Delivered by: His Excellency Mohamed Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative
Thank you, Mr. President,
Mr. Secretary-General António Guterres, thank you for your briefing. We are profoundly grateful for your steadfast moral leadership. By taking the rare step of invoking Article 99 of the UN Charter, you are compelling us to confront the enormity of the catastrophe unfolding in Gaza. It is our fervent hope that your demand is met.
For two harrowing months we have borne witness to the onslaught in Gaza. Israel’s military operations has killed more than 16,000 Palestinians, 7,000 of them children. It has displaced 80% of the population and damaged or destroyed 60% of housing units. For context, this is a scale of destruction surpassing even the bombing of Dresden in 1945. For the many Gazans who have never left that narrow, besieged strip of land, their entire world is being systematically demolished before their eyes.
The invocation of Article 99 must be a tipping point. A solemn reflection of the desperate plight in Gaza and the imperative need for the Council to act. The Council must act when too little aid is getting in and humanitarian workers are unable to deliver it for fear of being killed. The Council must act when the siege on Gaza is becoming a major source of death. The Council must act when unrelenting bombardment kills more than 130 UN staff members.
Despite the recent temporary pause, the violence and danger to civilians has not abated, in fact this conflict has now graduated to a new, more dangerous phase. The siege of Khan Yunis and other parts in Southern Gaza, where hundreds of thousands of people have fled, has now begun. There is literally no safe haven for the millions of people trapped and under attack.
In his letter, the Secretary-General noted that Gaza’s health care system, or what’s left of it, is on the verge of collapse. Israel is warning the World Health Organisation that unless it removes its medical supplies in Southern Gaza impending military operations will put them beyond use. We condemn in the strongest possible terms the deliberate targeting of medical facilities, equipment, and personnel.
For our part, the UAE established a field hospital inside Gaza on December 2 with an operational capacity of 150 beds.
We recognize that these efforts are not nearly enough.
Even during the recent pause, we saw the need for an enhanced aid delivery mechanism to allow full, rapid, safe, and unhindered access.
We need a streamlined monitoring system and an expanded capacity to deliver goods, including through the opening of further crossings and entry points. We note that Israel reportedly agreed to open the Karam Abu Salem crossing for inspections only, and while this should reduce the time delays it remains necessary for all crossings to be opened, and, if needed, repaired.
We stress the importance of ensuring the full implementation of Security Council Resolution 2712, which demands all parties to respect their obligations under international law and calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses.
We underscore that members of this Council must ensure implementation. But we all know that the only way to end this tragedy is to impose an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. There is no defensible moral, political, nor military justification for this carnage to continue. After two months of war ambulances are delivering more dead than survivors to the few emergency rooms left functional in Gaza. Over the last few days reports have revealed what precisely unfolded in Northern Gaza. In the intensive pediatric care unit of an abandoned hospital several babies lay dead, their bodies decomposing. Let that harrowing image haunt anybody persisting in the fantasy that the operation in the South will be any less horrific. It will not.
This war has brought our region to a breaking point but its effect has rippled far beyond. There has been an appalling increase in incidents of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia worldwide.
The international system is teetering on the brink. For this war signals that might makes right. That compliance with international humanitarian law is dependent on the identity of the victim and the perpetrator.
The Secretary-General, every head of every UN agency, humanitarian organizations, and the overwhelming majority of the world’s population have repeatedly called on members of this body to bring this unrestricted violence to a definitive and sustainable end. The UAE has circulated a draft resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to do just that. Today this Council will vote. It will have an opportunity to respond to the deafening calls across the world to bring this violence to an end.
Thank you, Mr. President.