22 December 2010Condemning mounting rocket attacks from Gaza into Israel, a senior United Nations official today acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defence but urged it to use maximum restraint and ensure that civilians are not endangered. “I condemn the firing of indiscriminate mortars and rockets by militant groups in Gaza, which have escalated in recent days,” UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Robert Serry said in a statement. “These attacks are in clear violation of international humanitarian law and endanger civilians in Israel.“Israel has a right to self-defence consistent with international humanitarian law,” he added, citing several recent air attacks against militants in Gaza. “I urge Israel to exercise maximum restraint and take every precaution to ensure that its forces do not endanger civilians in Gaza who all too often bear the brunt of escalation of violence.”Mr. Serry noted “modest progress” in recent months in easing Israel’s blockade of Gaza but added: “A lot more still needs to be done. The maintenance of calm is essential to create an environment in which further progress can be made in the interests of the people of both Gaza and Israel.”Meanwhile, Mr. Serry’s deputy, Maxwell Gaylard, who is also the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the occupied Palestinian territory, today criticized Israel’s demolition of Palestinian homes in East Jerusalem and the West Bank, noting that 396 structures have been destroyed so far this year, a nearly 45 per cent increase over the 275 demolished in 2009.“These actions have a severe social and economic impact on the lives and welfare of Palestinians and increase their dependence on humanitarian assistance,” he said, adding that 561 people, including 280 children, had been displaced by this year’s demolitions and the livelihoods of over 3,000 affected.“The position of the United Nations remains that the Government of Israel must take immediate steps to cease demolitions and evictions in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he said in the statement, issued as he visited the site of house that had been demolished just a day earlier in the Ras Al Amud neighbourhood of East Jerusalem, resulting in the displacement of 13 people, including four children.