestine, which had sought to hold a Security Council vote condemning the expansion.

Palestinian Authority reportedly agreed to suspend that effort over the weekend after the council agreed to issue the statement regarding Israel’s actions.

Israel set to legalise nine settlements in occupied West Bank

Surge in violence

Tor Wennesland, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ envoy for Israeli-Palestinian peace, told the council that the international community is “witnessing a surge in violence including some of the deadliest incidents” in the past two decades while unilateral actions “are moving the parties further apart, exacerbating tensions and driving conflict.”

“Immediate efforts are required to reduce tension. But restoring calm is not on its own a recipe for progress,” he said.

Wennesland said a “significant number” of Palestinians have been killed in Israeli raids in the occupied  West Bank, and other clashes during the past month, and documented attacks in which Israeli civilians have been killed.

“The current escalation of violence is deeply worrying. There can never be any excuse for acts of terrorism. The targeting of civilians must be clearly condemned and rejected by all. Celebration and glorification of such attacks is abhorrent, and must be unequivocally condemned,” he said.

Outside Israel and the occupied territories, the UN agency responsible for Palestine refugees raised alarm at the worsening conditions facing those who fled conflict or were forced from their homeland amid mounting crises.

“A growing number of Palestinian refugees in the region stand on the brink of despair. Multiple crises, conflicts, the never-ending occupation, the socio-economic ramifications of the Covid-19 pandemic, and rising global food and fuel prices caused by the conflict in Ukraine have pushed a growing number of Palestine refugees into poverty,” said Leni Stenseth, the deputy chief the UN’s Palestine refugee agency (UNRWA) said.

“This year has already witnessed a record high number of deaths among Palestinians, including Palestine refugees. Casualties among Israelis are also of grave concern. We can almost anticipate that coming weeks will likely bring more violence, deaths and life-changing injuries, including for bystanders and children in the West Bank,” she added.

READ MORE: Expanding illegal West Bank settlements is Netanyahu’s govt top priority

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