UN Envoy: Escalation Between Israel and Hamas in Gaza a Matter of Time

Nickolay Mladenov, the United Nations envoy for the peace process in the Middle East, slams Hamas decision to carry out 13 death sentences in Gaza.

Palestinian Hamas security forces deploy on the Palestinian side of the border with Egypt in Rafah, southern Gaza Strip, Thursday, April 21, 2016.
Khalil Hamra, AP

The United Nations envoy for the peace process in the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, warned the Security Council in New York that the situation in Gaza continues to be “desperate and highly volatile."

"Recent events clearly demonstrate that the specter of violence looms ominously over the territory. Unless radically more is done to address the chronic realities in Gaza, it is not a question of ‘if,’ but ‘when’ another escalation will take place,” he said on Wednesday.

Mladenov said that Palestinians in Gaza are “growing ever more desperate,” seeing their prospects for living a normal life and recovering their economy blocked by Hamas’s military build-up, Israel’s security measures and closures, the lack of Palestinian unity, and the insufficient fulfillment of aid pledges by donors.

“In a few days, several countries and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will come together in Paris to reaffirm their commitment to a negotiated two-state solution and to discuss how they can constructively support both parties in achieving this goal,” he said.

Indeed, this consensus is at the core of the work of the Middle East Quartet – the European Union, Russia, the United States and the UN – which continues to work with the parties and the region to bring about the necessary conditions for the resumption of meaningful negotiations and is finalizing its first report on the impediments to the two-state solution and the way forward, he said.

“The will to advance towards peace clearly exists. What remains glaringly absent is the political will and bold leadership to make genuine progress a reality,” said Mladenov.

In what Mladenov called a “most worrying recent development,” Hamas has announced its intention to carry a number of death sentences against Palestinians, and called on Hamas to avoid doing so. Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas also objects to the death sentences, said Mladenov.

“International law limits the application of the death penalty to the ‘most serious crimes’ and pursuant to a trial and appeals process that scrupulously follow fair trial standards. I have serious doubts as to whether capital trials in Gaza meet these standards,” he said.

On Thursday, the Palestinian legislative council in Gaza issued an exceptional statement saying it had approved the executions and they could now be carried out. Sources in Gaza said the decision was the result of heavy pressure on Hamas to reduce crime.

Some of the 13 were convicted of criminal activities and some of collaboration with Israel.

On Wednesday night a rocket was fired from Gaza and exploded in an open area inside Israel near the Gaza border. No one was injured and no damage was reported. In response, the Air Force attacked two targets considered part of the Hamas terrorist infrastructure in the southern Gaza Strip, said the IDF Spokesman’s Office: “The IDF sees the Hamas terrorist organization as solely responsible for what occurs in the Gaza Strip.”

Extreme Salafist Muslim groups took responsibility on Thursday for the rocket fire, saying it came in response to Hamas operations against the organizations – and was intended to “point the compass” at the Jews and prevent an internal explosion between the Salafists and Hamas.