Delivered by: His Excellency Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab, Permanent Representative & Chair of the Arab Group for the month of May  

Mr. President,

I have the honour to speak today on behalf of the Arab Group in this important debate. I also would like to thank all briefers for their valuable inputs.

Mr. President,

Adherence to the rules of protection of civilians in every situation of armed conflict is non-negotiable. This includes the situation in the Gaza Strip where Palestinian civilians are being deliberately and systematically targeted.

Israel’s aggression has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians and injured more than 78,000 people. It has also displaced more than 75 percent of Gaza’s population and destroyed more than half of its buildings, including 360,000 housing units.

These numbers do not depict the full scale of this tragedy. Behind every number there are lives stolen, people displaced, and families that have been entirely annihilated and erased from civil records.

The number of victims would not have risen to these horrific levels if Israel had adhered to the provisions of international humanitarian law and shouldered its responsibilities as an occupying power under the Fourth Geneva Convention, or if Israel complied with the orders issued by the International Court of Justice in the case under the Genocide Convention brought by South Africa against Israel, instead of blatantly ignoring these orders.

The appalling situation in Gaza today is a direct result of Israel’s attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure, as well as the stifling restrictions on entry of humanitarian aid and commercial supplies.

The current situation led to unprecedented levels of food insecurity and exposed more than half a million Palestinians to famine as Israel continues to use starvation as a weapon of war.

Targeting humanitarian workers has made the situation worse. Gaza has turned into one of the most dangerous places on earth for those heroes, who risk their lives to deliver assistance to those who are in dire need.  

These attacks have reached an extremely dangerous level with targeting of aid convoys and the premises of humanitarian organizations, including UNRWA Headquarters in occupied East Jerusalem.

These repeated attacks violate international law and require an immediate and transparent investigation to hold those responsible accountable.

We also have increasing concerns regarding Israel’s recent dangerous escalation in Rafah and its forceful and unlawful control and closure of the Palestinian side of the crossing, ignoring its obligations in accordance with international law. As fuel reserves are running out, this would obstruct the movement of humanitarian aid and almost completely disrupt basic services in Gaza. The announcement by UNRWA having to suspend food distributions in Rafah due to the lack of supplies and insecurity reflects the deteriorating situation there.

Mr. President,

When this Council adopted in 1999 its first resolution on the protection of civilians in armed conflict, it recognized the impact of violence on women and children in particular. Yet, 25 years after the adoption of this resolution, we see this reality unfold in a shocking manner in Gaza, where most victims are children and women. The number of children killed in this war exceeds the number of children killed in all conflicts around the world over the past four years.  

The children who have survived this war are suffering from the worst conditions and have become the largest generation living with amputations in history. According to UNICEF, 90 percent of children in Gaza under the age of five are suffering from one or more diseases. 16 percent of children under the age of two are suffering from emaciation and stunting. This is in addition to the devastating impact of trauma on them, their parents, and society.

Women in Gaza, especially pregnant and nursing women, are also facing grave risks amid almost total absence of the most basic services, including food, water, and health care.

Neither journalists, nor doctors, elderly people and people with disabilities have been spared by this war.

The Arab Group demand in this regard an immediate and independent international investigation into the alarming reports of mass graves and for the perpetrators to be brought to justice. None of these crimes should go unpunished.

Mr. President,

Israel’s violations have reached every part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Since last October, 480 Palestinians were killed by Israeli forces and settlers in the West Bank, including 116 children.  5,040 were wounded mostly by live rounds and 1,950 Palestinians have been displaced due to home demolitions and settler violence.

The situation in Gaza and the rest of the Occupied Palestine Territory cannot be accepted or allowed to continue.

The Security Council must shoulder its responsibilities and seriously consider providing international protection to the Palestinian people, in accordance with its mandate under the United Nations Charter.

Additionally, the Arab Group condemns the repeated Israeli attacks on Syrian territory and demands that these acts do not occur again.

We also demand the same regarding the ongoing Israeli aggression against safe civilian villages in southern Lebanon, which constitutes a violation of international law, including international humanitarian law.

This aggression killed more than 80 civilians, including journalists, aid workers, women, children, and the elderly, destroyed civilian infrastructure and entire villages, and displaced more than 93,000 Lebanese people.  Southern Lebanon was also repeatedly bombarded with white phosphorus, which is internationally prohibited.

In light of the outcomes of the 33rd regular session of the Arab Summit held in the Kingdom of Bahrain on 16 May, the Arab Group demands the following:

First: Achieve an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. The Israeli occupation forces must halt their military operations in Gaza and withdraw from the Strip, including the Rafah crossing. The Group commends the efforts of the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Qatar to reach a humanitarian truce to alleviate the suffering in Gaza, stop the escalation, targeting and displacement of civilians, and release prisoners and detainees.

Second: Ensure unhindered entry of humanitarian aid to Gaza, fully open all crossings, and facilitate the entry of commercial aid to meet the needs of Gaza’s population.

Third: Allow UNRWA and other humanitarian organizations to work freely and without any restrictions on their mandates, especially in light of the persistent obstacles created by the Israeli side and support the efforts of the Special Coordinator (Sigrid Kaag) and facilitate her work.

Fourth: Take effective measures to ensure accountability for serious violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, particularly war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide.

In conclusion, we stress the need to end Israel’s occupation of all Palestinian and Arab occupied territories, including the Syrian Golan and to establish an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital on 1967 borders in accordance with relevant international resolutions.

Thank you, Mr. President.