Delivered by: Her Excellency Lana Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative
Thank you, Mr. President, and I’d also like to thank our briefers, Martin and Tor, for their invaluable remarks and insights today, and to thank them for all the fantastic work they are doing in very difficult circumstances.
This morning’s explanation of vote of the United Arab Emirates outlined our overall position on the matter in front of us.
But in this briefing, which we called for with China and the Russian Federation, we really just wanted to focus concretely on the humanitarian situation, which is getting worse by the day.
Because, for nearly two weeks we have borne witness to the relentless and indiscriminate bombardment of Gaza following the heinous attack on Israel on the 7th of October.
In Gaza as a result, one million people are now displaced and more than 500,000 people are sheltering in UN facilities, and the UN system is not equipped for this response. There are reports of bombs being dropped on UN schools and buildings where people are running to seek safety.
And as Under-Secretary-General Martin made clear in his statement, the humanitarian situation on the ground is now catastrophic.
The evacuation order for over a million people to try to move to safety is, in these circumstances, an impossible demand that fails to comply with international law.
And yesterday, the situation got worse. The world watched the unthinkable happen: an attack targeted against the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital, resulting in the death of more than 500 people.
There’s no ambiguity under international law: in providing care to the wounded and sick, hospitals and medical personnel must at all times be protected, and they must never, never be the target of an attack.
Nothing can justify yesterday’s attack, and we condemn it and call for an impartial, and independent, and transparent investigation into this tragedy and for those responsible to be held accountable.
Gaza has been under siege for ten days, during which a stranglehold has been placed around the necks of the civilians there.
The descriptions of the humanitarian situation on the ground from both Martin and Tor give us a sense of what hell on Earth might look like.
The steps that need to now be taken are clear and practical.
This morning, the President of the United Arab Emirates, His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, discussed some of those steps with the United Nations Secretary-General.
We need an immediate cessation of hostilities, as called for in the resolution that failed to be adopted today.
We need the unconditional release of all hostages, all hostages, being held, and their humane treatment. This must happen now.
We need safe and unhindered access for all humanitarian aid workers, including medical aid, food, water and fuel, and humanitarian workers.
I’m sure many of you are disturbed by the images of civilians in Gaza boiling toilet water to give to their families.
The reconnection of electricity, water, and telecommunications must happen, and the protection of all civilians must be our priority.
At Egypt’s border with Gaza, life-saving humanitarian aid is piling up. The United Arab Emirates has opened an air bridge to transport the much-needed supplies, but without firm guarantees from all the parties that the trucks and civilians gathering to receive aid will not be targeted, they remain out of the hands of those who so desperately need them. The UAE’s government has announced an additional 20 million dollars in aid for Gaza.
These protections must be put into place.
The humanitarian situation in Gaza is deteriorating by the hour, and we must be under no illusions – we are staring into the abyss, not only in Gaza, but in what is now a widening regional conflagration.
So we call, today, for a regional and international focus of this Council and the international community, as well as renewed efforts around securing the de-escalation and cessation of hostilities on the ground.
We really appreciate the diplomatic efforts of Egypt in this regard, as well as of the United States. In particular, Egypt’s efforts to ensure safe humanitarian access in Gaza through the Rafah crossing and their convening of a summit of world leaders to address the deteriorating situation.
We hope that today’s announcement by the United States and by President Biden that Israel has agreed to allow humanitarian access via Rafah will result in the rapid and safe delivery of aid.
There is no time to waste.
Leaders across the region, and the international community, should focus all possible efforts to secure a cessation of hostilities.
And as Tor said, the only way we can end these cycles of conflict is to re-dedicate all efforts towards a long-term political solution.
The past ten days cannot be undone, but our future remains before us to determine.
How we act now to preserve our shared humanity, ensure respect for international humanitarian law, and alleviate the dire suffering of the people of Gaza will determine that course.