While briefing the Security Council on developments in the aftermath of 11 days of brutal fighting in May, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Lynn Hastings, drummed the need for a political solution to the Council.
Speaking from Jerusalem, she said “urgent efforts to improve the situation in Gaza must move forward swiftly, but let us not lose sight of the broader goal: resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ending the occupation and realising a two-state solution on the basis of UN resolutions, international law and bilateral agreements.”
Ms. Hastings told ambassadors that the damage from the escalation is estimated at between $290 million to $380 million, according to an assessment by the World Bank and the European Union. Economic losses are projected at nearly $200 million.
Gaza’s social sector was hit hard, weakening the safety net for the most vulnerable residents, while the immediate and short-term recovery and reconstruction could cost up to $485 million.
“International efforts – coordinated by the United Nations – to implement the humanitarian response and stabilize the situation on the ground in Gaza are well underway”, said Ms. Hastings, who is also the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in the Middle East.
“Thus far, some $45 million of a requested $95 million has been raised for the consolidated humanitarian flash appeal published by the UN in May.”
Ms. Hasting underscored the readiness of the UN and partners to implement recovery and reconstruction initiatives, in coordination with the Israeli and Palestinian authorities, Egypt, Qatar and other regional and international entities.
She reported that fuel deliveries for the Gaza Power Plant resumed on 28 June through the Kerem Shalom crossing, and additional restrictions on the import and export of certain items have been lifted.
Israel also expanded the Gaza fishing zone up to 12 nautical miles, but reduced it by half this week following the launch of incendiary balloons into its territory.
“In this context, further steps are needed”, the UN official said. “It is essential that Israel implement additional measures to allow unhindered entry of all humanitarian assistance, including materials to implement the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan and the Flash Appeal”.
Without regular and predictable entry of goods into Gaza, response would be at risk, she said, and livelihoods, as well as the wider economy, would be affected. Improved movement and access is also critical for any durable stability.
Ms. Hastings advised that while considering its legitimate security concerns, Israel should ease restrictions on the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, with the goal of ultimately lifting them.
Meanwhile, Hamas and other groups should cease launching incendiary devices, mortars and rockets, and end the militant build-up.
“Looking ahead, and with additional donor support, existing UN humanitarian cash assistance or other programmes could quickly be scaled up to reach tens or hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in Gaza”, she said.
“While urgent humanitarian interventions can provide crucial relief in the short-term, any sustainable future in Gaza requires political solutions. I again reiterate the need for the return of a legitimate Palestinian government to the Strip.”
UNRWA cash crunch
Turning to related matters, Ms. Hastings highlighted the financial situation at the UN agency that assists the Palestinian people, UNRWA, which is facing a $100 million shortfall.
The cash flow crisis could affect the re-opening of school for half a million children in Gaza, and undermine humanitarian and early recovery programmes there.
“I appeal once again to all donors, including those from the Arab region, to sustain the funding levels of past years and advance disbursements of funds as much as possible to avoid a disruption of essential services and humanitarian aid”, she said.