As General Assembly Concludes Emergency Session, Delegates Underscore Urgent Need for Ceasefire, Humanitarian Aid, Immediate Release of Hamas-Held Hostages
As the General Assembly concluded its emergency session on the situation in the Middle East, many Member States, condemning Israel’s bombardments of Gaza, demanded a humanitarian ceasefire to deliver aid to Palestinians in need, while others continued to express regret that the 193-member body was unable to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel and echoed calls for the release of hostages.
The Assembly adopted a resolution on Friday calling for an immediate and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities. In the same meeting, however, the body failed to adopt an amendment to that resolution that would have unequivocally rejected and condemned the terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel starting on 7 October. The meeting was held as the organ’s tenth emergency special session on the "Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory". (See Press Release GA/12548.)
The representative of the League of Arab States said that some permanent Member States in the Security Council stubbornly persist in blocking any attempt to simply declare a ceasefire in Gaza. They continue to prevent the unimpeded and unconditional passage of humanitarian aid, and they seek to exile the civilian unarmed Palestinian people in a blatant violation of international law. The Palestinian people will not be the only ones to suffer from this quest to implement hateful and colonial interests. Rather, it is the entire international community that will suffer from the double standards that are being shamelessly and persistently applied to Ukraine and Palestine.
The League of Arab States demands a ceasefire as well as the unconditional and unimpeded flow of humanitarian assistance, he said. The Palestinian-Israeli conflict did not start on 7 October. The Palestinian question is not and will not be a branch of the war on terrorism, as some are trying wrongfully to portray it. The legitimate right to self-defence does not apply to cases where the lands of others are occupied by force.
Syria’s speaker said the United States has insisted on giving Israel the “green light” to continue its brutal aggression on Gaza. “This is part of the Israeli occupation’s systemic policy of ethnic cleansing of Palestinians and killing their dream in establishing an independent state with Jerusalem as the capital,” he added. Israel's thirst for Palestinian bloodshed “is yet to be quenched”, he continued. Some Western states, especially the United States, have provided impunity for Israel for its continuing violation of hundreds of UN resolutions that have called upon it to respect international law.
The delegate of the United Arab Emirates expressed deep concern that 9,000 Palestinians have been killed so far, and over 1.4 million have been displaced. “Almost 70 per cent of those killed in the Palestinian territories over the past few days have been women and children,” he stressed. The United Arab Emirates rejected the attacks that Hamas launched against Israeli civilians on 7 October and called for the release of all hostages, while it also rejects Israel’s policy of collective punishment. “Today, there isn't a single place or a single person in Gaza who is safe,” he continued, also adding: “We will not allow a new Palestinian Nakba.” For its part, the United Arab Emirates will provide medical treatment for 1,000 Palestinian children. The Palestinian people have suffered for far too long and deserve a stable future — a future in which the children of Gaza can attend schools, not shelter in them.
The representative of the African Union called for an immediate ceasefire and cessation of hostilities and for the release of prisoners and hostages. “The cycle of violence and suffering has to end,” she said, reaffirming support for and confidence in the Secretary-General’s leadership. “The African Union’s support to the Palestinian cause is very profound,” she said. “It is premised on the values of freedom, justice and humanitarian principles that Africa defends.”
Sudan’s delegate said the behaviour of the Israeli occupying authorities in the Gaza Strip, including the siege and closure of border points and attempts to displace civilians while shelling them incessantly, is a clear violation of international law. Expressing support for a fact-finding commission on crimes perpetrated in Gaza and the West Bank, he called for a lifting of the siege of Gaza and free flow of humanitarian aid to avoid another Nakba.
Ukraine’s delegate said the Russian Federation and Hamas are driven by the same motivation. As Hamas denies the right of Israel to exist, the Russian Federation denies the same right of Ukraine and continues its terror and war of aggression. She expressed concern that Hamas continues to terrorize the region by indiscriminate attacks against civilians, as well as using them as human shields. The international community must take all possible measures to safeguard innocent civilian lives.
Sweden’s delegate said that her delegation abstained from Friday’s resolution due to the lack of condemnation of the abhorrent Hamas attack. Israel has a right to defend itself in line with international law. She urged Hamas to release all hostages. “The use of human shields is unacceptable,” she said, also expressing concern for the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.
The representative of Iceland condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks by Hamas against Israel. There can be no justification for terrorism, he stressed. All hostages should be released immediately and unconditionally. While Israel has an inherent right to defend itself, it must do so within the bounds of international law. The decades-long cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine will not stop while Hamas continues to use its position in Gaza to wage terror on innocent civilians and spread radicalism. And it will not stop while Israel's unlawful settlements continue in the West Bank and Gaza remains under blockade.
The representative of the Marshall Islands said that Israel, like “every country in this room”, has a responsibility to protect its people. “If the General Assembly cannot even state or directly acknowledge what happened, then we are all doing something wrong,” she said.
Zambia’s delegate stressed that if there was ever a time that the world looked to the United Nations for a unified position, that time is now. Zambia calls on all Member States to defend “true multilateralism” and uphold the principles enshrined in the UN Charter. It is well known that, without peace, the global community cannot attain much, let alone try to move towards sustainable development and economic and social progress.