India on Thursday reaffirmed its support for the establishment of an independent and democratic Palestinian state. At a session of the United Nations Security Council, Ministry of External Affairs Secretary (West) Vikas Swarup also called for the resumption of peace talks between Israel and Palestine.
This came over a month after the escalation of tensions between the two sides. At least 232 people, including 67 children, were killed in Gaza till Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas entered into a ceasefire on May 21, after 11 days of violence.
Swarup raised concerns about the possible renewal of conflict between both the sides. “The launch of incendiary balloons from Gaza targeting civilians in Israel and the retaliatory strikes into Gaza threaten to restart the cycle of violence, which caused immense suffering and resulted in deaths recently,” he said. “We urge all parties to honour the ceasefire arrangement to ensure that the situation does not spiral out of control.”
Swarup added: “The situation in West Bank continues to remain volatile. We are concerned at the potential for renewed violence in East Jerusalem and other parts of West Bank over the legal process that could lead to possible evictions in Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in East Jerusalem.”
- India abstains from voting as UN Human Rights Council adopts resolution to investigate Gaza violence
- Will the ceasefire between Israel and Hamas change anything in the long term?
The official urged both Israel and Palestine to refrain from actions that could exacerbate the tensions. “Any attempt to unilaterally change the status-quo that undercut efforts to advance a negotiated two-state solution should also be avoided,” he added.
Swarup said the two sides must resume peace talks, adding that the continuation of an impasse will only worsen distrust and increase the likelihood of recurrence of violence.
He said the international community must keep its focus on providing humanitarian assistance to Palestinians. “We call for reinforced cooperation between the Israeli and Palestinian authorities in the area of humanitarian aid delivery, including food and medicine, and movement of patients in and out of Gaza,” he added. “We welcome the role played by the UN agencies in facilitating delivery of such aid, UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees] in particular.
Despite repeated statements about supporting Palestine, India had on May 27 abstained from voting on the UN’s human right’s body resolution proposing to set up a commission of inquiry to look into rights violations in Gaza.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki had criticised the move in a letter to India’s Foreign Minister S Jaishankar on May 30. “India missed an opportunity to join the international community at this turning point, both crucial and long overdue, on the path to accountability, justice and peace,” Maliki had said.
Long-standing tensions between the two sides escalated on May 10 after the Israeli police stormed into the Al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem, one of the holiest sites in Islam. The police fired rubber-coated bullets, tear gas and stun grenades at worshipers during Ramadan. Israel’s actions were seen as a retaliation to the protests by Palestinians against attempts to forcibly evict a number of families from their homes.
At the heart of the conflict was an Israeli Supreme Court hearing, which was due on May 10, in a long-running legal case about whether several Palestinian families would be evicted from their homes in Sheikh Jarrah, a neighbourhood near Damascus Gate that was given to Israeli settlers.
As the court hearing neared, Palestinians and Left-wing Israelis began holding larger demonstrations, saying more evictions could cause a domino effect throughout the overwhelmingly Palestinian neighbourhood.
Hamas, the Palestinian militant group that controls Gaza, set a deadline for Israeli forces to be withdrawn from Al-Aqsa and Sheikh Jarrah. Soon after it expired, the Hamas fired rockets from Gaza towards Jerusalem.
The renewed tensions due to the case in the Supreme Court, were an extension of the long-standing conflict as Israel, which annexed East Jerusalem in 1967, sees all of the city as its Capital, while Palestinians want the eastern section as a capital of a future state. Israel’s annexation of East Jerusalem is largely unrecognised internationally.