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UN Chief Suggests Options for Improved Palestinian Protection

The UN chief says if given a mandate by the Security Council, the UN could provide armed military or police forces to deter violence against Palestinians and, if necessary, ensure the safety of the civilian population
Antonio GuterresAntonio Guterres

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a new report that options to protect Palestinian civilians under Israeli occupation range from establishing an armed military or police force to deploying civilian observers or beefing up the UN presence on the ground.

The UN chief stressed in the report circulated on Friday evening that every option would require the cooperation of all sides, “a sustained cessation of hostilities and additional resources,” AP reported.

But the prospect of getting Israel’s consent, especially for a UN or non-UN armed force, remains highly unlikely.

Guterres was responding to a request in a Palestinian-backed resolution adopted by the General Assembly in June that blamed Israel for violence in Gaza and deplored its “excessive use of force.” It asked the secretary-general for proposals to protect Palestinian civilians and recommendations “regarding an international protection mechanism.”

In the 14-page report, the secretary-general said the combination of more than 50 years of Israeli military occupation, “constant security threats, weak political institutions and a deadlocked peace process, provides for a protection challenge that is highly complex politically, legally and practically.”

Guterres stressed that the solution to protecting Palestinian civilians is a political settlement to the decades-old conflict.

Until that is achieved, he called on the 193 nations in the General Assembly to explore “all practical and feasible measures that will significantly improve the protection of the Palestinian population.”

  Options

Guterres focused on options. He said additional UN human rights, political and coordination experts could strengthen UN prevention capabilities, increase the organization’s visibility and “demonstrate the international community’s attention and commitment” to protecting Palestinian civilians.

He said expanding current UN programs and humanitarian and development assistance could more effectively address Palestinian needs. But he said the UN appeal for about $540 million for basic services and support to 1.9 million vulnerable Palestinians is currently only 24.5% funded.

Guterres added that establishing a UN or non-UN civilian observer mission with a mandate to report on the protection of Palestinian civilians and their well-being “would particularly be relevant in sensitive areas such as checkpoints, the Gaza fence, and areas near settlements.” He said the observers could provide local mediation.

According to the UN chief if given a mandate by the Security Council, the UN could provide armed military or police forces “to deter and, if necessary, ensure the safety of the civilian population.” As an alternative, he said a group of “like-minded” countries operating under a UN mandate to provide physical protection rather than a UN mission.

In the report, Guterres sharply criticized Israel’s expansion of settlements saying the building “continues unabated and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law.”

He said the high number of Palestinian casualties, including children, since protests began at the Gaza fence on March 30 “reflects an alarming trend of the use of lethal force by Israeli security forces against individuals who may not pose a threat of imminent death or serious injury.”

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