Security Council: The Situation in the Middle East, Including the Palestinian Question

Note: A complete summary of today’s Security Council open debate will be made available after its conclusion.


ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, warned that the situation in the Middle East grew more dire by the hour, with the war in Gaza raging, and risking spiralling throughout the region. “At a crucial moment like this, it is vital to be clear on principles – starting with the fundamental principle of respecting and protecting civilians,” he stressed. Recalling his unequivocal condemnation of the horrifying and unprecedented 7 October acts of terror by Hamas in Israel, he stated, “nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the launching of rockets against civilian targets.” All hostages must be treated humanely and released immediately and without conditions, he said, noting the presence of members of their families.

The attacks by Hamas did not happen in a vacuum, with the Palestinian people being subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation, during which they saw their land devoured by settlements and plagued by violence; their economy stifled; their people displaced; their homes demolished, and their hopes for a political solution vanishing, he went on. However, the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. “And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people,” he said, emphasizing: “Even war has rules.” All parties must uphold and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law; take constant care in the conduct of military operations to spare civilians; and respect and protect hospitals and respect the inviolability of United Nations facilities which today are sheltering more than 600,000 Palestinians.

He went on to voice deep alarm over the relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the level of civilian casualties and the mounting destruction of entire neighbourhoods, underscoring the importance of protecting civilians in any armed conflict. “Protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields,” he said, adding: “Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than 1 million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.” Voicing concern over the clear violations of international humanitarian law being witnessed in Gaza, he said, “Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law.” While some humanitarian relief is finally getting into Gaza, it represented “a drop of aid in an ocean of need”. United Nations fuel supplies in Gaza will run out in a matter of days, he said, adding: “That would be another disaster.”

The people of Gaza need continuous aid delivery at a level that corresponds to the enormous needs, he continued, adding: “That aid must be delivered without restrictions.” He commended his United Nations colleagues and humanitarian partners in Gaza risking their lives to provide aid to those in need, stressing: “To ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer, and facilitate the release of hostages, I reiterate my appeal for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” Even in “this moment of grave and immediate danger”, he emphasized that a two-State solution is the only realistic foundation for a true peace and stability. Israelis must see their legitimate needs for security materialized, and Palestinians must see their legitimate aspirations for an independent State realized, in line with United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements.

Finally, he called for human dignity to be upheld. Observing that polarization and dehumanization are being fuelled by a tsunami of disinformation, he said, “we must stand up to the forces of antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of hate.” He noted that today is United Nations Day, marking 78 years since the Charter of the United Nations entered into force, reflecting Members’ shared commitment to advance peace, sustainable development and human rights. At this critical hour, he appealed to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even farther.

TOR WENNESLAND, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Process, expressed his most sincere condolences to the thousands of families – in Israel, Palestine and across the globe – including the families of 35 UN staff killed in Gaza. “The abhorrent attack launched by Hamas on 7 October and Israel’s devastating, ongoing military operation in Gaza have taken a staggering toll on civilians and deeply shaken Israelis and Palestinians alike,” he said, pointing to the unprecedented events which risk expanding to the wider region. He recounted that on the morning of 7 October, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups launched a large-scale, complex assault on Israel, with an estimated 1,500 Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad militants from Gaza infiltrating some 20 Israeli communities and military facilities in the Gaza periphery by land, sea and air, while thousands of rockets were launched towards central Israel, including Tel Aviv and Jerusalem.

“Testimony and evidence emerging from that tragic day reveal a sickening killing spree, designed to terrorize, with appalling scenes of brutality, massacres and hostage-taking, including against infants and young children,” he said, reporting that in all, Hamas and other Palestinian militant-groups killed over 1,400 Israelis and foreign nationals – the bloodiest attack in Israel’s history. At least 220 civilians, including women and children, as well as soldiers, were abducted and taken into the Gaza Strip as hostages, he added, welcoming the release of four hostages and recognizing the important role of Qatar in that regard. Hamas and other Palestinian militant groups in Gaza have continued to launch indiscriminate rocket fire from there into Israel, and to date, according to Israeli sources, some 7,700 rockets have been launched. “On the day of the attack, Israel’s Security Cabinet declared a state of war for the first time in over 50 years, with the aim of ‘the destruction of the military and governing capabilities of Hamas and Islamic Jihad’,” he recalled, adding that that same day, Israeli forces began a massive bombardment of what they said were Hamas sites throughout Gaza.

Israel’s air assault in the Strip has continued to date, with some 5,000 such sites targeted, according to the Israel Defense Forces, he reported, further recalling that, on 8 October, Israel’s Minister for Defense announced a complete siege of Gaza, blocking all entry of goods, including electricity, water, food and fuel. The air strikes have been devastating, he stressed, noting that, thus far, the Ministry of Health in Gaza has reported over 5,000 Palestinians killed, including over 1,100 women, 2,000 children as well as journalists, medical workers and first responders, with more than 15,000 injured. Over 1 million Palestinians have been displaced, he added, noting that the level of physical destruction has left entire neighbourhoods in rubble and critical infrastructure destroyed or damaged. Schools, including United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) schools, and hospitals – many sheltering displaced Palestinians – have been hit. Underlining the immense humanitarian impact, he welcomed Egypt’s facilitation to open the Rafah border crossing on 21 October and echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire.

“The risk of a significant further deterioration of the situation in the occupied West Bank or spillover of the conflict in the region remains significant,” he warned, emphasizing that the already worrying violence in the occupied West Bank has increased since the outbreak of war. Israeli authorities have imposed widespread movement restrictions and conducted extensive arrests. High numbers of daily clashes and armed exchanges between Palestinians and Israeli security forces and settlers have been recorded, as well as settler-related violence and Palestinian attacks against Israelis. “Meanwhile, across the Blue Line, and amid heightened rhetoric from actors on the ground, there have been daily intermittent but intense exchanges of fire since 8 October,” he said, reporting that Hizbullah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad have launched rockets and anti-tank missiles towards Israel, while Israel Defense Forces responded with artillery fire and air strikes, leading to casualties on both sides. On the Golan, the Israel Defense Forces responded on 10 October with artillery and mortar shells towards what they said were a number of launches from Syria towards Israel. The United Nations Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) continues to engage with both parties, urging them to exercise maximum restraint and respect their obligations under the 1974 Agreement on the Disengagement of Forces, he said.

He and the Secretary-General have been pursuing any and every opportunity to address the situation on the ground and to prevent further civilian death and misery, he said, stressing: “It is critical, that we, as a united international community, employ all our collective efforts to end the bloodletting and prevent any further expansion of hostilities – including in the region.” He appealed to all relevant actors to act responsibly as “any miscalculation could have immeasurable consequences”. Pointing to the unresolved conflict and continued occupation, he said: “For 15 years, the population has been living under militant rule and a strict closure regime, as the Palestinian divide hardened. For a generation, hope has been lost and despair has prevailed for those who see prospects for a more peaceful future pulling still further away.” Stressing that only a political solution will move the international community forward, he said: “The steps we take to address this crisis must be implemented in a way that ultimately advances a negotiated peace that fulfils the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis – the long-held vision of two-States, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”

LYNN HASTINGS, Deputy Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory, briefed the Council that violence is at historically high levels on both sides. In the Gaza Strip, there are nearly 1.4 million displaced people, nearly 600,000 of which are sheltering in UNRWA facilities “in increasingly dire conditions”, she said. The average number of internally displaced people has reached more than two and one half times the capacity. “There is nowhere to seek refuge in Gaza. When it comes to decisions on whether and where to flee, civilians are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.” She noted that displaced families are reportedly returning to north Gaza because they cannot meet their basic needs including safety in the south.

According to the Gaza Ministry of Housing, at least 42 per cent of all housing units in the Gaza Strip have been either destroyed or damaged since 7 October, calling into question the ability of people to return to their homes. Gaza remains under a full electricity blackout. Hospitals are on the brink of collapse. Doctors are forced to operate without anaesthesia. Since 7 October, 16 health workers in Gaza have reportedly been killed and 30 injured while on duty, she said.

She said that the agreement to allow essential humanitarian supplies into Gaza via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, has provided a glimmer of hope to people living in appalling conditions. But she added that these deliveries are a drop in the bucket compared to the vast scale of needs. They amount to no more than 4 per cent of the daily average volume of commodities entering Gaza prior to these hostilities. “Needs are now, of course, significantly greater.” Most crucially, these deliveries do not include fuel that is essential for powering the services needed for people to survive. Without fuel our humanitarian operation will stop, she said: “No fuel means no functioning hospitals, no desalination of water and no baking. Many people are drinking on saline groundwater, increasing the risks of diarrhoea, cholera, and other health issues.”

She called on Israel to bring water and electricity supplies back to pre-conflict levels and work with her teams to find a secure way of bringing fuel into Gaza. While the UN negotiates with the Government of Israel, it has 400,000 litres of trucks ready to go, which would provide fuel for approximately two and a half more days, she noted. For Gazans to get access to adequate food, water, medical care and other essential supplies, we must be able to scale up deliveries of all goods, and we must be able to replenish fuel supplies, she said. “It will be important also that the Israeli crossings for the movement of people and goods are opened.” She urged the Member States to redouble funding to UNRWA and other humanitarian agencies on the ground without delay and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire “to ease this epic human suffering”.


RIAD AL-MALIKI, Minister for Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine, urged to stop the killing and massacres being committed against his people. He said that the ongoing massacres perpetrated by Israel, the occupying Power, against the Palestinian civilian population under its illegal occupation must be stopped. “The Security Council has a duty to stop them. The international community is obliged under international law to stop them. It is our collective human duty to stop them – now. Continued failure at this Council is inexcusable,” he emphasized, praising the efforts of the UN agencies and humanitarian staff on the ground, particularly UNRWA, and mourning the senseless killing of UNRWA staff and other humanitarian workers, including doctors, nurses and paramedics who were directly targeted by the ongoing barbarous aggression.

He stressed that over 2 million Palestinians are on a survival mission every day and every night. “By the time representatives are done delivering their speeches today, 150 Palestinians will have been killed, including 60 children,” he said, adding that, in the last two weeks, over 5,000 Palestinians have been killed, including over 2,300 children and 1,300 women. “Almost all those killed by Israel are civilians,” he underscored, also spotlighting over 1 million Palestinians displaced and 170,000 housing units destroyed. He went on to state that only international law and peace are worthy of unconditional support. “More injustice and more killing will not make Israel safer,” he stressed, adding that no amount of weapons and no alliance will bring to it security, but only peace with Palestine and its people will.

“The fate of the Palestinian people cannot continue to be dispossession, displacement, denial of rights and death,” he emphasized, adding that the freedom of the Palestinians is the condition of shared peace and security. “For those actively engaged to avoid an even greater humanitarian catastrophe and regional spillover, it must be clear that this can only be achieved by putting an immediate end to the Israeli war launched against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip,” he said, urging to stop the bloodshed. “Peace and security cannot and will not be achieved by crushing the skulls of infants” or through “wiping out Gaza” or “turning it into a hell” or “reducing its area”, as has been announced repeatedly by everyone who carries out these killing and destruction. It will also not materialize by arming thousands of terrorist settlers and encouraging them to continue their terror attacks against our people in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank, he stated.

He stressed that the urgent solution required from the Council today is to call for a ceasefire, an immediate cessation of the Israeli aggression, to work urgently to secure humanitarian access in all parts of the Gaza Strip, to end the forced displacement, to provide international protection for the Palestinian people and to achieve justice through accountability. He also called for the necessary practical measures to address the root causes of the issue and end the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory with Jerusalem as the capital of the Palestinian State as per the Council’s resolutions and as per the peace process and international law, and also empowering the Palestinians to enjoy their inalienable rights, including the return of refugees and self-determination, as per General Assembly resolution 194 (III). “All eyes are fixed on Gaza, do not fail the test,” he concluded.

ELI COHEN, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Israel, said that young babies and children are held in Gaza, a situation beyond imagination. These children and babies have not caused evil, but they are victims of evil, he said, adding that Saturday, 7 October – when more than 1,500 terrorists from Hamas and Islamic Jihad infiltrated Israel and killed more than 1,400 men, women and children, wounding more than 4,000 – will go down in history as a brutal massacre and a wakeup call to the free world. They went from house to house, slaughtering entire families and individuals in their beds, people on their way to synagogues, raping women, burning them alive, he said. “Hamas are the new Nazis,” he said, and the civilized world must stand united behind Israel to defeat them. Qatar, which finances Hamas, could influence and enable the immediate and unconditional release of the more than 220 hostages held by the terrorists, he said, adding that members of the international community should demand that Qatar does just that.

Israel gave Palestinians Gaza down to the last millimetre – there is no dispute regarding the land of Gaza, he said. But they took the money they received from the world and instead of building hospitals, office buildings and commercial centres, they took the money to dig tunnels and to build rocket factories, he said. “Listen to these monsters – the West is next,” he said, adding that the war which was imposed on Israel is “not just Israel’s war. It’s the war of the free world.” As for calls for proportionality or a ceasefire, what is the proportional response to the killing of babies, for the raping and burning of women, for beheading a child, he asked, adding that the proportional response to the 7 October massacre is the total destruction of Hamas. The free world should remember and never forget what happened on 7 October. Today this barbaric terror happened in Israel; tomorrow it will be on everyone’s doorstep, he said. “We have not chosen this war. But have no doubt. We are going to win it,” he said.

As Iran’s proxy, Hamas had three objectives for its barbaric attack: the murder of Jews, the kidnapping of hostages and the derailment of peace, stability and normalization in the region, he said, adding that Israeli citizens are under heavy missile and rocket fire from Gaza. Meanwhile, there is a clear attempt to escalate and provoke a war on Israel’s northern border where the Iran proxy Hezbollah is targeting Israeli cities, he said. Last week, cruise missiles were launched at Israel from Yemen. Have no illusion who is behind it or what is the reason, he said. The international community must understand who is under threat and who is the aggressor, he added. “The world now faces a clear choice of moral clarity: one can either be part of the civilized world or surrender to the forces of evil and barbarism,” he said. “There is no middle ground. No room for moral ambiguity.”

He thanked Member States who had designated Hamas a terror organization and called on others to do so immediately. He also thanked United States President Joseph R. Biden and United States Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken for showing moral clarity and standing with Israel at this dark hour. He said if all nations do not stand decisively and clearly with Israel to “eliminate these monsters from the face of the Earth” after the most brutal and vicious terror attack in modern history, this will be “the darkest hour of the UN” and the United Nations will “have no moral justification to exist”.

MAURO VIEIRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil, and President of the Council for October, speaking in his national capacity and echoing his President’s appeal that “there needs to be a minimum of humanity in the insanity of war”, said the situation is both a hostage and humanitarian crisis. While the world mourns the passing of innocent people including Brazilians, he said, it cannot condone acts of terrorism, as violence only breeds more violence. Brazil therefore calls for an immediate and unconditional release of all civilian hostages, particularly women and children. He added that dealing with the situation must include respect for human rights, humanitarian law and refugee law. Highlighting the situation with regards to power supply, health facilities, and access to drinking water, he said the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality, humanity, necessity and precaution must guide and inform all actions and military operations and urged the Council to not lose sight of the root causes of the conflict.

He said achieving peace requires strict adherence to international law as well as working towards the two-State solution. Israel must stop all settlement activities in occupied Palestinian territories including East Jerusalem. He underscored the importance of preserving the historical status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and urged all parties to exercise maximum restraint. Brazil is committed to UNRWA, and believes diplomacy and dialogue remain as the most powerful assets. Decrying the fact that the Security Council has not passed a resolution on the Israeli-Palestinian situation since 2016, he urged the Council to not shy away from its responsibility in the situation. “We need solutions, no matter how politically difficult they may be. A peaceful and prosperous Middle East is to the benefit of all of us,” he said.

ANTONY J. BLINKEN, Secretary of State of the United States said he had put forth a resolution containing practical steps to address the crisis, building on elements of the text by Brazil. First, it recognizes the right and imperative of States to defend themselves against terrorism, and condemns Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel, during which, he said, “young people were gunned down with glee, young people were beheaded, parents were executed in front of their parents, and children were executed in front of their parents, and so many were taken hostage.” In this context, he said, “it must be asked: where is the outrage? Where is the explicit condemnation of these horrors?” The Council must denounce Member States arming, funding or training Hamas. Noting that the violence had affected United Nations employees, and many Member States, including Council Members, he said: “Every one of us has a stake and responsibility in defeating terror.”

While Israel has “the right and indeed the obligation to defend itself”, Palestinian civilians must be protected, and Hamas must cease to use them as human shields, he continued. Food, medicine and water must flow into Gaza, and humanitarian pauses must be considered. On that, he highlighted efforts by his Government’s recently appointed Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues, David Satterfield, and the United States’ additional $100 million aid to Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, bringing the total aid provided this year to Palestinians to $1.6 billion. “A civilian is a civilian is a civilian, no matter their nationality, gender, or faith,” he said. He welcomed the release of four hostages and implored all Council members to use their leverage to secure the release of the 200 hostages still in the grip of Hamas. Member States must also send a united message to those considering opening another front to the conflict; “Don’t throw fuel on the fire,” he added.

Pointing to Iran’s support to Hamas, Hezbollah and the Houthis, he stressed: “The United States does not seek conflict with Iran but if it or its proxies attack United States personnel, we will defend our people and our security swiftly and decisively.” The two-State solution is the only way to break out of the cycle of violence and achieve broader regional security, he said, adding: “Two paths lie before us – one path is offered by Hamas, and it leads to death, destruction, and darkness. The other is the path to greater peace, normalization and integration; the path to the Palestinians’ right to self-determination and a state of their own.” Hamas does not get to choose the path the world takes, he stressed.

CATHERINE COLONNA, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of France said: “It is our duty to condemn unambiguously Hamas’ terrorist attack and that of other terrorist groups against Israel.” Hamas’ 7 October attack also struck France, she said, noting that 30 French people died and another nine of its nationals are missing and reportedly being held hostage. She called once again for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. She affirmed her country’s solidarity with Israel and underscored its right to defend itself and protect its people, while noting that Israel must do so while respecting international law, in particular international humanitarian law. Hamas in no way represents the Palestinians, she emphasized, underscoring that it is the duty of the international community, including Israel, to guarantee the ongoing provision to civilians in Gaza of basic goods: water, food, medicine and fuel. She urged the international community to guarantee safe, swift, unimpeded and sustainable humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip, and uphold international humanitarian law and its principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence.

France, like the European Union, has increased its humanitarian assistance, she said, noting that, since the start of the crisis, it has mobilized an additional €20 million in supplementary humanitarian aid for the population of Gaza, through UNRWA, the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and non-governmental organizations. It has also chartered a special flight with emergency humanitarian aid for the Palestinians, to assist Egypt’s efforts, adding that her country’s total aid to the Palestinians will reach €100 million in 2023. Stressing that certain stakeholders must refrain from benefiting from the current situation, she cautioned them against any regional escalation that would drag the region into a downward spiral. Pointing to the well-known conditions for lasting peace, she stressed that the only viable solution is the two-State solution and called on the Council to fully exercise its responsibility to that end.

RÉGIS MICHEL M. ONANGA NDIAYE, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Gabon, urged captors to release all hostages. He said the siege of Gaza “is pushing the levels human distress to an unbearable scale” and called for health facilities and personnel to be protected. The recent delivery of aid is “a glimmer of hope for the millions of people in Gaza clamped within the vice-like grip of the warring parties”, he said. He welcomed efforts by Egypt and the United States to this end and appealed for the continuous opening of the Rafah crossing point. He regretted that the Council had not reached consensus on resolutions on the conflict. “Gabon believes that it is high time for humanity to prevail over political and geopolitical alliances.”

He said the continued policy of expanding settlements, demolitions and expulsions – particularly in the occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem – the blockade of Gaza, religious provocations, terrorist attacks on Israeli soil, the recurrence of bellicose speech and the freezing of tax funds collected by Israel from the Palestinian Authority on its behalf, are major obstacles to building a just and lasting peace. The manifest violations of international law and Security Council resolutions, notably resolutions 1860 (2009) and 2334 (2016), must urgently cease. He reaffirmed his country’s commitment to the two-State solution.

IGLI HASANI, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs of Albania, said that his country stands with Israel, like with every other nation under attack in its legitimate right to self-defence in accordance with international humanitarian law. “In such difficult and defining moments, Israel and its people need the support of the community of the free nations in responding to terrorists who have committed horrible crimes and continue to question its right to exist,” he stressed, adding that innocent lives matter equally, be they Israeli or Palestinian. Hamas, their leaders who live a comfortable life outside Gaza and their supporters knew very well what they were doing when they unleashed “the beasts to kill, burn, massacre and kidnap everyone they could,” he said, emphasizing that their hope and their win would be to make the world turn against Israel. There is only one party that is rejoicing with what is happening. It is the country known to sponsor of terrorism, in Gaza, in West Bank, in Yemen, in Lebanon, in Syria, anywhere they can, he said without naming the country.

He was worried by a frightening increase, to very dangerous levels, of antisemitism – fuelled by hatred, misinformation and disinformation – particularly through social media, urging the world to “not stay indifferent in face of calls and behaviours that come from the Nazi playbooks.” He welcomed arrangements made so far for humanitarian convoys into Gaza, stressing “efforts must continue and diplomacy must always prevail”, and commending the efforts of Egypt, United States, Israel and the UN Secretary-General in this regard. Welcoming the release of hostages with the assistance of Qatar, he said: “Israel needs and deserves security; Palestinians need and deserve their State.” Albania reiterates its support for two States for two peoples, he underscored.

IAN BORG, Minister for Foreign and European Affairs and Trade of Malta, acknowledged Israel’s right to self-defence while also emphasizing that Israel must oblige by international humanitarian law. He welcomed the release of four hostages and called on Hamas to release the remaining captives safely and unconditionally without delay. He went on to express grave concern over the current humanitarian situation in Gaza. Thousands of Palestinians have been killed, he said, and condemned all attacks against civilians, medical and humanitarian workers, United Nations personnel as well as religious places and civilian infrastructure. He called for an independent investigation into the blast at Al Ahli Arab Hospital on 18 October. He expressed deep concern over Israel’s decision to cut off water, electricity, food and fuel to Gaza. This action is resulting in dire humanitarian consequences for the civilian population and will inevitably lead to a public health catastrophe, he said.

He stressed the need for unimpeded, sustained delivery of humanitarian aid through the Rafah crossing and the establishment of humanitarian corridors and commended efforts by the United Nations, Egypt and the United States, strongly reiterating a call for the establishment of an immediate humanitarian pause. “The legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people should not be confused with the extremist ideology of Hamas,” he said. “It is crucial that this distinction is made clear to all to avoid further inflammatory polarization and potentials of regional escalation.” He added that since 7 October, killing and forced displacement of Palestinians has sharply increased, including through settler violence and hundreds of arrests.

MAYA TISSAFI, State Secretary of Switzerland, said that, as the depositary of the Geneva Conventions, her country prioritizes the protection of civilians and respect for international humanitarian law. “We are committed to a Council that, even in times of emergency – and especially in times of emergency – makes respect for international humanitarian law a priority,” she said. Switzerland calls for an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages in Gaza as it recognizes Israel’s legitimate concern for national defence and security. “We remind the parties of the binding nature of all its rules, without exception, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities. Joining the Secretary-General to unequivocally condemn the incident at the Al Ahli Arab Hospital, she called for an investigation to be carried out so that the facts can be clarified, also stressing the need to protect civilians and investigate all violations of international law, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.

She said her country is rapidly mobilizing additional funds for ICRC and the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs to address the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza. It is imperative that adequate volumes of aid enter Gaza and that rapid, full, safe and unhindered access is allowed and facilitated in line with international humanitarian law. Humanitarian pauses are also necessary. She further called on the Council to “exert our influence on the parties to prevent an even more serious escalation, or even a regionalisation of the conflict”.

TOM TUGENDHAT, Minister of State for Security of the United Kingdom, observing that the events of the past 17 days have shocked all those who value the dignity of human life, said: “Israel is a nation in mourning. It is also a nation under attack.” The violence did not end on 7 October, he said, noting terrorist rockets still raining down on Israeli towns, and around 200 of its citizens are held hostage in Gaza, some of whom are British citizens. Palestinians are suffering, too, he said, noting that thousands have been killed in the conflict, while more than 1 million have been displaced. “We know that Hamas are using innocent Palestinian civilians as human shields; they have embedded themselves in civilian communities,” he said, adding that the group cares more about the opinions of their paymasters in Tehran than their fellow citizens. The United Kingdom stands with Israel in defending itself against terror.

He underscored the urgent need for sustained, unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza, for civilians to receive life-saving support. The recent opening of the Rafah crossing to aid trucks, while welcome, is not enough. He echoed the Secretary-General’s call for sustainable and adequate humanitarian access, observing the desperate need for “a constant stream” of water, fuel, medicine and food. The United Kingdom has committed $37 million of extra support for civilians in Gaza. The conflict must not engulf the wider region, he said, noting attacks by Hizbullah to the north of Israel and rising tensions in the West Bank, among other worrying signs. “Now is the time for dogged diplomacy that recognizes the hard realities on the ground and delivers help now,” he stressed. Voicing support for a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian State, he stressed: “Hope and humanity must win out.”

REEM EBRAHIM AL HASHIMY, Minister of State for International Cooperation of the United Arab Emirates, stressed that every diplomatic effort must be made, and all capabilities harnessed to achieve an immediate and sustainable ceasefire. Pointing to growing tensions in the region, including in southern Lebanon, the Red Sea and the occupied Syrian Golan, she warned that “an unchecked slide into regional war risks ominous outcomes” that will threaten regional security and affect stability around the world. As such, regional and international efforts must focus on de-escalation and restoring calm as soon as possible, she stressed, welcoming the 21 October Cairo Summit for Peace. Immediate, safe, sustainable and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid must be allowed to enter the Gaza Strip in a manner that meets the basic needs, she stressed, voicing appreciation for the support to aid delivery of Egypt and the UN. She pointed out, however, that the small number of trucks that have crossed into the Gaza Strip in recent days does not meet the massive needs on the ground and represent only 4 per cent of the volume of commodities that used to enter before the outbreak of this crisis.

Stressing that the attacks launched by Hamas on 7 October are barbaric and heinous, she demanded that the group release hostages immediately and unconditionally. Hamas’ crimes against civilians can never justify the policy of collective punishment towards the Gaza Strip, she underscored, stressing that Israel must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of civilians. She reiterated once again her country’s unequivocal rejection of Israel’s order to evacuate more than 1 million people from northern to southern Gaza and demanded that those orders be cancelled. Stressing that the Gaza Strip has been under siege for more than 17 years, she asked: “Should we leave the people of the region to live in a series of wars, violence and hatred accumulated from one generation to the next?” She urged the adoption of a resolution calling for an immediate and sustainable humanitarian ceasefire, and serious work after that to find a just, lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict that allows both people to live in lasting peace and security.

VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said “the scale of the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip has exceeded all of our worst imaginations.” We all face the more urgent challenge to stop the violence and ensure the supply of humanitarian assistance to Gazans who face arbitrary strikes by Israel and violations of international humanitarian law. He noted that the Russian Federation draft resolution for a ceasefire was not passed earlier in October, with ongoing violence as the result. The world is expecting a call for a swift and unconditional ceasefire from the Council, which is not in the current draft resolution from the United States. “Therefore, we don’t see any point in it and we cannot support it.” For the Council to carry out its main purpose, the Russian Federation has prepared an alternative draft resolution based on humanitarian language with important elements from the United States, Brazil and the first Russian Federation drafts. He asked the Presidency of the Council to put it to a vote straight after the United States draft.

HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) praised the efforts of the Secretary-General and others who have made the delivery of humanitarian aid possible, as well as the release of some hostages, and demanded that all hostages taken by Hamas be released immediately and unconditionally. He noted that the situations in the West Bank and on the border between Lebanon and Israel are particularly disquieting. “This Security Council must not become an arena for rivalries, but rather, it must be a space for building peace, and peace in the Middle East is one of the principle pending questions that we have,” he said, underscoring that almost eight decades of conflict and thousands of deaths are the clearest evidence that violence is not the solution. He reiterated that the only way to end this conflict is through a peaceful, negotiated, definitive and just solution for the parties, with the existence of two States, Palestine and Israel, on the basis of the 1967 borders and the relevant resolutions.

ZHANG JUN (China) said more than 2 million lives in Gaza hang by a thread and called on the Security Council to demand an immediate ceasefire. Whatever the justification, if the fighting in Gaza is allowed to continue, the result will not be a military victory for either side but a catastrophe that consumes the entire region, he said. The Security Council must do everything in its power to achieve peace rather implicitly green-light further escalation, he said. He appreciated the efforts by Egypt, other countries and Secretary-General António Guterres to help open humanitarian corridors, though he warned that assistance is just a drop in the bucket. The Security Council must use its most unequivocal language to require the occupying Power to immediately lift the siege of Gaza, restore water, electricity and fuel supplies, and stop the collective punishment of the population in Gaza, he said, urging Israel to stop air strikes and ensure safe aid delivery and the lifting of the evacuation order for northern Gaza.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), condemning the attacks by Hamas and other Palestinian militants, called for an immediate release of hostages and a redoubling of diplomatic efforts to contain the conflict and prevent a regional spillover. All parties must comply with international law and address the humanitarian situation in Gaza while also protecting medical and humanitarian personnel. Japan supports any diplomatic activities that can lead towards de‑escalation and an improvement of the humanitarian situation, including the Cairo Summit for Peace and ongoing negotiations to free hostages. He also called for humanitarian corridors to be set up to continue the delivery of life-saving assistance to the Palestinian people in Gaza. He urged the Council to act with unity, saying that its silence is unacceptable and emphasizing that the conflict demonstrates the importance of the two-State solution. “What we need now is to help innocent lives, not political gain,” he said.

CAROLYN OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), noting that today is United Nations Day, said it is regrettable that the Council has failed to reach consensus on a comprehensive humanitarian response. She recalled that, after the 7 October attacks launched by Hamas in southern Israel and the abduction of Israeli citizens and nationals of other countries, Ghana condemned the actions of Hamas and called on the group to cease its attacks and release the hostages without condition. Commending the efforts of the Secretary-General, the leaders of Egypt, Israel and the United States, and the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator in negotiating the opening of the Rafah border crossing, she appealed to the Government of Israel to allow more humanitarian aid deliveries, especially fuel, which is badly needed to power Gaza’s health centres and water-treatment plants.

PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) said the situation in the Gaza Strip since 7 October has been concerning, and remains volatile and dangerous, adding: “It is a humanitarian crisis that has been ongoing for years, with many innocent civilians caught in the crossfire.” Associating himself with the Council’s efforts to protect civilians and respect international law, he underscored the urgent need to open humanitarian access corridors, and ensure access to water, electricity, food and medicine. All parties must de-escalate tension, halt the attacks, stop the suffering in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Gaza Strip and allow humanitarian access. “The humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza is unfolding before our eyes,” he said, reiterating the importance of protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure. The Council must work together to contain the conflict, end the cycle of violence and prevent a regional escalation. “We must support the strengthening of the Palestinian Authority, which represents the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people,” he added.

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