UNGA to hold urgent session Thursday amid continuing Israel’s deadly offensive in Gaza

The UN General Assembly will hold an urgent meeting on Thursday to discuss the “grave deterioration” of the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, as Israel presses on with its deadly offensive in Gaza.

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The session is in response to a request from the chairmen of the OIC Group at the UN and the Arab Group in a joint letter to the 193-member Assembly President Volkan Bozkir of Turkey.

The letter was signed by Niger’s Ambassador Abdou Abarry, who is chairman of the OIC Group, and Algeria’s Ambassador Sofiane Mimouni, who heads the Arab Group.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who is in Ankara on his way to New York, will lead Pakistan’s delegation to the General Assembly session on “The situation in the Middle East” and the “Question of Palestine”.

The foreign minister is on diplomatic mission to support Palestine, under special instructions of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

He will leave Ankara for New York Wednesday along with the Turkish, Sudanese and Palestinian foreign ministers.

Responding to questions at a news briefing , Brenden Varma, a spokesman for the General Assembly president, said Thursday’s plenary meeting would debate the situation in the Middle East, but so far no resolution had been submitted.

The General Assembly meeting follows the failure of the UN Security Council to call for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, which rules Gaza.

So far three Security Council meetings have taken place, with no concrete outcome after the United States blocked a joint statement calling for de-escalation of hostilities in the region.

The Council meeting on Sunday came after the US reportedly twice blocked over the last week resolutions that would have deplored Israel’s military response and called for a ceasefire. Nearly 200 people, including 58 children, have been killed in the intense bombing of the besieged enclave of two million people.
Israel has justified its bombing campaign as a retaliation to rocket attacks by Hamas fighters. But the Hamas movement said its actions were a response to the Israeli policy of forced displacement of Palestinians in occupied East Jerusalem and the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces last week. Israel had missed a Hamas deadline to withdraw its forces from the mosque compound.

Meanwhile, Chinese Ambassador Zhang Jun, who is the president of the Security Council this month, vowed to push for UN Security Council action to defuse Israeli-Palestinian tensions.

He told reporters at UN Headquarters in New York that he would continue to push the Council to take action and to speak in one voice on this grave situation.

“We must take action in ending the current crisis, especially through political dialogue,” he said after a Security Council open debate on Sunday on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which was requested by China, Norway and Tunisia.

China will continue to work closely with Norway, Tunisia and other members of the Security Council to seek the adoption of a statement by the Council, he said. “We sincerely hope that all members will join our efforts for that.”

“The most urgent and pressing task at this moment is to cease fire and stop violence. What is equally important is to advance a just settlement of the Palestinian question on the basis of the two-state solution,” the Chinese envoy said.

“For all of that, the Security Council shoulders heavy responsibilities. We must act to seek immediate de-escalation of the tension, halt hostilities, protect civilians and provide humanitarian assistance to those in desperate need. We must act to bring the Middle East peace process back to the right track, implement relevant United Nations resolutions and reconfirm our support to the two-state solution,” said Zhang.

After the Security Council open debate, China, Norway and Tunisia issued a joint statement to demand an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The three countries expressed deep concern about the situation in Gaza and the rising number of civilian casualties, and called for an immediate end to hostilities, full respect for international law, including international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians, especially children, says the joint statement.

“We demanded an immediate cessation of all acts of violence, provocation, incitement, destruction, and eviction plans. Furthermore, we expressed concern about the tensions and violence in East Jerusalem, especially in and around the holy sites, including at the Al-Aqsa Mosque, and urged the exercise of maximum restraint and (called) for the respect of the historic status quo at the holy sites,” says the statement.

The three countries reiterated their support for a negotiated two-state solution and called for the intensification and acceleration of diplomatic efforts and support toward that goal.
Sunday’s open debate was the first Security Council public event to discuss the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the escalation. Previously, the three countries managed to push for two rounds of closed-door consultations of the Security Council.

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