2022 likely deadliest in years for Palestinians in West Bank, says UN

Surge in deaths comes as military presses on with widespread arrest operations following series of terror attacks in Israel

Mourners and gunmen carry the body of a member of the Lion's Den terror group, who was among six killed in an Israeli raid, during their funeral in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 25, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)
Mourners and gunmen carry the body of a member of the Lion's Den terror group, who was among six killed in an Israeli raid, during their funeral in the West Bank city of Nablus on October 25, 2022. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

The UN Mideast envoy said 2022 is on course to be the deadliest year for Palestinians in the West Bank since the UN started tracking fatalities in 2005, and he called for immediate action to calm “an explosive situation” and move toward renewing negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

Tor Wennesland told the UN Security Council that “mounting hopelessness, anger, and tension have once again erupted into a deadly cycle of violence that is increasingly difficult to contain,” and “too many people, overwhelmingly Palestinian, have been killed and injured.”

In a grim assessment, the special coordinator for the Middle East peace process said the downward spiral in the West Bank and current volatile situation stem from decades of violence that has taken a toll on Israelis and Palestinians, the prolonged absence of negotiations, and the failure to resolve key issues fueling the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

Wennesland said his message to Palestinian officials and factions, Israeli officials, and the international community in recent weeks has been clear: “The immediate priority is to work to calm the situation and reverse the negative trends on the ground,” but the goal must be “to empower and strengthen the Palestinian Authority and build towards a return to a political process.”

In the past month, the UN envoy said 32 Palestinians including six children were killed by Israeli security forces and 311 injured during demonstrations, clashes, search-and-arrest operations, attacks, and alleged attacks against Israelis.

Two Israeli forces personnel were killed and 25 Israeli civilians were injured by Palestinians during shooting and ramming attacks, clashes, the throwing of stones and Molotov cocktails, and other incidents during the same period, he said.

UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland briefs, over video conference, the Security Council on the Situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question on January 26, 2021. (Daniela Penkova/UNSCO/File)

Wennesland said the month saw “a spike in fatal violence” that has 2022 on track to be the deadliest in the West Bank.

More than 125 Palestinians have been killed in violent incidents in the West Bank and East Jerusalem this year.

The violence surged since a series of Palestinian attacks killed 19 people in Israel in the spring.

The Israel Defense Forces says most of the Palestinians killed have been gunmen who attacked troops, or those who violently clashed with soldiers, but some bystanders have also died in the violence.

Ongoing Israeli arrest raids in the West Bank pose a serious challenge to the Palestinian Authority.

PA President Mahmoud Abbas relies on security cooperation with Israel, particularly against his rivals such as the Hamas terror group, to remain in power.

At the same time, this cooperation is deeply unpopular among Palestinians who chafe against Israel’s military presence in the West Bank.

Israeli troops arrest a wanted Palestinian man in the West Bank, early on October 26, 2022. (Israel Defense Forces)

According to the Shin Bet security service, more than 2,000 Palestinians have been arrested since the beginning of the year.

The IDF says the raids are necessary to dismantle terror networks and to thwart attacks against Israelis. Palestinians say the raids are aimed at maintaining Israel’s 55-year military rule over the territory they see as part of a future state.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, delivered an impassioned address to the Security Council on Friday, saying: “Our people, our children, our youth are being killed, and they will not die in vain.”

“What happens next is your responsibility,” he told council members. “We knocked on every door, searched for any avenue leading to freedom and dignity, justice and redress, shared peace and security.”

Yet, Mansour said that 75 years after the British partition of the region, its people are still waiting “for their turn to be free,” and he accused Israel of “trying to destroy the state of Palestine.”

The Palestinian ambassador challenged the Security Council to protect and promote the two-state solution, and he raised a series of questions that allude to the possibility of further bloodshed and a decades-long fight for freedom if necessary, and possible legal action at the International Court of Justice on Israel’s control of the territory.

A masked Palestinian gunman fires an automatic weapon during clashes with Israeli security forces in the West Bank city of Jenin on May 13, 2022. (Jaafar Ashtiyeh/AFP)

“Either we live side by side, or I fear we might die side by side,” Mansour said of Israel. “Help us live… Our people will not disappear, they will not renege their national identity, they will not accept subjugation. The Palestinian people will be free.”

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan countered that the message in Abbas’s speech to world leaders last month and Mansour’s statement Friday were the same: “It is a message of false victimhood, lies of oppression and fictions of aggression.”

“Israel is in the midst of a terror wave,” he told the council.

“Since the start of this year alone, there have been over 4,000 Palestinian terror attacks perpetrated against Israelis — car ramming, rock throwing, fire bombings, stabbing, shootings, rockets, and many other acts of Palestinian violence have become a fact of life for millions of Israelis.”

In this handout photo, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan gives a press conference at United Nations headquarters in New York on April 25, 2022. (Courtesy)

Erdan said “the Palestinian Authority may play victim here at the council,” but he said on the streets of the West Bank cities of Jenin and Nablus they “praise terrorists.”

Palestinian leaders say they want peace but Erdan said “they consistently refused to sit down at the negotiating table with Israel and have rejected every peace plan placed before them.”

At the General Assembly last month, Abbas launched a campaign for full membership at the United Nations “while bypassing the negotiating table,” Erdan said.

Palestine is currently a non-member observer state at the UN.

Erdan stressed that “peace can only be achieved through direct negotiations and mutual — I repeat mutual — concessions.”

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