Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Thank you, Mr. President, and I’d like to also thank you in leading us in a moment of silence for the lives lost in Israel and the OPT.
By now, we’ve all heard the heartbreaking acronym coined by healthcare workers in Gaza: “W C N S F”, which stands for “wounded child, no surviving family”. I just want to let that sink in as we discuss today’s topic.
Dr. Tedros and Dr. Jilani, I want to pay tribute to both of you, not only for making time to brief this Council, but also for the lifesaving work you and your teams do on the ground in very, very difficult circumstances, and to your clarion call to this Council today that must be heeded.
Today I also want to pay tribute to the silent heroes in the medical community in Gaza who stayed behind to deliver life-saving assistance despite these horrific circumstances. Just moments ago, many of us received messages from medical and humanitarian organizations about the heavy fighting around the Al Shifa hospital. Medical staff tell us that they are in fear of their lives and the lives of their patients being taken, and they do not know if they will make it until the morning.
It sometimes feels that by only dealing with the numbers from the conflict, we are indeed denying the humanity of those suffering. While it is impossible for us to go through the thousands of stories in today’s meeting, I want to put a couple of faces to those numbers ‒not of Hamas fighters. Normal people. And Israel may be at war with Hamas, but those paying the price of this war are civilians in the thousands.
Let me start with Alaa Zaheer Ahmed, who is in her third year of medical school, she grew up in Khan Yunis refugee camp. On 10 October, she was designing a poster for breast cancer awareness when the windows started shaking and everything turned black. An Israeli airstrike leveled her home, pinning her legs under the wreckage and leaving barely enough oxygen to breathe. Hours later, Alaa’s relatives and rescue workers pulled her from the rubble, they also recovered the lifeless bodies of her mother, her brother and her nephew. There are so many stories like this one.
I feel the need to remind the Council that, like Alaa, every single one of the 2,650 currently reported as trapped under rubble are human beings, and that more than half of them are children. But they’re not just children, they’re Palestine’s future and they’re also Israel’s future neighbours, and we should spare no effort to protect them and save both peoples from this road of war that we are on.
Born in Al Shifa hospital on 6 October is Talia – whose fragile heartbeat depends on a mechanical ventilator, straining generators and dwindling fuel supply. With the strike on the hospital last night, and reports of the desperate evacuations on foot as we speak here today in this Council, I can’t even begin to imagine what has happened to Talia– but we must not turn away from these stories. Like Talia, there are 130 other premature babies that are reliant on incubators to breathe. They are also reliant on our work here in this Chamber as well as in our region.
As we called for this meeting yesterday, little did we know that by the evening, a terrifying barrage of targeted attacks would be launched on schools and hospitals. Here’s what that actually means. Babies, children and the elderly, who are seeking refuge and care in those facilities ‒ are also under attack. There are over 110,000 patients, including children, suffering from burns to their faces so severe that they are suffocating – with no access to antibiotics or burn cream. Women are giving birth in the most unsanitary conditions known to mankind, without medicines, and C-sections are being performed without anesthesia.
The perverse reality of the situation in Gaza is that wounds inflicted by the most technologically advanced weaponry of the 21st century are being treated in conditions that are reminiscent of medieval times. To help alleviate the suffering, the UAE is establishing a field hospital in Gaza, working in solidarity with Gaza’s medical personnel and in cooperation with Israel. But it’s a plaster on a fracture.
There can be no doubt that the attacks by Israel in pursuit of its security are disproportionate, they are cruel, and they are inhumane, and we condemn them. Also, they will not bring Israel security. So many lives are being lost without even achieving this aim.
We must also not forget that those held hostage in Gaza by Hamas, many of them children, are also suffering under the same bombardment and psychological trauma and they must be released immediately. We are witnessing the making of a lost generation of children and youth, physically and mentally scarred by these experiences.
Indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian objects are prohibited by the laws of war; this simply cannot be part of any military strategy, defensive or otherwise. There is no State that would be condoned for conducting a military operation under those terms.
Israel must end its siege on Gaza and reinstate essential services and items indispensable to human survival, including fuel, electricity and water.
It is not enough to simply demand humanitarian access anymore. While we must continue to call for compliance with the basic rules of international humanitarian law, as a matter of conscience ‒ as many have said – we all know that without accountability or enforcement, this will never happen.
At the bare minimum, we need to activate all the possible tools, including sustained and multi-day humanitarian pauses or truces, not least to end the suffering of children. This can also enable a humanitarian surge, the safe movement of civilians and aid workers, conditions for access to and safe release of hostages. This is fundamental for the necessary goal: a durable and sustained ceasefire.
It is unconscionable that it has been 33 days of the destruction of Gaza, without any Council action and response. It is time to act and to respond and help save innocent lives.
And to ensure this violence ends once and for all, the two-state solution must be the overarching goal. The international community must reiterate its unwavering support for this goal. This is the only solution that takes us out of this cycle of hatred and violence and dehumanization again and again and again.
Thank you, Mr. President.