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Israeli settlement activities continued in defiance of UN resolution -- UN official
Last Updated: 2017-12-19 07:36 | Xinhua
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A Palestinian protester hurls stones atIsraeli soldiers during clashes after a protest against the expanding of Jewish settlements in Kufr Qadoom village near the West Bank city of Nablus, on Sept. 29, 2017. (Xinhua/Nidal Eshtayeh)

Israel continued settlement construction in the occupied Palestinian territory in 2017 in violation of a Security Council resolution passed almost a year ago, Nikolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, said on Monday.

Significantly more housing units were advanced and approved in 2017, Mladenov told the Security Council.

In Area C of the West Bank, the number of units advanced and approved more than doubled from 3,000 in 2016 to nearly 7,000 in 2017. In East Jerusalem, the increase has similarly been from 1,600 in 2016 to some 3,100 in 2017, he said.

The activities contravened Security Council Resolution 2334, which demands Israel "immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

No such steps have been taken during the reporting period from Sept. 20 to Dec.18, said Mladenov, updating the Security Council on the implementation of the resolution.

"Let me reiterate that the United Nations considers all settlement activities to be illegal under international law and a major obstacle to peace," he said.

2017 has also seen worrying legislative, judicial and administrative initiatives that aim to change the long-standing Israeli policy concerning the legal status of the West Bank and the use of private Palestinian land, he said.

"Settlement-related activities undermine the chances for the establishment of a viable, contiguous Palestinian state as part of a two-state solution," said Mladenov.

He observed that continuing violence against civilians and incitement perpetuated mutual fear and suspicion.

Since the adoption of Resolution 2334 on Dec. 23, 2016, there has been a significant reduction in the number of violent attacks. In 2017, there were 109 shooting, stabbing, ramming, and bombing attacks conducted compared to 223 similar attacks in 2016. Regarding fatalities, 72 Palestinians and 15 Israelis were killed this year, compared to 109 and 13, respectively, in 2016.

Since Dec. 6, in the wake of the decision of theUnited Statesto recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, however, the situation has become more tense with an increase in incidents, notably rockets fired from Gaza and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, said Mladenov.

During the reporting period, 28 rockets were fired from Gaza toward Israel, and 12 mortar rounds. In response, the Israeli Defense Forces continued to target a number of Hamas and Islamic Jihad military posts across the Gaza Strip in which two Palestinian militants and one civilian were killed, with at least 28 people injured, he said.

However, since Dec. 6, in the wake of the U.S. decision to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, the situation has become more tense with an increasing incidents, notably rockets fired from Gaza and clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, said Mladenov.

There has been a visible increase in rockets fired by Gaza militants. Of the 40 projectiles fired during the reporting period, 27 have been launched since Hamas called for an escalation. Four rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome system. At least eight more rockets landed in Israel.

"I call on the international community to join the United Nations in condemning terror attacks and such reckless action that impede any efforts to bridge the gaps between Israelis and Palestinians and empower extremists. Nothing justifies terror -- no cause, no grievance."

The terror threat from Gaza of indiscriminate rocket attacks and tunnel construction continued, and the recent escalation by militants in Gaza is reckless and dangerous, he said. "I urge all Palestinian factions to commit to rejecting violence, inflammatory rhetoric and provocative actions that undermine the cause of peace."

Israel must also uphold its responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law and calibrate its use of force, said Mladenov.

He also expressed concern about inflammatory rhetoric and provocations.

During the reporting period, while on a visit toIran, Hamas leaders continued to make "deplorable" calls for the destruction of the State of Israel. The level of provocative rhetoric has heightened since Dec. 6, including with calls for escalation, violence and an intifada. On its official social media pages, Fatah continued to celebrate perpetrators of past attacks against Israelis, including a Sept. 26 attack in Har Adar in which two Israeli security guards and a border policeman were killed. Most recently, Hamas and other factions applauded the stabbing attack at the Jerusalem Bus Station, organizing rallies in Gaza and the West Bank and calling for escalation.

Israeli politicians have also made provocative statements during this period, including the rejection of a two-state solution, he said.

The UN special envoy was heartened by intra-Palestinian reconciliation.

Bringing the legitimate Palestinian National Authority back to Gaza is key to alleviating the humanitarian crisis, lifting the closures and enhancing the prospects for peace, said Mladenov. "I commendEgyptfor its tireless efforts in this respect. I encourage all sides to focus on addressing the devastating humanitarian situation, with an immediate focus on the electricity crisis, and to ensure that agreement is reached on mechanisms to implement the Oct. 12 intra-Palestinian agreement in full."

This past year has witnessed important progress in finalizing agreements between Israel and the Palestinian Authority with regard to water, energy, telecommunications and other areas aimed at improving the economic reality of Palestinians, observed Mladenov. "These efforts are critical to building trust, and obstacles to their realization must be removed."

However, he was pessimistic about the peace prospects. "I am particularly concerned as to the future of our collective efforts to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians."

The United Nations remains strongly committed to supporting all endeavors toward a negotiated two-state solution. The UN secretary-general has been clear that ending the occupation and realizing a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as the capital of Israel andPalestine, is the only way to achieve such a vision. Today, however, there is a growing risk that the parties may revert to more unilateral actions.

In the current environment, the continued absence of a credible proposal, which can become the basis of meaningful negotiations, is damaging the prospects for peace. The lack of significant steps on the ground that protect the viability of a two-state solution and support Palestinian statehood is undermining moderates and empowering radicals. The weakening of the international architecture in support of peace is increasing the risks to the region.

Resolving the conflict will remove a key driver of extremism and terrorism in the Middle East and provide hope to generations of Israelis and Palestinians, trapped in a vicious cycle of violence and conflict.

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