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Islamic Jihad announces cease-fire to end Israel fighting

Josef Federman
Associated Press

Jerusalem – The U.N. Security Council on Monday reiterated its support for a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

This was the first Security Council press statement on the issue since President Donald Trump unveiled a plan three weeks ago to resolve the decades-old conflict. His plan sided with Israel on most of the conflict’s main sticking points, and the Palestinians rejected it outright.

The U.N. statement, which was approved by all 15 council members including the U.S., made no mention of Trump’s plan. It also didn’t directly address Palestinian demands for an independent state including all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem – areas captured by Israel in the 1967 Mideast war – and the removal of many of the more than 700,000 Israeli settlers from these areas.

Israeli airstrikes cause explosions in Gaza City, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020. The Islamic Jihad militant group has announced a unilateral cease-fire to end two days of heavy fighting with Israel. In a short statement Monday evening, the group said it had completed its "retaliation" for Israel's killing of three members. But it said it would respond to any further Israeli "aggression."

But the U.N. statement did voice the council’s support for a two-state solution “recalling previous relevant U.N. resolutions, and in accordance with international law.” The statement was drafted by Belgium, which holds the council presidency this month.

Security Council resolutions have in the past called for a two-state solution based on 1967 lines, and the U.N. has repeatedly called Israeli settlements illegal.

The statement came amid two days of intense fighting between Israel and the Islamic Jihad militant group in the Gaza Strip. There were no reports of civilian casualties on either side.

Trump’s plan, announced at the White House in late January with much fanfare, grants Israel sovereignty over large parts of the occupied West Bank, and falls far short of the Palestinian dream of an independent state. Instead, it calls for giving them limited autonomy over a disjointed archipelago of land, and only if they meet a stringent set of demands.

Under its terms, the proposed Palestinian state would be demilitarized and Israel would retain overall security control.

Rockets are launched from the Gaza Strip towards Israel, Monday, Feb. 24, 2020.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas called the U.S. proposal “an Israeli-American pre-emptive plan in order to put an end to the question of Palestine” in a speech to the Security Council on Feb. 11 and said the disjointed Palestinian state it envisioned is “like a Swiss cheese.”

The council press statement adopted Monday reaffirms “that all parties should refrain from undermining the viability of the two-state solution in order to maintain the prospects for a just, comprehensive and lasting peace.”

“Council members stressed the need to exert collective efforts to launch credible negotiations on all final status issues in the Middle East peace process,” it added.

The council also “expressed grave concern about acts of violence against civilians.”

Belgium’s U.N. Ambassador Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve read the statement after U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East Nickolay Mladenov briefed the council at an open meeting. Members then held closed consultations.


Fares Akram contributed reporting from Amman, Jordan.