UN Official: Gilo Expansion Threatens Middle East Peace

UN undersecretary general tells Security Council settlement freeze will enable progress in peace talks.

Israel's decision to expand the settlement at Gilo in East Jerusalem is an impasse to the Middle East peace process that must be overcome, a UN official told the Security Council on Tuesday.

Israel decided last week to add 900 housing units to Gilo settlement on the outskirts of East Jerusalem, a decision met with protests from the UN as well as world capitals.

In the past month, Israel has demolished 17 houses and displaced 99 Palestinians, half of them children, said UN undersecretary general Haile Menkerios for political affairs.

Menkerios said the Israeli government has switched to restraining expansion of the settlements while it is under pressure to freeze them to allow progress in the roadmap to settle its conflict with the Palestinians.

He said in a monthly report to the 15-nation council that tensions between Israel and the Palestinians continued in the past month with fresh security incidents. A total of 73 Palestinians were injured and 300 others arrested in clashes with the Israelis in the West Bank.

Clashes in East Jerusalem resulted in injuries to 24 Palestinians and nine Israeli security personnel. Israel also has closed Palestinian institutions in East Jerusalem, which is contrary to the roadmap for peace worked out by the UN, the European Union, the United States and Russia.

The roadmap called for a new Palestinian state living next to Israel in peace. Several political and security steps have to be fulfilled before such a state can be formed.

Israeli government officials reported to the UN that arms smuggling has continued into Gaza Strip and rockets with increased power have been fired into Israel from Gaza.

"We remain worried about the longer-term consequences of the blockade of the Gaza Strip, particularly in terms of deteriorating public infrastructure, environmental degradation, and the destruction of livelihoods," Menkerios said.

Israel's blockade of Gaza has drastically reduced the flow of imported humanitarian goods and daily essentials for Gazans, a situation that can worsen in winter, the UN said.