The Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Amr Abu Atta called on Tuesday for an “expedited end to the Israeli occupation” of the Palestinian territories during a UN Security Council meeting.
The ambassador’s comments come just days before indirect peace talks between Israeli and Palestinian authorities are set to resume in Cairo.
In a statement released by the Egyptian foreign ministry, Abu Atta said that “claims that [Israel] invoked to justify continued occupation and siege on Gaza are contrary to logic”. Abu Atta said this was evidenced by three Israeli sieges on the Gaza in the last decade alone.
Egypt has consistently pushed for a two-state solution divided among 1967 borders with a Palestinian capital in East Jerusalem.
“It’s time to end the conflict without delay,” Abu Atta said, echoing the words used by Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi at the recent Gaza reconstruction donor conference in Cairo.
The reconstruction donor conference was by most measures a success, raising a total of $5.4bn for reconstruction efforts in the battered strip.
“I urge the international community to move quickly to deliver much needed assistance,” UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said at Tuesday’s Security Council meeting. “Nothing could have prepared me for what I witnessed in Gaza.”
“I fully understand the security threat to Israel from rockets above and tunnels below,” Ban continued. “At the same time, the scale of the destruction in Gaza has left deep questions about proportionality and the need for accountability.”
Palestinian and Israeli officials have traded heated comments leading up to this month’s continuation of peace talks.
On Monday, Israeli Minister of Defence Moshe Ya’alon told Ban that Israel would not allow construction materials into Gaza if Palestinians planned on rebuilding what Israel refers to as “terror tunnels”. The minister added that these tunnels could be used to stage attacks on Israeli targets.
Hamas spokesman Sami Abu Zuhri responded Tuesday that Ya’alon’s comments are “blackmail”. He added that such comments “emphasise the reluctance of [Israel] in the lifting the blockade and facilitating the entry of reconstruction materials”.
Ban said he witnessed the first shipments of “urgently needed construction materials” enter the Gaza Strip during his recent visit. He added that it remains unclear if any of the money donated at the reconstruction conference has been transferred to Palestinian officials.
Leading up to the reconstruction conference, international rights watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) vocally urged donors at the conference to end the Israeli blockade, calling it “collective punishment” on Gazans.
In a mid-October statement, HRW said Israeli restrictions on the movement of people and goods into and out of Gaza “harm people’s access to water, education, and other fundamental rights”. The statement added that imposed restrictions “hinder sustainable recovery” in the besieged strip.
“Donors who keep footing the bill to rebuild Gaza should insist that Israel lift unjustified restrictions that are worsening a grim humanitarian situation and needlessly punishing civilians,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director.
The current land, air and sea blockade of the Gaza Strip has been enforced since 2007 when Hamas took control of government institutions. It has prevented agricultural and commercial goods, as well as food, fuel, medicine and other necessities from reaching Palestinians.
Egypt’s single border crossing with the besieged strip, the Rafah crossing, has been largely kept closed since 2007, which, according to HRW, “reinforces” the Israeli blockade.