U.N. Envoy: Helping Gazans Comes Before Return of Israeli Soldiers’ Remains

Palestinian rioters during clashes with Israeli forces along the border with the Gaza Strip east of Gaza City on May 11. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

In an interview with Army Radio Wednesday, Nikolay Mladenov, the U.N. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that while there was great humanitarian value in Hamas’s returning the remains of IDF soldiers it is holding, it was more important to deal with what he said was a “humanitarian crisis” in Gaza. “I believe that if we improve the situation for residents of Gaza, we will create the possibility of dealing with other issues,” including returning the remains of IDF soldiers Hadar Goldin, Hy”d, and Oron Shaul, Hy”d, he said.

“No one wants to see another war in Gaza,” he said, stressing that a war now would be more traumatic than the one that took place in 2014. Operation Protective Edge caused a great deal of damage in Gaza, but the damage was limited to the Strip. A new war, he believes, “will drag the entire region into war. We must do what we can to prevent this.”

The United Nations is doing its share by providing humanitarian aid to Gazans. “If we stop managing the schools and the hospitals, and halt the flow of oil, you will see a war in a matter of days,” Mladenov said. In addition, he said, the United Nations was not taking sides. “If we stopped talking to Israelis and Palestinians about peace, Israel would come off as a lot worse in world media. If you put Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and PA chief Mahmoud Abbas in a room together now, they would probably have little to talk about. But we support both sides, and our objective is to see a meeting like this take place.”

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