UNITED NATIONS, (Xinhua) — UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Nickolay Mladenov on Tuesday condemned the latest round of violence in Gaza.
Briefing the Security Council, Mladenov said that Monday was “a day of tragedy” for the people in Gaza, referring to the bloody clashes near the border fence with Israel.
“There are no other words with which to describe what actually happened. There is no justification for the killing. There is no excuse. It serves no one. It certainly does not serve the cause of peace,” said Mladenov via video teleconference from Jerusalem.
“I call on all to join me in condemning in the strongest possible terms the actions that have led to the loss of many lives in Gaza,” he said.
At least 60 Palestinians, including six children, were reportedly killed and more than 1,300 others were reportedly injured by live ammunition and rubber bullets, he said. One Israeli soldier was wounded.
The death toll makes Monday the bloodiest day in Gaza since the conflict of 2014, he said.
Israel has a responsibility to calibrate its use of force, to not use lethal forces, except as a last resort under imminent threat of death or serious injury, he said.
It must protect its borders, but it must do so proportionally and investigate every incident that has led to a loss of human life, he added.
At the same time, Hamas, which has controlled Gaza for more than a decade, must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the border fence and create provocations, he said, adding that Hamas operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians.
On Monday, an estimated 35,000 people participated in demonstrations in Gaza and hundreds of people in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus, and East Jerusalem, as part of the “Great March of Return” as well as in protest of the relocation of the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, he said.
While no fatalities were reported in the West Bank, where limited clashes took place between demonstrators and Israeli security forces at several checkpoints, the situation in Gaza deteriorated throughout the day, particularly along the perimeter fence, said Mladenov.
Tens of thousands of people in Gaza have been protesting for over six weeks. Since the beginning of protests on March 30, more than 100 people have been killed, including 13 children.
“These people want their voices heard,” Mladenov said, adding that “their anger, if not channelled in a constructive manner, will lead to more destruction and suffering.”
The United Nations is working with Israel and the Palestinian National Authority to bring in life-saving assistance despite the destruction and extensive damage to the crossing, he said.
The cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end, said Mladenov.
“The international community must step in and prevent war, we need to move forward quickly and effectively on all projects that we have discussed for months and months to solve the energy, water and health crisis of the population,” he said.
“We must collectively call on all to refrain from unilateral measures that only steer us away from a peace process and instead work to end the occupation and advance the goal of a just and sustainable peace, culminating ultimately in two states, Israel and Palestine, … living side by side in peace, security and prosperity,” said Mladenov.