Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Last week a group of Security Council members travelled to the Rafah border. We saw firsthand the dire challenges that we have been discussing in this chamber for over two months now, and we met victims who endured and survived the hell unleashed on Gaza following the October 7 attacks on Israel.
I will never forget meeting Mohammed, a boy almost the same age as my son Laith. Like countless other children, he was recovering at the Al Arish hospital from wounds caused by an Israeli airstrike. He told me he just wanted to go home and see his parents, and it was heartbreaking to hear from hospital staff that he had no idea that the strike that had wounded him, had also killed every single member of his family.
The situation Council Members saw at the Rafah border is unbearable.
Thousands of trucks trying and failing to enter through a chokepoint, a crossing that was only ever intended to be for pedestrians. Nearly one million people are crammed into an area at the Rafah border in Gaza, where before the war there were less than three hundred thousand.
According to the World Food Programme, the food that has entered into Gaza since the beginning of the conflict is only 10% of what is necessary to sustain the population.
Half of the people of Gaza are now starving.
The UN has reported that the proportion of people hungry in Gaza is higher than any country in any conflict in the last twenty years.
Given the desperate situation I have just described, that is being detailed by the Secretary-General to all UN Agencies, things cannot possibly get any worse.
Let’s be clear, in the coming period, unless we take drastic action, there will be famine in Gaza.
This war, and the unbearable price being paid by Palestinian civilians, 60-70% of whom we know are women and children, is also having a significant impact on neighbouring countries. Regional spillover is a real possibility, we are seeing it already, including in the West Bank where almost 300 Palestinians, including 75 children, have been killed.
Egypt’s efforts to mitigate this crisis on its border are admirable, but it needs help. This is not Egypt’s problem alone, there must be an international response, and this is why the Security Council has been asked to urgently step in.
The text is the product of extensive consultations and engagement between members of this Council and concerned parties, in particular Egypt and Palestine, for whose efforts we are especially grateful.
The purpose of this text is very simple. It responds with action to the dire humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people bearing the brunt of this conflict while protecting those who are trying to deliver life-saving aid. And it demands the urgent release of the hostages and for humanitarian access to address their medical needs.
The draft reaffirms that we are building on the important resolution 2712 and its provisions.
It demands that the parties to the conflict allow and facilitate the use of all available routes to the Gaza Strip for the provision of humanitarian assistance. What this means is that all possible land, sea, and air routes into Gaza must be utilized to allow life-saving aid to enter.
This includes ensuring that the Kerem Shalom/Karem Abu Salem crossing remains open in full, with this Council’s backing.
But even if trucks are going in at scale, if deconfliction does not happen, aid simply cannot reach those who need it. Current deconfliction efforts are clearly not working if 136 UN workers have lost their lives because of it.
This is why the text reaffirms that UN and humanitarian personnel, premises and consignments are protected and must not be attacked, a vital principle of international humanitarian law that has been repeatedly violated in this conflict.
The text also calls for urgent steps to allow unhindered, and critically, expanded humanitarian access. And it also calls on the parties to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.
We know this is not a perfect text.
We know only a ceasefire will end this suffering, and that is why the UAE put a resolution to the vote in this Council on Friday 8th December. Unfortunately, it failed to pass.
On 12 December 153 countries called for this in the General Assembly.
Again, a ceasefire did not happen as a result of this call although its significance in its moral clarity is clear.
The resolution the UAE has put in blue this morning responds to the calls for a sustainable cessation of hostilities and a massive scale-up of humanitarian aid.
Often in diplomacy the challenge is meeting the moment in the world we live in, not in the world that we want. And we will never tire in pushing for a full humanitarian ceasefire.
The resolution tasks the Secretary-General with appointing a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator. Their mandate will be to monitor, verify and facilitate humanitarian relief to Gaza, and the resolution gives them the necessary resources and equipment to do so. And the Coordinator will establish a mechanism for accelerating the delivery of aid, and we expect the initial report on its work within 20 days.
We have established similar mechanisms in other humanitarian crises.
We are watching scenes on our screens in recent weeks – civilians desperately scrambling in Gaza over basic necessities to live – that should be an alarm bell of a breakdown of civil order in Gaza. Not only is this morally abhorrent, it is not in anyone’s interest and could spiral unless we address it head on.
Many governments – including those represented at this table – have made tremendous efforts to send aid, funds, and advance negotiations around hostages. But until we pool efforts for an international response, we will not be able to manage this crisis sustainably.
If the current situation continues, over the next few days, while we are safe at home with our loved ones during the festive period, civilians in Gaza will be dying either from military strikes or the secondary impacts of war – hunger, disease, and widespread infection.
This Council has a responsibility to ensure that they are not victimized twice-over.
We have extensively negotiated and tried to find language that meets everyone’s concerns, but also addresses this challenge with a practical response.
I’d like to thank each and every Council Member who has contributed to this text and improved it, and I’d like to thank the United States for their complete engagement in trying to find a resolution that meets the moment.
Let’s not reject this resolution when the needs of people are so great. If we do, it will be an additional responsibility that this Council, and the Palestinian people, will have to bear.
Thank you, Mr. President.