Underscoring Urgency for Ceasefire in Gaza, General Assembly Highlights Need to Protect Civilians, Grant Humanitarian Access, Free Hostages, Condemn Hamas
Save those who can still be saved in Gaza, the General Assembly heard today, as delegates also expressed alarm that the body’s recently adopted ceasefire resolution does not condemn Hamas.
On 12 December, the Assembly adopted a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and reiterating its insistence that parties to the conflict comply with international law, all hostages be released immediately and without conditions and humanitarian access be ensured.
That resolution, titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” (document A/ES-10/L.27) was adopted during a resumption of the tenth Emergency Special Session on Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The Assembly met today to hear remaining speakers in explanation of vote after the vote, and open its debate on the item.
The representative of Israel, recalling the 7 October atrocities in his country of rape and mutilation, burning of entire families alive and beheading of babies, said that a ceasefire will only allow Hamas to regroup, rearm and continue its reign of terror. “You don't give a damn about Israel and our future,” he told those present. The resolution could have called on Hamas to turn themselves in and release all hostages; then the war would end tomorrow morning, he said.
Hamas is still holding 132 hostages in Gaza, he said, adding that these people were taken from the arms of their loved ones, and are not treated in accordance with international law. One of the released hostages, an agricultural worker from Thailand, described how Israeli hostages held with him were tortured with electric cables, he said, adding that Hamas forced hostage children to watch videos of their families getting butchered. “Calling for a ceasefire now, while they're still being held, is the most immoral thing to do,” he stressed.
Since 7 October, Hamas has launched over 11,000 rockets and missiles into Israel, he went on to say, showing a video of rockets being launched into Jerusalem today. “Israel is defending Al-Aqsa Mosque from Hamas’s missiles,” he said. “To the Arab League, the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), I ask this: Is this who you have chosen to defend, a group of genocidal terrorists?”, he said. This is what the “Iranian puppet masters” want, but “I cannot understand why the Sunni countries of the world are playing along,” he added. No General Assembly resolution “will force us to commit a collective suicide,” he stressed.
Meanwhile, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine described the Israeli assault as a war against Palestinian history and existence. Israel is deliberately targeting hospitals, homes, mosques and churches, he pointed out, adding that the country is killing engineers and doctors and poets and academics, as well as those who would document the crime and inform the world — the journalists. Further, Israel has been deliberately making Gaza unliveable for human life, inflicting maximum pain to force a people out of their country. It has confessed to this goal, he said.
However, he pointed out, Israel has failed in its efforts to bully and silence Member States of the United Nations. Highlighting the global call for a ceasefire, emanating from people around the world, as well as the human rights community, he noted that, while the Security Council was blocked by a single veto, 153 countries in the General Assembly voted in favour of that.
Palestinian children now know much more about death than about life, he said. One million Palestinian children in Gaza are facing a death sentence that can take effect at any moment. He went on to share the story of a child called Ayoub, whose mother named him after the Muslim prophet of patience, knowing he would need endless fortitude to endure the suffering awaiting him. Ayoub was killed with his siblings when Israel bombed their home, he said, echoing the Secretary-General’s description of the Gaza Strip as a graveyard for children. In the face of atrocities being committed in Gaza, he stressed, there is only one moral position: “Ceasefire now. Stop the Genocide.”
The representative of Brazil recalled his delegation’s submission of a draft to the Council calling for immediate humanitarian pauses. “If adopted on that occasion, thousands of lives would have likely been spared,” he stressed, adding that “the cost of inaction is unacceptably high”. Some 1.2 million internally displaced persons are sheltered in facilities of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), while 2.2 million depend on its assistance for survival. Civilians are continuing to bear the brunt of violence, the majority of whom are children, he pointed out.
In these extreme circumstances, he stressed, a humanitarian ceasefire is the only measure to avoid a humanitarian catastrophe. Responding to those opposing that measure, he said that, in the face of the tragedy in Gaza, any politically and morally tenable response must prioritize the immediate protection of civilians.
Pakistan’s delegate, who spoke on behalf of a group of countries, said that Israel’s indiscriminate attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure, blockading of food and other essentials, and forced displacement of Palestinians are flagrant violations of humanitarian law and may amount to the crime of genocide. The bombardments have killed more than 18,000 people, he said, noting that the number of people killed is the highest in proportion to population since this century began. Drawing particular attention to the 134 UNRWA staff members who were killed in Gaza, he said this was the highest-ever-recorded killing of United Nations personnel in the history of the Organization.
Israel is not heeding calls of the Secretary-General and General Assembly, or the Council’s calls on it to abide by international law, he said, stressing that the root cause of violence is Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territories. He called on all countries to stop exporting weapons to Israel and highlighted the need for intensified efforts to find a durable solution. Further, he said, the international community must establish an accountability mechanism and a special tribunal to investigate Israel’s atrocity crimes, as well as an international protection mechanism for Palestinian civilians in Gaza and the West Bank.
Speaking on behalf of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the representative of Mauritania highlighted the humanitarian situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and in particular the Gaza Strip. Noting the colossal loss of innocent civilian life in Gaza, he said more than 80 per cent of its population has been displaced, while an unprecedented number of civilian deaths has been recorded.
Citing the forced displacement of the Gaza population as “another Nakba”, he called on global actors to exert pressure on Israel to enable a ceasefire and humanitarian access. He also warned about possible spillover of the crisis in the wider region. Peace and security in the region cannot be achieved without putting adequate political pressure on the Israeli occupying Power with a view of ending its occupation, he asserted.
Speaking in explanation of vote, the representative of Jordan stressed the urgent need to deter Israel from perpetrating more inhumane crimes against the Palestinian civilians in Gaza. The large number of deaths bear testament to that country’s desire for revenge against all Palestinians, he said, adding that Israel is targeting Palestinian civilians with deliberate intentions of collective killing, ethnic cleansing and genocide. The resolution adopted by the Assembly with an overwhelming majority reflects the collective will of the international community to put an end to this, he said.
“We recognize Israel’s right to protect her people, but all actions must be in line with international humanitarian law,” Malta’s delegate said. She highlighted the disproportionate suffering of children in Gaza, “their future seemingly buried under the rubble”. Inaction is not an option, she stressed, adding that there is no scenario that can justify the denial of aid for 2.2 million people. She said that hostilities in Gaza are fuelling unprecedented levels of human suffering and will have lasting international repercussions for years to come. She voiced support for the resolution and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, as well as the unconditional release of all hostages.
On another note, Spain’s delegate underscored that the resolution’s text should have included a clear condemnation of Hamas. Urging all parties to respect international law, and stressing the need for humanitarian access, she called for additional routes to be opened to bring vital aid to Gaza. It is essential to guarantee the supply of food, water, fuel, electricity and medical care, as well as provide safe shelters. The international community must join forces to end the spiral of violence in the Middle East, she asserted, noting that the Palestinians need hope for a State, and Israel needs security guarantees.