Seventy-eighth Session,
22nd Meeting (PM)

More Funding Urgently Needed as UNRWA Struggles through ‘Shocking’ Gaza War, Fourth Committee Hears amid Pleas for Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire

Seventy-Two Staff Killed; Basic Services Collapsing; Sewage Flows in Streets

The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) urgently requires sustainable financial support to continue its life-saving assistance in the Gaza Strip, the Fourth Committee (Special Political and Decolonization) heard today, as speakers renewed calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and respect for international humanitarian law.

Greta Gunnarsdottir, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York, introducing the Agency’s annual report (document A/78/13), on behalf of Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, said that Israel’s relentless bombardment — with the loss of 72 UNRWA staff and 50 of the Agency’s buildings and assets impacted — has been “shocking”.  Basic services are collapsing; fuel, medicine, food and water are running out; and sewage is starting to overflow in streets.

Describing the situation as “collective punishment” and a violation of international law, she said that at least 5,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza continue to report for work every day.  They represent “a ray of light as humanity sinks into its darkest hour”, she said, warning that the handful of convoys being allowed through the Rafah crossing with Egypt do not make for a meaningful humanitarian operation.  She added that if civil order breaks down, the Agency’s efforts in Gaza will be extremely difficult, if not impossible

Going forward, there must be strict adherence to international humanitarian law and the release of hostages in Gaza, she continued.  “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” she added, emphasizing the need for an unimpeded and substantial flow of humanitarian aid.  In addition, UNRWA — whose mandate was renewed by the General Assembly in 2022 for another three years — needs adequate financial resources to lead the humanitarian response.

Also briefing the Committee, Anne Melangen Havn (Norway), Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA, said that the General Assembly and the international community have a responsibility to ensure that the Agency can fulfil its mandate without impediments.  She urged all Governments to increase their voluntary contributions to UNRWA and to provide earmarked multi-year funding where possible.

In the ensuing debate, the observer for the State of Palestine said that the situation in the Gaza Strip is becoming more dire amid an inhumane siege and brutal assault by Israel, the occupying Power.  Its systematic targeting of civilian areas in Gaza, including refugee camps, means that there is nowhere safe for any living being.  Calling for an immediate ceasefire, she said that UNRWA is a lifeline for the more than 5.8 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory — one that must be sustained.

Saudi Arabia’s representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that the destructive war against civilians in Gaza is one in the string of criminal attacks perpetrated by Israeli occupation for decades. Calling for a ceasefire, he added that all obstacles should be removed so that UNRWA can fulfil its mandate.

The representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, said that the bloc and its member States — the largest contributor to the UNRWA budget — will continue to lend political and financial support to the Agency both staunchly and predictably.  She called upon all partners to support the Agency “through multi-annual contributions”.

Pakistan’s representative, who, among others, called for an unconditional ceasefire, said that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed with complete impunity.  Courageous people within the United Nations have called this genocide, he added, calling on the Secretary-General to honour fallen UNRWA employees in the same way that the Organization honours UN peacekeepers who are killed in the course of their duties.

During an interactive dialogue, Israel’s representative asked whether, since 7 October, the Agency has considered how the glorification of terrorists in URNWA textbooks contributed to the massacre of 1,400 people by Hamas.  She also asked why UNRWA cannot condemn Hamas’ abuse of UN facilities for terror activities and for stealing fuel from the Agency’s compound.  Ms. Gunnarsdóttir replied that the Agency has a system for vetting staff and textbooks and that it is unaware of any looting of any of its Gaza facilities.

The Fourth Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Monday, 6 November, to conclude its debate on UNRWA.  At 3 p.m., it will begin its consideration of Israeli practices and settlement activities affecting the rights of the Palestinian people and other Arabs of the occupied territories.

Opening Remarks

MATHU JOYINI (South Africa), Chair of the Fourth Committee, highlighted the critical role of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) in providing services to Palestine refugees and protecting their dignity.  The Agency is mandated by the General Assembly to assist more than 5.9 million Palestine refugees, who account for over 20 per cent of refugees worldwide.  The Agency is facing an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Gaza, as well as enormous challenges in some of its other fields of operations, yet it remains chronically underfunded.  She applauded the many Member States that have stepped up to contribute in order to preserve UNRWA vital services, including for the Gaza Flash Appeal, but emphasized that more is needed.

GRÉTA GUNNARSDÓTTIR, Director of the UNRWA Representative Office in New York, introduced the report titled “Report of the Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East” (document A/78/13).  Speaking on behalf of the Commissioner-General, she said that the last three weeks have been horrific, with almost everyone in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region in mourning.  The Israeli forces’ relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip has been “shocking”.  Since the war began, nearly 50 UNRWA buildings and assets have been impacted, with some being directly hit.  “Entire families moved to our shelters with the hope that they would be safe, in a UN building, under the UN flag.”  UNRWA staff in Gaza report that basic services are collapsing; fuel, medicine, food and water are running out; and the streets are starting to overflow with sewage.  “Depriving a whole population of items essential for survival is collective punishment,” she said, adding that this is also a violation of international humanitarian law.

Despite losing 72 colleagues in less than a month, at least 5,000 UNRWA staff in Gaza continue to show up every day to work, she said.  They are operating 150 UNRWA shelters, keeping a third of its health centres open, running 80 mobile health teams, supporting the entry of humanitarian convoys and distributing the little remaining fuel to hospitals, bakeries and shelters.  They represent “a ray of light as humanity sinks into its darkest hour”, but soon they will be unable to operate.  The handful of convoys being allowed through Rafah do not make for a meaningful humanitarian operation, she said, appealing for political will to match the flow of supplies to the needs of more than 2 million people.

Hunger, despair and feeling of abandonment are turning into anger against the international community, she said, adding that in Gaza, the international community is better known as UNRWA.  Warning against a possible breakdown in civil order, she said that such a situation would make UNRWA efforts — “the last lifeline for the Palestinian people in Gaza” — extremely difficult, if not impossible. Surveying conditions beyond Gaza’s borders, she said that in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, at least 123 Palestinians have been killed, including 34 children, since 7 October.  Along the Israeli-Lebanese border, regular clashes and civilian casualties have been reported, with the situation boiling in several Palestine refugee camps in Lebanon. In Syria, Palestinian refugees are at risk of further instability, with a growing number of reports of strikes on different actors’ positions on Syrian territory.  In Jordan, widespread protests are taking place in solidarity with the people of Gaza, she said.

Going forward, there must be strict adherence to international humanitarian law, with civilians and civilian infrastructure protected in both the north and south of Gaza, she said.  Hostages must also be released.  “We need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire,” she added, emphasizing as well the need for an unimpeded, substantial and continuous flow of humanitarian aid, including fuel, into the Gaza Strip.  In addition, UNRWA needs adequate financial resources to lead the humanitarian response in Gaza, she said, recalling that the Agency was already “heading towards financial implosion” on 6 October.  Looking ahead, she added:  “A political solution has become a matter of life and death for millions of people and must be put firmly back on the table.”

Interactive Dialogue

When the floor opened for an interactive dialogue, the representative of the Netherlands paid tribute to UNRWA staff and other humanitarian workers and offered condolences to families which have lost loved ones.  She emphasized the importance of international humanitarian law being respected and for United Nations premises to be kept safe.  She called for an immediate and massive scale of assistance from Member States and highlighted her country’s own humanitarian efforts.

The representative of Egypt asked for more details about the war’s impact on UNRWA’s ability to deliver on other aspect of its mandate, such as education.

The representative of Israel asked whether, since 7 October, the Agency has reflected about how incitement to terror and violence and the glorification of terrorists in URNWA textbooks contributed to the massacre of 1,400 people by Hamas and the ensuing celebrations in the streets of Gaza.  On the man-made cavity discovered in November in the yard of an URNWA school in Gaza, which the Agency failed to state was a Hamas-built terror tunnel, she asked whether the Agency should have clearly condemned and actively addressed Hamas’s continued abuse of UN facilities for its terror activities.  She also asked what has been done about the 242 hostages held in Gaza and why UNRWA cannot condemn Hamas for stealing and hoarding thousands of litres of fuel from the Agency’s compound.

The representative of South Africa asked to get a sense of the distrust and belief that UNRWA is in cahoots with Hamas and helping to contribute to incitement.  He also asked what the international community can do, outside of funding, to re-establish trust.  He also requested clarity on the issue of fuel being stolen from the Agency.

The observer for the  State of Palestine said that the 72 UNRWA staff killed were Palestinian nationals who had been serving their brethren amid Israel’s criminal aggression.  Many now are buried in mass graves, “denied dignity even in death”.  This abhorrent war against innocent civilians and humanitarian workers is being perpetrated in grave breach of international humanitarian law, the UN Charter and the UN Convention on Privileges and Immunities under which UNRWA facilities are to be protected.  She asked what the Agency is doing to scale up protection in Gaza, in addition to securing funding and humanitarian supplies to maintain operations and providing assistance to millions in need.

Ms. GUNNARSDÓTTIR said that, if the Agency’s core budget is not fully funded, it will be unable to pay salaries and its operations will be affected.  In light of that, States need to fund the core budget.  She added that the Agency has a system for vetting staff and textbooks and that, in its schools, it runs a well-respected programme of youth parliamentarians.  Moreover, students are educated on human rights, conflict resolution and tolerance. The Agency is unaware of any looting of any of its facilities in Gaza, she said, adding that, without fuel, UNRWA will be incapable of providing services.  The Agency has a very good track record, abides by UN rules and should be given a certain amount of trust.  There is an emergency in Gaza and the international community needs to help UNRWA uphold the law that States are supposed to adhere to.  Humanitarian access and humanitarian ceasefire are needed, she said, adding:  “This is not something we can wait out.”

Introduction of Report

ANNE MELANGEN HAVN (Norway), Rapporteur of the Working Group on the Financing of UNRWA, presented that body’s latest report (document A/78/314).  Recalling that last December, the overwhelming majority of Member States voted in favour of renewing the Agency’s mandate until 30 June 2026, she said it is, above all, the responsibility of the General Assembly and the international community to ensure that its services are maintained at the level that allows the Agency to fulfil its mandate without impediments.  The Assembly must enable the Agency to meet the needs of the Palestine refugee population, which have grown exponentially amidst the escalation of hostilities since 7 October, she said.

Reaffirming appreciation for the work of the Agency during these challenging times, she noted that 72 UNRWA staff had been killed since the outbreak of hostilities.  Outlining the Working Group’s recommendations, she urged all Governments to increase over several years their voluntary contributions to UNRWA.  The swift disbursement of announced contributions and flexibility in allocation is highly encouraged, she said, also calling on countries to provide earmarked multi-year funding where possible.  Commending the Agency for increasing its efficiency while maintaining the quality of its services, she encouraged the continued implementation of those measures.


FEDA ABDELHADY, observer for the State of Palestine, said that the situation in the Gaza Strip, which is under inhumane siege and brutal assault by Israel, the occupying Power, is becoming more dire.  A human catastrophe is unfolding and  Palestine refugees are at the centre of this colossal devastation.  The 72 Palestinian staff members of UNRWA who have died in these past four weeks are among the more than 9,300 Palestinians killed in indiscriminate Israeli attacks.  Israel does not refer to the Palestine refugees as human beings, but rather as a “demographic threat” that should be contained or perhaps eliminated. Israel’s systematic targeting of civilian areas, including refugee camps, across Gaza, has left nowhere safe for any living being, violating all norms of international law, she said, adding: “There must be accountability.”

More than 60 per cent of the casualties are women and children, with at least 2,326 women and 3,760 children killed, she continued.  Almost 50 per cent of civilian structures in Gaza have been destroyed, including UNRWA facilities sheltering more than 690,000 of the 1.4 million internally displaced Palestinians.  “This is a blatant crime against humanity,” she said, calling for an immediate ceasefire.  UNRWA is a lifeline for the more than 5.8 million Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and it must be sustained despite all challenges, she said, urging the international community to ensure the political and financial support so that UNRWA’s life-saving assistance can continue.

MARY CLUNE, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, emphasized the importance of always protecting all civilians in line with international humanitarian law.  She condemned all loss of civilian lives and called for the protection of medical facilities, schools and United Nations premises, as well as other infrastructure necessary for humanitarian assistance delivery.  The European Union is committed to reviving a political process based on the two-State solution, she said, noting that, together with its member States, the bloc is the largest contributor to the UNRWA budget and will continue to provide political and financial support staunchly and predictably.  “However, it is clear that traditional donors alone cannot fill the shortfall.  The European Union therefore welcomes additional financial support from other new donors and calls upon all partners to do so through multi-annual contributions, which guarantee predictability and facilitate budget management,” she said.

ABDULAZIZ M. ALWASIL (Saudi Arabia), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, reiterated the need to uphold the inherent and inalienable right of Palestinian refugees to return to their homeland in line with United Nations resolutions.  The destructive war against civilians is one in the string of criminal attacks that the Israeli occupation has been perpetrating for decades.  Emphasizing that Palestinians continue to be forcibly displaced in the West Bank, he said that efforts should continue to end the escalation and stop the war in Gaza. Calling for a ceasefire, he added that all obstacles should be removed so that UNRWA can fulfil its mandate and deliver humanitarian assistance.  Warning against the failure to meet UNRWA financial needs, which would have adverse effects on the humanitarian situation as well as regional security and stability, he urged the international community to provide the necessary support. The Agency should provide services until a fair and lasting solution is found in accordance with relevant resolutions, leading to an independent Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.  He also expressed support for countries that continue to host Palestinian refugees.

AHMED HAMOOD FAISAL AL BUSAIDI (Oman), speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, expressed the organization’s deep sorrow about the suffering of the Palestinian people.  Condemning the targeting of civilians and the shelling of civilian facilities, he called for a permanent ceasefire.  He also emphasized the importance of providing political and financial support to the Agency so that it can meet the humanitarian and development needs of more than 5.9 million Palestine refugees in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and neighbouring countries.  Thanking UNRWA staff for their dedication, he said the 72 staff members killed in Gaza while on duty represent the largest number of United Nations staff members killed in a short period of time.  Calling for an immediate ceasefire, he added that border crossings should be opened for the urgent delivery of humanitarian and relief assistance.  There should be no attempt to forcibly displace Palestinians as this will aggravate the refugee crisis.  Stressing the importance of finding a lasting and comprehensive solution, he noted his group’s contributions to UNRWA and its support for extending its mandate until 30 June 2026, which reflects the international community’s strong political support for the Agency and its activities.

CHRISTINA MARKUS LASSEN (Denmark), also speaking for Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden, and aligning herself with the European Union, said that recent events have confirmed the need for a strong and effective UNRWA.  During the last month, the Agency has been one of the only lifelines for hundreds of thousands of Palestinians, she said, commending the enormous and tireless efforts of its staff in Gaza and on the West Bank.  She echoed the Secretary-General’s repeated calls for ensuring the protection of civilians, in line with international humanitarian law, emphasizing that such protection is a core obligation for all parties to a conflict.  Beyond the current crisis, the Agency has the unique mandate to provide direct services to the millions of Palestine refugees living not only in Gaza and the West Bank, but also in volatile contexts in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, she continued.  UNRWA also plays a very important role in mitigating the risks of migration and radicalization, promoting regional stability, and ensuring that no one is left behind.  Welcoming the Agency’s efforts to diversify funding sources, she commended the important steps taken to modernize its systems to ensure more efficient delivery of services. The Nordic countries provided around $120 million in core contributions to UNRWA in 2022 and also responded to its flash appeal to address the current crisis.  Reaffirming support for the two-State solution, she said that the Agency’s work will remain crucial until a just solution is found.

BOSTJAN MALOVRH (Slovenia), speaking also on behalf of France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain, said that UNRWA has been “a signal of hope and provider of essentials to generations of Palestinian refugees in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan and Syria”.  He called for the full protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, including shelters in the Gaza Strip and UNRWA installations.  “There is an urgent need for a humanitarian truce,” he said, noting that it could lead to a ceasefire and humanitarian corridors.  The United Nations and its agencies must be given access and the international community must scale up humanitarian assistance to respond to immediate needs on the ground.  He added that a more sustainable financing model for UNRWA needs to be identified.

YASSINE SALAH (Tunisia), aligning himself with the Arab Group, said that the barbaric attack against the Gaza Strip “rings an alarm bell”.  The international community must act fast to protect civilians, particularly women and children, and call on the Occupier to comply with international humanitarian law.  UNRWA’s programmes and assistance has met the minimum needs of successive generations of Palestinian refugees while also protecting their rights and enabling them to have a dignified life.  Supporting the Agency at this critical time is an urgent, common, moral and political international responsibility.  He rejected an equalization of aggressor and victims and condemned acts of aggression by the occupying forces against the Palestinian people.  Tunisia demands an immediate ceasefire, unhindered medical and humanitarian assistance to the Gaza strip, and rejects and condemns any attempt to forcibly evict Palestinians, he said.

Mr. ABUSHAIBAH (Kuwait) said that it is regrettable that the just cause of the Palestinian people remains unresolved.  The current dangerous setback threatens a new humanitarian catastrophe that could lead to an exponential increase in Palestinian refugees. He reiterated the importance of upholding the Palestinians’ inalienable right to return to their homes in line with General Assembly resolution 194 (III) and the Arab Peace Initiative.  The defenceless Palestinians are facing a genocide at the hands of the Israeli occupation forces in the Gaza Strip, he said, calling on the international community to shoulder its responsibility, abandon double standards regarding the question of Palestine, compel the Israeli occupation to comply with international law and support the work of UNRWA in fulfilling its mandate.  Safe corridors for emergency relief assistance must be opened, he added.

MUNIR AKRAM (Pakistan), associating himself with the Non‑Aligned Movement and the Arab Group, said that his country will continue to support UNRWA until Palestinian refugees are able to return to their homeland.  Despite the General Assembly’s overwhelming call for a sustained humanitarian ceasefire, Israel is continuing its brutal air strikes and ground invasion.  “Let us not disguise what we are witnessing,” he said, adding that war crimes and crimes against humanity are being committed with complete impunity, while those who prevented a ceasefire enabled the continued slaughter of innocents.  Courageous people within the United Nations have pointed out that this is genocide, he said.  Once the dust is settled, the Secretary-General must honour the 72 martyrs of UNRWA in the same manner that fallen UN peacekeepers are honoured, he said, calling for an unconditional ceasefire.  Further, there must be a repository of the crimes committed in this war, because “the time will come when we ask for accountability”.

SURIYA CHINDAWONGSE (Thailand), noting an unprecedented escalation of hostilities and violence in the Middle East, said that much more should be done in this race against time while UNRWA keeps “the torch of hope alive”.  Ending violence and people’s suffering must be the top and urgent priority.  Calling for an immediate humanitarian truce, he emphasized:  “Every minute can cost or save lives.”  While noting recent contributions to UNRWA, he stressed the need for sustained support, given fluctuations and uncertainties in funding caused by geopolitical climate.  Thailand contributed $80,000 for the emergency flash appeal in addition to a $200,000 multi-year pledge for 2022–2026, he said.  Urging Member States to renew their commitment to achieving peace in the Middle East, he said that all sides should work towards long-term peace through diplomacy.

AHMED MOHAMED EZZAT AHMED ELSHANDAWILY (Egypt), associating himself with the Arab Group and the Non-Aligned Movement, said that, as of the morning of 2 November, 70 UNRWA staff had been killed in the ongoing Israeli military operations in the Gaza Strip. The number of fatalities among personnel engaged in vital humanitarian work is perhaps the best indicator of the monstrous scale of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinians, which has claimed 9,000 civilians.  Further, the funding crisis jeopardizes UNRWA’s ability to even pay its staff who are working under daily Israeli bombardment. The Agency must receive adequate, predictable and sustainable funding so that it can discharge its mandate fully, he said, adding that this is “a mandate that we, the Member States, have assigned to it — a fact that is, unfortunately, sometimes forgotten by some”. He went on to condemn all attempts to forcibly transfer the Palestinian civilian population, saying that such calls, made under the false guise of protection, are attempts to undermine the Palestinian cause.

JASSIM ABDULAZIZ J. A. AL-THANI (Qatar), aligning himself with the Gulf Cooperation Council, said that UNRWA’s task has been intensified by the situation in Gaza. He condemned the bombardment of the Jabalia refugee camp and reiterated calls to stop attacks and the policy of collective punishment.  The funding shortfall from Member States is challenging the Agency’s ability to predict its income, especially with respect to the Gaza situation.  Recalling Qatar’s membership on UNRWA’s Advisory Committee since 2018, he insisted that the international community and donors provide adequate financing to help the Agency achieve its mandate.  Qatar is committed to the continual support of the Agency and the Palestinian cause, as well as the Palestinian people’s inalienable right to establish an independent State along pre-1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital, he said.

CARMEN ROBLEDO LÓPEZ (Mexico), calling for an immediate cessation of hostilities, adding that it is unacceptable that UNRWA workers are among the victims.  She further condemned attacks against civilians, medical and humanitarian personnel, and civilian property and infrastructure as breaches of proportionality and international humanitarian law.  It is crucial to re-establish basic services and lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods in Gaza and the West Bank.  Mexico has historically supported UNRWA’s mandate, and in light of the current situation, it will increase its voluntary contribution to the Agency. The international community must ensure reliable and sustainable funding for UNRWA, she added.  If the root causes are not dealt with, the world will witness more destruction, she continued, expressing support for a comprehensive and political two-State solution to the conflict.

PETER MOHAN MAITHRI PIERIS (Sri Lanka), recalling his visit to UNRWA offices, said that in the absence of a political solution, the Agency plays a pivotal role in addressing the rights of Palestinian refugees. Its work is crucial not only from a humanitarian standpoint, but also from the perspective of regional stability. UNRWA serves as a beacon of hope for millions living in precarious situations, and the resilience of its team epitomizes the essence of humanity.  Its funding shortfall threatens its ability to meet ever-growing needs and its own operational costs, he said, emphasizing the need for the prompt disbursement of contributions and the flexibility to adapt to evolving requirements.  Noting that the Agency provides a variety of services, from health to education to psychosocial support, he said:  “Turning our backs on these vulnerable populations at this critical time is not an option.”

IBRAHIM ZUHUREE (Maldives) condemning in strongest terms the deadliest attack on Palestinian people, joined the call for a humanitarian truce and access to humanitarian organizations contained in the General Assembly resolution titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” (document A/ES-10/L.25). The 72 UNRWA staff killed in recent attacks on Gaza were not just “statistics”, he said, urging the international community to intensify its efforts to guarantee the safety of UNRWA staff and other humanitarian workers in dangerous conditions.  He went on to say that the events of 7 October were the culmination of a systematic and calculated repression of the Palestinian people by Israel over seven decades.  Israeli illegal settlement practices have forced Palestinians into an “open-air prison”, he said, adding that it is “morally imperative” for the Security Council to enforce its own resolutions to maintain peace and security.

AHMAD SAMIR FAHIM HABASHNEH (Jordan), aligning himself with the Arab Group, called on the international community to immediately work towards ending to the human catastrophe and violent Israeli aggression in the Gaza Strip.  It must “leave its silence” and clearly condemn the occupying force, which every day is violating international law and values with no accountability. The international community and the United Nations must move firmly and quickly to stop the war and protect the Palestinian people and to halt the Israeli attempt to displace the people of Gaza. Medical and humanitarian workers and facilities should also be protected, together with the provision of basic needs. In addition, the international community must provide the financial support that UNRWA needs for its mandate. Peace and stability for the region means ending the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territory and respecting the Palestinians’ rights to establish a sovereign State under the two-State solution.

MARISKA DWIANTI DHANUTIRTO (Indonesia) condemned attacks against Palestinians in Gaza and called on the occupying Power to stop the aggression and provide unhindered humanitarian access.  The worsening situation is a reminder for the international community to redouble its support to UNRWA.  For the 5.9 million Palestinian refugees that depend on the Agency, its functioning is the difference between life and death.  She noted that, last week, Indonesia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs announced that the country will triple its voluntary contribution to UNRWA.  Indonesia also cooperates with the Agency to develop innovative partnerships, she said, including in-kind humanitarian assistance to Gaza through Egypt. Comprehensive protection of humanitarian workers is key, and to that end, States should comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.  The root causes of conflict should be addressed, with safe and dignified return of Palestinian refugees as the durable solution, she added.

MOHAMAD SHAHIR SABARUDIN (Malaysia) said that Israel has turned Gaza into a killing field.  In its massacre of civilians, it has not sparred hospitals, schools, mosques and churches.  These inhumane and barbaric attacks constitute a serious breach of international humanitarian and human rights law.  Condemning the aggression against Palestinian civilians, he called for an immediate humanitarian truce leading to cessation of all violence.  Malaysia has consistently rendered assistance and contributions to Palestine, both financially and in kind, including through UNRWA, he said, including a pledge in 2021 of a long-term contribution of $1 million for five years to support predictable and sustainable funding for the Agency.  Reaffirming Malaysia’s support for the Palestinian people, he urged the international community to continue to support UNRWA financially and to stand up against acts of aggression and atrocities committed by Israel.

CEREN HANDE ÖZGÜR (Türkiye), expressing disappointment that the Security Council is unable to meet its responsibilities, said that the General Assembly’s adoption of a humanitarian resolution on Gaza shows that the wider international community will not remain silent.  Stressing that an unconditional and lasting ceasefire is crucial, she said that the practice of siege and collective punishment are unacceptable.  Highlighting the urgent need for food, water and medical supplies in the Gaza Strip, she said that all parties must facilitate humanitarian access so that UNWRA and other agencies can carry out their essential work.  Commending their remarkable work, performed in difficult conditions, she condemned the indiscriminate attacks that claimed the lives of 72 UNRWA staff members, the largest number of aid workers to have lost their lives at one time.  It is the international community’s responsibility to ensure that the Agency’s work continues, she said, highlighting her country’s contribution to its funding.  The international community must set in motion a political process based on a two-State vision, she added.

ANDREAS LØVOLD (Norway) said that UNWRA staff are heroically delivering aid to Palestine refugees at great personal risk.  After weeks of warfare and enormous destruction, Gaza is facing a humanitarian catastrophe, with hundreds of thousands of Gazans seeking refuge in the Agency's buildings.  Expressing concern about the increased tensions in the West Bank, as well as the risk for further regional escalation, he said that the Agency’s ability to address the needs and rights of Palestinian refugees remains crucial.  In this regard, he welcomed contributions made by Member States in response to UNWRA’s humanitarian appeal and pointed to his country’s new contribution of approximately $5.4 million, in addition to $27.2 million already disbursed.  He further urged a follow-up to the General Assembly’s decision in 2022 to increase the Agency’s financing over the UN regular budget.

Right of Reply

The Committee then resumed its consideration of peacekeeping operations in all their aspects in order to hear from delegations which had requested the floor in exercise of the right of reply, but did not get the opportunity to do so when the Committee ran out of time at its meeting on 1 November.

The representative of Lebanon, speaking in exercise of the right of reply, said that the justifications made by Israel’s delegate regarding attacks on the premises of the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) did not stand. United Nations premises, like civilian lives in Gaza, are inviolable under international law.  Moreover, the Israeli army’s attacks on UNIFIL positions in 1996 and 2006, and on 28 October 2023, were intentional, and not a mistake as claimed.

The representative of Iran said that the representative of the Israeli regime had made unfounded and futile allegations against his country.  Various UN agencies have reported the reality on ground, he said, adding that there seems to be no end to the brutality of the Israeli war machine.  The Israeli regime often refers to its opponents, and those who oppose the occupation, as terrorists, using the right to self-defence as an excuse to hide its brutality, he said.

The representative of Algeria said that he was shocked by Morocco's response to his remarks.  He had only stressed the need to provide the United Nations Mission for the Referendum in Western Sahara (MINURSO) with a human rights component, like all other UN peacekeeping operations.  Morocco no longer supports the terms "referendum" or "Western Sahara", yet these two terms are an integral part of MINURSO’s mandate, he added.  Western Sahara is a well-known geographical term and a primary concern of the Fourth Committee.  Expressing concern about Morocco's refusal to accept a multilateral human-rights-monitoring mechanism, he also pointed to the detention of Sahrawi human rights defenders.

The representative of Morocco reminded Algeria’s delegate that the idea of a referendum on the issue of Western Sahara is dead and buried.  A solution for the Moroccan Sahara can only be political and balanced, she said, adding that the Security Council has noted the relevance and importance of Morocco’s solution to this issue.  She added that UN special rapporteurs have expressed their concerns about human rights violations in Algeria, including repressions against civil society, detentions of human rights defenders and forced disappearances.

The representative of Algeria said that the Committee was discussing peacekeeping operations and not his country.  He added that the only honorable solution is for Morocco to lift the obstacles it imposes on MINURSO and allow it to implement its mandate, which is to organize a referendum in Western Sahara. 

For information media. Not an official record.