Civilians in Gaza Must Not Be Collectively Punished for Atrocities Committed by Hamas, Speakers Tell Security Council, Urging Ceasefire
Nearly 3,200 Palestinian Children Killed in Three Weeks, Says Senior UN Official
Civilians in Gaza must not be the target of collective punishment, speakers told the Security Council today, as calls for a ceasefire gained greater urgency amid the intensification of Israel’s lethal military offensive into the besieged enclave, following the 7 October attacks by the armed group Hamas against that country.
Philippe Lazzarini, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), called the Israel Defense Forces’ relentless bombardment of the Gaza Strip “shocking”, with the level of destruction unprecedented, adding that “the human tragedy unfolding under our watch is unbearable”. Reiterating that “no place is safe in Gaza”, he said 1 million people were pushed from the north to the south over three weeks, with the south also being bombarded. Civilians remaining in the north are now receiving evacuation notices from the Israeli forces, urging them south, although many, including pregnant women and people with disabilities, are unable to move, he said, stressing: “What happened and continues to happen is forced displacement.”
Nearly 70 per cent of those reported killed are children and women, he said, pointing out that nearly 3,200 children were killed in Gaza in just three weeks. “This cannot be ‘collateral damage’.” After two weeks of full siege, basic services were crumbling; medicine, food, water and fuel are running out, with last weekend’s communications blackout accelerating the breakdown of civil order, he said, adding: “The current siege imposed on Gaza is collective punishment.” Gazans today feel that the world equates all of them to Hamas, he said, warning: “An entire population is being dehumanized.” The atrocities of Hamas do not absolve the State of Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law, he stressed, calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
Catherine Russell, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said she believed that “the true cost of this latest escalation will be measured in children’s lives — those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it”, as rampant grave violations are being committed against them. More than 420 children are being killed or injured in Gaza each day, she said, adding that it is “a number which should shake each of us to our core”.
Turning to damage incurred by civilian infrastructure, she said the World Health Organization (WHO) has reported 34 attacks against health-care facilities, including 21 hospitals. Meanwhile, Gaza’s wastewater treatment plants are now non-operational due to the lack of fuel or power, she said, adding: “The lack of clean water and safe sanitation is on the verge of becoming a catastrophe.” She called for humanitarian access to be allowed through all crossings into the Gaza Strip, and for measures to cut electricity, food, water and fuel from entering Gaza from Israel to be immediately reversed.
Also briefing the Council was Lisa Doughten, Director of the Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, who spoke on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator. Painting a bleak picture of the plight of Gazans, who recently resorted to breaking into UN warehouses in search of food, she said, “People are becoming increasingly desperate, as they search for food, water and shelter amid the relentless bombing campaign that is wiping out whole families and entire neighbourhoods.”
Describing a health-care system in tatters, with patients laying on the floors and in corridors, while surgeons are operating without anaesthesia, she said that life hangs by a thread for the 1,000 patients dependent on dialysis and the 130 premature babies in incubators, as hospital back-up generators run on fumes. Voicing concern about allegations of military installations in the close vicinity of hospitals and Israel’s request that hospitals be evacuated, she said: “There is nowhere safe for patients to go, and for those on life support and babies in incubators, moving would almost certainly be a death sentence.” Calling on parties to pause the fighting on humanitarian grounds, and for collective action to prevent the further escalation of the war and spillover into the wider region, she warned: “The current situation may pale in comparison with what is to come.”
In the ensuing debate, many Council members voiced alarm over the unbearable plight of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, as well as over the dramatic uptick in violence by armed settlers in the West Bank. Speakers were unanimous in stressing the need for international law to be respected amid Israel’s continuing — and escalating — military operations. However, some stressed its right to legitimate self-defence, and advocated for humanitarian pauses, which fell short of a full ceasefire, while others deplored the Council’s inaction in the face of a staggering civilian toll, including thousands of slain children.
Brazil’s delegate voiced alarm at the “alarming human catastrophe unfolding over our eyes”, with thousands of civilians, including an overwhelming and intolerable number of children, being punished for crimes they have not committed. In that grim context, he deplored that the Council had “repeatedly and shamelessly” failed to put an end to the human suffering, stressing: “The eyes of the world are staring at us and will not move away from our distressing inability to act.” On behalf of the Council’s 10 elected members, he stressed the need to move from rhetoric to action, adding: “I want to put it bluntly: there cannot be rescuing of hostages and humanitarian aid under shells.”
The Russian Federation’s delegate noted Israel’s Foreign Ministry’s outright rejection of the UN’s “despicable” call for a ceasefire, and voiced shock over Knesset representatives’ comments that Gaza’s children brought this upon themselves. Amid “a humanitarian catastrophe of biblical proportions” unfolding in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, the Council has been unable to adopt a resolution due to the United States position, he said, adding: “Washington and West Jerusalem have entirely other plans — to wipe out the population of Gaza or to force them out of the Gaza Strip to force the remaining Palestinian population to assimilate into Israel so as to solve the Palestinian problem that way.”
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, highlighting that 121 countries unambiguously called for a humanitarian truce in Gaza on 27 October, said that the Council’s ignoring the express will of the majority of the world may be what breaks it. “Colleagues, we need a ceasefire now,” she emphasized. Pointing out that the number of Palestinian children killed in just three weeks exceeds the total number of children killed in conflicts in each of the last four years worldwide, she said: “That should stain our moral conscience if nothing else does.”
The United States’ representative, meanwhile, stressed that Hamas must not use Palestinians as human shields, and Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians. As well, she called for the unconditional release of hostages, for humanitarian needs to be addressed, for Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism to be affirmed and for all actors to be reminded to respect international law. Recalling that action had been blocked on a text her delegation put forth last week, she deplored the “grossly one-sided resolution” adopted by the General Assembly, adding that it was “unconscionable” that the text did not condemn Hamas.
For his part, the Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine underscored that Gaza is now hell on Earth, with the 2.3 million there enduring suffering that no human beings should endure. “They are besieged and bombed, with nowhere safe to go,” he said, adding that as many as 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in the past three weeks, including 3,000 in the south of the enclave, where they were forcibly transferred by Israel. The death toll includes 3,500 Palestinian children, he said, adding: “Every five minutes, a Palestinian child is killed. Our children who are, like yours, children of God, children of light. How many more days will you wait to say ‘enough’, to recognize this is a war against our children?” He called on the Council to heed the wisdom of the General Assembly’s call for a humanitarian truce and uphold its responsibilities to put an end to the bloodshed.
The delegate of Israel said that “Hamas are modern-day Nazis, from their appalling inhumane violence to identical genocidal ideologies”. The leadership role in Hamas is held by the Ayatollah regime whose death squads include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic jihad, Hizbullah, the Houthis and other savage jihadists. “The Islamic Nazi regime of Iran is responsible for aiding terrorists around the globe,” he stressed. Yet, like during the rise of Nazism, today the world is deafeningly silent. Over 250,000 innocent Israeli civilians have been displaced since the war began and millions are living everyday under threat of constant indiscriminate rocket fire at the hands of Hamas, Hizbullah and other jihadists, he said, adding that his delegation will wear yellow stars until the Council condemns Hamas’ atrocities and demands the immediate release of Israeli hostages. Stressing that “antisemites have been empowered”, he asked: “Why are the humanitarian needs of Gazans the sole issue you are all focused on?”
Rounding out the discussion, the delegate of Jordan, speaking for the Arab Group, said that the resolution adopted by the General Assembly last week sent a clear message: that the international community stood for the protection of innocent civilians, for adherence to legal obligations and an immediate stop to the war in Gaza. Warning that the Council’s “deafening” silence had emboldened Israel to act with impunity, he asked: “Isn’t it time for the Council to shoulder its responsibility and heed Gazans’ cries for help, as their houses and places of worship tumble on their heads and they have no safe shelter from Israel’s bombardment?”
THE SITUATION IN THE MIDDLE EAST, INCLUDING THE PALESTINIAN QUESTION
PHILIPPE LAZZARINI, Commissioner-General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), said the last three weeks have been horrific, with almost everyone in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territory and the region in mourning. The relentless bombardments by the Israel Defense Forces of the Gaza Strip are “shocking”, he said, adding: “The level of destruction is unprecedented, the human tragedy unfolding under our watch is unbearable.” One million people were pushed from north to south in three weeks; however, the south has also been bombarded, killing many people, he said, reiterating that “no place is safe in Gaza”. Civilians remaining in the north are now receiving evacuation notices from the Israeli forces, urging them south to receive scarce humanitarian assistance, although many, including pregnant women, people with disabilities, the sick and the wounded, are unable to move. “What happened and continues to happen is forced displacement,” he stressed, adding that more than 670,000 displaced people are now in overcrowded UNRWA schools and buildings, where they live in appalling, unsanitary conditions, with limited food and water.
Hunger and despair are turning into anger against the international community, and in Gaza, the international community is better known as UNRWA, he went on. Nearly 70 per cent of those reported killed are children and women, he said, citing Save the Children, which reported on 29 October that nearly 3,200 children were killed in Gaza in just three weeks, surpassing the number of children killed annually across the world's conflict zones since 2019. “This cannot be ‘collateral damage’.” Churches, mosques, hospitals and UNRWA facilities, including those sheltering displaced people, had not been spared, with too many people killed and injured whilst seeking safety in places protected by international humanitarian law. “The current siege imposed on Gaza is collective punishment,” he said, adding that, after two weeks of full siege, basic services are crumbling; medicine, food, water and fuel are running out; and the streets are starting to overflow with sewage.
In the latest blow, this weekend’s communications blackout has aggravated the panic and distress of the people in Gaza, he continued, adding that, as a result, they could not communicate with their loved ones inside Gaza to know who is dead and who is alive, did not know if they would receive bread from UNRWA and felt abandoned by the world. This accelerated the breakdown in civil order, with thousands of desperate people heading to the UNRWA warehouse and distribution centres that received supplies from Egypt last week. A further breakdown in order will make it difficult, “if not impossible”, for the largest UN agency in Gaza to continue operating, he said, adding: “I say this knowing that UNRWA is the last remaining lifeline for the Palestinian people in Gaza.” UNRWA is calling on the Council for support, he said, stating that he has lost 64 colleagues in the past three weeks, with the latest such tragedy occurring two hours ago, when his colleague, Samir, died with his wife and eight children. “This is the highest number of UN aid workers killed in a conflict in such a short time,” he said.
Observing that his 13,000 colleagues in Gaza are from a community of 1.7 million Palestine refugees, with those alive having suffered losses of friends and family, being displaced, as they nonetheless continued to work tirelessly for their community. They ran 150 UNRWA shelters, kept a third of its health centres open, ran 80mobile health teams, supported the entry of humanitarian convoys and distributed the little remaining fuel to hospitals, bakeries and shelters. While they represent “a ray of light as humanity sinks into its darkest hour”, he warned that they will soon be unable to operate, as they are running out of fuel, water, food and medicine. The handful of convoys being allowed through Rafah is “nothing” compared to the unprecedented needs of 2 million Gazans, half of whom are children. “Today, Gazans feel that they are not treated as other civilians,” he said, adding: “Most of them feel trapped in a war they have nothing to do with. They feel the world is equating all of them to Hamas.” “This is dangerous,” he stressed: “An entire population is being dehumanized.”
The atrocities of Hamas do not absolve the State of Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law. “Every war has rules, and this one is no exception,” he said, underscoring that Gazans deserve empathy. Also sounding the alarm about another crisis unfolding in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, where Palestinian fatalities in 2023 were the highest since the UN started to keep records in 2005, he said, stating that, since 7 October, at least 115 Palestinians have been killed, including 33 children. Warning of a potential spillover of the conflict, he emphasized the need for adherence to international law, stressing: “This is not an option, it is an obligation.” Underscoring the need for the unimpeded, substantial, continuous flow of humanitarian aid, including fuel, into the Gaza Strip, he stressed: “For this, we need an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.” UNRWA needs funds, without which it cannot pay salaries and deliver. Civilians must be protected, hostages released and a genuine humanitarian response facilitated. “An immediate humanitarian ceasefire has become a matter of life and death for millions,” he said, adding: “The present and future of Palestinians and Israelis depend on it.”
CATHERINE RUSSELL, Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), said she believed that “the true cost of this latest escalation will be measured in children’s lives — those lost to the violence and those forever changed by it”, as rampant grave violations are being committed against them. She noted that, according to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, more than 8,300 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including over 3,400 children, with over 6,300 children injured. This means that more than 420 children are being killed or injured in Gaza each day, she said, adding that it is “a number which should shake each of us to our core”. She also highlighted that in the occupied West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem, at least 37 children have reportedly been killed, while more than 30 Israeli children have reportedly been killed, and at least 20 remain hostage in the Gaza Strip.
She drew attention to the impact on civilian infrastructure in Gaza, stating that the World Health Organization (WHO) has said that 34 attacks have been reported against health-care facilities, including 21 hospitals. Twelve of Gaza’s 35 hospitals, which are also being used as shelters for displaced people, can no longer function. At least 221 schools and more than 177,000 housing units have been damaged or destroyed. What little clean water remains in Gaza is quickly running out, leaving more than 2 million people in dire need, she said. She said that UNICEF estimates that 55 per cent of the water supply infrastructure requires repair or rehabilitation. She added that only one desalination plant is operating, at just 5 per cent capacity, while all six of Gaza’s wastewater treatment plants are now non-operational due to the lack of fuel or power. “The lack of clean water and safe sanitation is on the verge of becoming a catastrophe. Unless access is urgently restored, more civilians will fall ill or die from dehydration or waterborne diseases.”
She said “children in both Israel and the State of Palestine are experiencing terrible trauma — the consequences of which could last a lifetime”. She is concerned about the extreme difficulty of getting humanitarian aid into Gaza and the dangers for her staff there. She called on the Council to immediately adopt a resolution that reminds parties of their obligations under international law, calls for a ceasefire, demands that parties allow for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, and requires the immediate and safe release of all hostages. The Council should also prioritize what is now a worsening displacement crisis, with more than 1.4 million people in Gaza, the majority of whom are children, now displaced, she added. All parties must stop the violence and prevent any grave violations committed against children. She called on humanitarian access to be allowed through all crossings into the Gaza Strip. “Measures to cut electricity, food, water and fuel from entering Gaza from Israel must be immediately reversed, so that civilians can have access to the services they need to survive.” On behalf of all the children caught in this nightmare, she said, the world must do better.
LISA DOUGHTEN, Director of the Humanitarian Financing and Resource Mobilization Division, Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, spoke on behalf of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, who is currently on mission in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. She reported that, according to the Ministry of Health in Gaza, more than 8,000 people have been killed, with 66 per cent said to be women and children. Tens of thousands more have been injured. “People are becoming increasingly desperate, as they search for food, water and shelter amid the relentless bombing campaign that is wiping out whole families and entire neighbourhoods.” People have resorted to breaking into UN warehouses in search of food and water, she added, highlighting that dehydration is an increasing concern, as is the possibility of the spread of disease due to unsafe water and the breakdown in sewage treatment services.
She further reported that more than 1.4 million people are internally displaced in Gaza, and hundreds and thousands are crammed into overcrowded shelters and hospitals. While many have moved south in search of safety, “nowhere is safe and we simply do not have enough essential supplies to provide for the survival of internally displaced people at this scale”. Describing a health-care system in tatters, she said patients lay on the floors and in corridors, while surgeons are operating without anesthesia. Out of an estimated 50,000 pregnant women, 5,500 are due to deliver within the next 30 days. Life hangs by a thread for the 1,000 patients dependent on dialysis and the 130 premature babies in incubators, as hospital back-up generators run on fumes. Voicing concern about allegations of military installations in the close vicinity of hospitals and Israel’s request that hospitals be evacuated, she stressed: “There is nowhere safe for patients to go, and for those on life support and babies in incubators, moving would almost certainly be a death sentence.”
She welcomed the agreement that has allowed the UN to get some relief into Gaza via the Rafah border crossing. Humanitarian supplies and relief must reach Gaza safely, reliably, without impediment and at the scale required, and fuel supplies must be replenished, she stressed. Underlining the need for more than one entry point into Gaza, she pointed out that Kerem Shalom, between Israel and Gaza, is the only crossing equipped to rapidly process a sufficiently large number of trucks. She further reported that, in the West Bank, scores of civilians have been killed and incidents of settler violence have increased, causing hundreds of civilians to be displaced. The suspension of permits of some 150,000 to 175,000 Palestinians from the West Bank working in Israel and settlements is causing significant damage to the West Bank economy and Palestinian institutions, she added.
“The current situation may pale in comparison with what is to come,” she warned, urging collective action to prevent the further escalation of the war and spillover into the wider region. She called on the parties to agree to pause the fighting on humanitarian grounds, to provide required calm and safety for hostages to be released, and for the UN to replenish supplies, relieve exhausted personnel and resume assistance throughout Gaza. However, with or without a pause in the fighting, all parties — on all sides — must respect international humanitarian law and thus allow relief in and take constant care to spare civilian objects and civilians, whether they move or stay. “We are relying on the responsibility of every Member State here and across the UN to use all their influence to ensure that the rules of war are respected and that as far as is possible, civilians are spared further suffering,” she said.
MAURO VIEIRA, Minister for Foreign Affairs for Brazil, and Security Council President for October, speaking in his national capacity, said that he was present before the 15-member organ, following the instructions of his country’s President, Lula da Silva, “with a profound sense of urgency and dismay”. Emphasizing the need to “always bear in mind the human faces on both sides of the conflict” tragically reignited by the terrorist actions of Hamas against Israel on 7 October, he called for all hostages to be immediately released and access to them by the Red Cross immediately granted. However, the current situation is “deeply appalling and indefensible by any humane standard and under international humanitarian law”, he said, with an “alarming human catastrophe unfolding over our eyes”. Thousands of civilians, including an overwhelming and intolerable number of children, have been punished for crimes they have not committed. Pointing to the high death toll of the conflict over the past three weeks, claiming 8,000 civilian lives, including more than 3,000 children, he noted that 1,000 more children had been killed since his address before the Council last week.
Meanwhile, the Council holds meetings without being able to take a fundamental decision: to end the human suffering on the ground, “repeatedly and shamelessly” failing, he said. Although it has met since 7 October to consider four draft resolutions, it has remained at an impasse due to internal disagreements, involving some permanent members. “The eyes of the world are staring at us and will not move away from our distressing inability to act,” casting doubt on its very raison d’être, he emphasized, adding: “Someone has even written that, in addition to civilians, this body lies beneath the rubbles in Gaza.” The price of inaction is unacceptably high, he said, stressing: “I want to put it bluntly: there cannot be rescuing of hostages and humanitarian aid under shells.” Brazil and the 10 elected Council members call on the organ to act more decisively, he said, asking: “How many more lives will be lost until we finally move from rhetoric to action?”
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) noted that 121 countries unambiguously called for a humanitarian truce in Gaza on 27 October, standing up for the self-evident truth that Palestinian life is deserving of the equal protection of the law. She highlighted that the number of Palestinian children killed in just three weeks exceeds the total number of children killed in conflicts in each of the last four years worldwide. “That should stain our moral conscience if nothing else does.” This Council ignoring the express will of the majority of the world may be what breaks it. “Colleagues, we need a ceasefire now,” she said. She called for aid at scale to reach Gaza now and the restoration of essential services there, like water and electricity. Regarding attacks on health care and UNRWA facilities, she highlighted that these sites are protected by international law, and any announcements that they need to be evacuated do not make it legal to target them. She noted that the occupied West Bank has not been spared violence during this period, with Israeli settlers displacing Palestinians, acts which the Government of Israel must stop. “The drums of war are beating,” she said, adding that the Council does not serve Israel’s security by enabling it to go on. “What we and 121 countries are advocating for may be the harder road, but history warns us of the consequences of not taking it.”
ZHANG JUN (China) voiced deep sympathy for the people of Gaza who are struggling on the brink of life and death and concern about the Middle East peace process on the brink of collapse. He called on the parties to the conflict to cease all hostilities, set in place a humanitarian truce and make every effort to prevent the situation from escalating further. He also called on Israel to respect its obligations under international humanitarian law, lift its siege over Gaza, immediately rescind its evacuation order and restore the supply of basic necessities to prevent an even larger humanitarian disaster. He urged intensified diplomatic efforts to facilitate the immediate release of hostages and to work on that basis to seek to open up space for dialogue to return to the track of a political settlement. Further, he called on parties that have a “special power” on parties to the conflict to put aside their self-interest and geopolitical considerations and make every effort to stop the war and restore peace.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), stating that “a civilian is a civilian is a civilian”, emphasized that all journalists, humanitarian workers and civilians must be protected. Three weeks after Hamas killed 1,400 innocent civilians in Israel and took 200 others hostage, the humanitarian crisis grows by the day. She called for the unconditional release of hostages, for humanitarian needs to be addressed, for Israel’s right to defend itself from terrorism to be affirmed and for all actors to be reminded to respect international law. Hamas must not use Palestinians as human shields, and Israel must take all possible precautions to avoid harming civilians. She condemned the uptick in violence against Palestinians in the West Bank since last week, and urged Israel to prevent such attacks, in concert with the Palestinian Authority. She also echoed concerns about recent telecommunications shutdowns in Gaza, which imperil the lives of civilians, UN staff and humanitarian personnel. Warning that “lives hang in the balance”, she called on all Members to “step up”. The United States is the single largest donor to UNRWA, to which it has given $1 billion since 2021, she said, adding that an additional $100 million has been provided in humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the West Bank. The flow of food, fuel, water and medicine must be restored, she said, citing United States President Joseph R. Biden’s call for humanitarian pauses in the fighting to allow hostages to get out, humanitarian aid to be distributed, and to allow safe passage for civilians to get to safer locations. Recalling that action had been blocked on a text her delegation put forth last week, she deplored the “grossly one-sided resolution” adopted by the General Assembly, adding that it was “unconscionable” that the text did not condemn Hamas. Her country will continue to engage Member States committed to adopting a strong and balanced resolution, advancing progress towards a future with two democratic States, Israel and Palestine living side by side, which is “not the future Hamas wants to see”.
HERNÁN PÉREZ LOOSE (Ecuador) noted the desperate and threatening situation for Gazans and that there is insufficient aid reaching them. This is aggregated by telecommunications outages, he said. He hoped that a system will be established that will supply the civilian population sufficiently and continuously. He recognized the right of countries to protect their civilians, but said that must be in accordance with international law. He called for the avoidance of a spillover of violence, particularly in the occupied West Bank and on the border between Lebanon and Israel. He called for responsible and common-sense actions, otherwise, he said, “death, more pain, and more suffering will be all that await”. He urged the Council to speak out in the face of the explosion of violence and adopt a majority decision. He highlighted that the UN was born to defend the dignity and value of the human person and to provide a better world for everyone.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said the application of international humanitarian law and human rights, in particular the protection of civilians, is — and must remain — a priority for this Council. “We must exert our influence on the parties to the conflict to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected, to halt the current spiral of violence and prevent it from spreading throughout the region,” she stressed. Within this Council and at the General Assembly, Switzerland has been actively working for the introduction of measures — such as humanitarian pauses or truces — to guarantee access for aid, she said. Such measures, accompanied by security guarantees, are necessary to enable the personnel of impartial humanitarian organizations to work effectively to respond to the needs of the population and to alleviate the worsening sanitary crisis in Gaza, she added, noting that this is even more necessary in the light of the intensification of hostilities in recent days.
MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), voicing “shock to the core” at the briefings, said the intensification of Israeli air strikes, along with ground operations, dramatically increases the huge death toll, in the wake of the heinous attack by Hamas. In that context, paralysis of the Council is inconceivable. Firmly condemning all indiscriminate violence, he stressed that civilian populations must neither be currency, human shields, nor the target of collective punishment. He called for all hostages to be released unconditionally, and Israel’s right to self-defence to be exercised in accordance with international law humanitarian and principles of proportionality and precaution. The Council must transcend geopolitical bonds, rivalries and sterility to demand an immediate end to hostilities and unhindered access of humanitarian aid to those trapped in the ruins of Gaza. Hailing efforts to restore calm by regional countries, he stressed: “We must avoid a conflagration which would stand as a point of no return and lead us into chaos.”
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) conveyed condolences for the tragic loss of UNRWA staff in these past weeks and said that her country is gravely concerned by the desperate situation in Gaza. “Such military operations will undoubtedly have a devastating impact on the more than 2 million civilians trapped in the enclave,” she said, adding that Hamas’ continuous rocket barrage into the Israeli territory is completely unacceptable. “We unequivocally reject and condemn these barbaric attacks, including the 7 October attack and the taking of hostages,” she stressed. “We are utterly devastated to note the effects the conflict is having on Palestinian and Israeli children,” she said, underscoring that the killing and maiming of children, attacks on schools, hospitals, places of worship and denial of children’s access to humanitarian assistance are all grave violations. She also said that any lasting and sustainable plan for peace in the Middle East must be based on a two-State solution.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) warned that the terrorist attacks by Hamas and other groups against Israel on 7 October have triggered an unprecedented crisis. Calling for a humanitarian truce which could lead to a ceasefire, he affirmed that civilians who wish to leave Gaza must be able to do so. He stated that Israel has the right to defend itself and the duty to do so in compliance with international humanitarian law. France voted in favour of the resolution presented by Jordan, he recalled, noting that Hamas in no way represents the Palestinians, having “nothing but contempt for their suffering”, and demanding that the hostages be released immediately and unconditionally. He further condemned the violence perpetrated by settlers against the Palestinian population, which is increasing in the West Bank. The war was a reminder — if needed — that the world can no longer ignore the legitimate aspiration of Palestinians and Israelis to live in peace and security.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania), condemning the inhuman acts perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October, noted the “competing urgencies” of Israel in responding to terror in its exercise to the right to self-defence and in conducting warfare prudently in a densely populated area, in compliance with international law. He voiced regret over every life lost, without distinction. The hostages must be brought home, and unhindered humanitarian access must be urgently provided. While wars are sometimes unavoidable and always brutal, “even wars have laws, and they must be respected”, he said, stressing that there must be a way to ensure the security of Israel and of all Palestinians who do not want war. He underscored the need for action on the ground and in the Council. As well, a spillover of the conflict in the region must be resisted, he said, pointing to Hizbullah “playing with fire”, through an uptick in attacks from the north. Albania condemns the extremist settler violence in the West Bank, and calls for accountability, as well as a revival of the political process.
PEDRO COMISSÁRIO AFONSO (Mozambique) reiterated the need for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire to ease the suffering of millions of Israelis and Palestinians. “We should remind ourselves that the laws of war have established clear rules to protect human lives, human dignity and respect humanitarian needs,” he said. “We have condemned the attacks of Hamas on 7 October against Israeli children, women and men. We strongly condemn the attacks against the civilian populations, in particular children, women, the elderly and the UN humanitarian staff,” he stressed. The United Nations awaits actions and leadership from the Council and he appealed to the members of the Council to fulfil their functions to change the course of action in the Gaza Strip. “We firmly believe that the parties can work together, through a constructive dialogue, for a lasting peace, in full compliance with the principles of the two-State solution, based on the Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and decisions,” he concluded.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) said that, in the Occupied Palestinian Territory — the West Bank and Gaza — a humanitarian catastrophe of biblical proportions is unfolding. He said Israel’s leadership, ignoring the General Assembly resolution, began a ground military operation in the Gaza Strip in a plan to clear the enclave. He noted comments by Israel’s Foreign Ministry that Israel rejects outright the UN’s despicable call for a ceasefire, and he was shocked by statements by Knesset representatives that the children in Gaza brought this upon themselves. He said that, due to the United States position, the Council has not been able to adopt a resolution. “Washington and West Jerusalem have entirely other plans — to wipe out the population of Gaza or to force them out of the Gaza Strip to force the remaining Palestinian population to assimilate into Israel so as to solve the Palestinian problem that way.” The priority must be to stop the bloodshed, to minimize harm to civilians, and move the situation into a political-diplomatic sphere — meaning efforts to relaunch a full-fledged negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians to endorse the two-State solution. He said the Russian Federation has sent a clear signal to all parties involved to immediately end fighting and provide humanitarian corridors. He also blamed Ukraine for stoking recent unrest in Dagestan.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), offering condolences to all Palestinians and Israelis who have suffered, said that, since Hamas’ terrorist attack against Israel, her country has underscored Israel’s right to self-defence against terrorism. “We continue to be clear that this must be done in accordance with international humanitarian law,” she stressed, adding that the situation in Gaza deteriorates daily and Hamas bears sole responsibility for starting this conflict. “We must urgently cooperate to scale up aid into Gaza and to ensure sufficient access points are open,” she said, spotlighting over $36 million in additional aid to the occupied Palestinian territories committed by her country since the latest escalation in Gaza. “We cannot allow this conflict to spread,” she emphasized, calling on all countries in the region to help avoid escalation and warning non-State actors not to exploit the current situation. Stressing that the Palestinian Authority has a key role as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people, she called on Israel and other States to support it.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) expressed unequivocal condemnation of the terror attacks committed by Hamas and other militants and extended condolences to all victims. “Hamas does not speak for the Palestinian people; every Member State has the right to defend itself and its people in accordance with international law,” he said, adding that all parties must act based on international law. “Full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access consistent with international humanitarian law must be allowed in order to alleviate the devastating humanitarian situation,” he stressed, spotlighting that, while several trucks have crossed through the Rafah crossing, hundreds more must follow suit to meet the dire needs of over 2 million people. He also expressed profound concern regarding the disconnection of telecommunications networks, which disrupts vital communication channels between those in Gaza and the rest of the world and also impedes the work of media and humanitarian communities.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana), calling for the delivery of critical care and support services to the nearly 672,000 internally displaced persons sheltering in 149 UNRWA facilities as well as the many other innocent civilians, appealed to Israel, Egypt and other stakeholders to work constructively towards enhanced humanitarian access through the Rafah border crossing and to all donors to step up financial and material contributions to UNRWA. “We must also use the weight of the Assembly’s decision to strenuously encourage the efforts of leaders in the region, especially Qatar, as well as ICRC [International Committee of the Red Cross], that have been at the forefront of negotiations to secure the release of all Israeli and foreign hostages,” he said, encouraging regional and international leaders to act as moderating influence on the parties to help de-escalate the conflict and prevent its further spread in the region. Reminding the Palestinian and Israeli people of their interwoven history and shared geography, he underscored that violence cannot be a tool for the resolution of the conflict.
ROBERT A. WOOD (United States), taking the floor a second time to respond to comments by the Russian Federation’s representative, took issue with repeated blame attributed directly and indirectly on the United States for the ongoing crisis, which he called “irresponsible and false”. No other State has worked harder to resolve the situation, he stressed. Moscow “frankly has no credibility”, he said, adding that its prevarication knows no bounds. “It doesn’t care about solving crises; it creates them,” he stressed, pointing to the situation in Ukraine. On comments made regarding his country’s actions in Syria, he said that it was responding to attacks against United States personnel, in line with Article 51 of the Charter of the United Nations, a document whose heart the Russia Federation is driving a stake through, by its actions in Ukraine.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), replying to the representative of the United States, noted that he had not heard a response to the question that he put to him. He said he would ask him a rhetorical question, that does not require an answer, being: how many times during the present crisis has the United States initiated a meeting on the humanitarian situation in Gaza?
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that Gaza is now hell on Earth, with the 2.3 million there enduring suffering that no human beings should endure. Saving humanity from hell today means for the UN to save Palestinians in Gaza. “They are besieged and bombed, with nowhere safe to go,” he said, adding that half of the homes in Gaza have been destroyed or damaged. More than 1.4 million Palestinians have been forcibly displaced from their homes, he said, stating that now virtually all Gazans are homeless, displaced, moving from one family home to another, from a hospital to a church, from a mosque to an UNRWA school, sleeping in their cars, sleeping in the streets and still being killed wherever they go. “A leaked document prepared by the Israeli intelligence ministry confirms that, in fact, relocating Palestinians from Gaza to tent cities in Sinai is not a threat we imagined, but a reality Israel is trying to impose,” he said, underscoring that over 8,000 Palestinians have been killed in October, including over 3,000 in the south of Gaza, where Israel has pushed hundreds of thousands of people. “Three thousand five hundred Palestinian children have been killed by Israel in just three weeks, more than the annual number of children killed across the world’s conflict zones combined since 2019,” he emphasized, also calling to stop the killings in the West Bank by settlers and occupation forces. “Every five minutes, a Palestinian child is killed. Our children who are, like yours, children of God, children of light. How many more days will you wait to say enough, to recognize this is a war against our children?” He called on the Council to heed the wisdom of the General Assembly’s call for a humanitarian truce and uphold its responsibilities to end the bloodshed.
GILAD ERDAN (Israel) said: “Hamas are modern-day Nazis, from their appalling inhumane violence to identical genocidal ideologies.” The leadership role in Hamas is held by the Ayatollah regime whose death squads include Hamas, Palestinian Islamic jihad, Hizbullah, the Houthis and other savage jihadists. The Ayatollah regime sows death and destruction, he said, noting that the residents of Gaza, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria are enduring bloodshed and terror at the hands of Iran’s jihadist Nazi forces. Ukrainian civilians are being murdered with Iranian Nazi weaponry, he added, noting that the Houthi Iranian proxy attacked Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, while Albania was struck by unprovoked Iranian cyberattacks. “The Islamic Nazi regime of Iran is responsible for aiding terrorists around the globe,” he stressed. Yet, like during the rise of Nazism, today the world is deafeningly silent.
Over 250,000 innocent Israeli civilians have been displaced since the war began and millions are living everyday under threat of constant indiscriminate rocket at the hands of Hamas, Hizbullah and other jihadists. His delegation will wear yellow stars until the Council condemns Hamas’ atrocities and demands the immediate release of Israeli hostages, he said. Stressing that “our enemies have become emboldened” and “anti-Semites have been empowered”, he asked: “Why are the humanitarian needs of Gazans the sole issue you are all focused on?” Hamas is preventing Gazans from leaving an active war zone by heading south and holding roughly half a million litres of fuel. Meanwhile, Israel has approved dozens of daily trucks of humanitarian supplies. “Hamas is the root cause of the situation in Gaza,” he said, and calling for an immediate ceasefire is ultimately asking to tie Israel’s hand and to keep Hamas’ rule in Gaza. Israel’s operation in Gaza is an act of self-defence to ensure its future.
MAHMOUD DAIFALLAH HMOUD (Jordan), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said he was addressing the Council after the General Assembly voted to adopt a resolution co-sponsored by his country on Israel’s illegal actions in East Jerusalem and the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The adoption of the resolution sent a clear message: that the international community stood with justice, the protection of innocent civilians, for adherence to legal obligations, and an immediate stop to the war in Gaza, and an end to war crimes, he said, adding: “If it was biased to anything, it was to justice and humanity.” He recalled its elements, including the call for an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities; for all parties to comply with international humanitarian law; for the provision of humanitarian assistance; for an end to attempts at forced transfer of populations; and for the immediate release of civilians illegally held captive.
The Arab Group calls on the international community to apply pressure on Israel to stop stalling the entry of adequate assistance, he continued, noting that only 85 trucks were permitted past Rafah crossing since the start of the conflict, compared to 500 trucks that previously plied across it every day. Despite obstacles posed by Israel, Egypt has spared no effort in working towards the movement of aid, he said. Turning to the risk of regional spillover, he called for an end to Israel’s aggression in Syria and the border of Lebanon, noting that the latter had displaced 30,000 people and killed another 50. Voicing concern that the new phase of the war in Gaza was escalating the numbers of Palestinians killed, with many more beneath the rubble, he warned that the Council’s “deafening” silence had emboldened it to carry out such actions with impunity. “Isn’t it time for the human conscience to wake up to the carnage in Gaza? Isn’t it time for the Council to shoulder its responsibility and heed Gazans’ cries for help, as their houses and places of worship tumble on their heads and they have no safe shelter from Israel’s bombardment?”
Speaking in his national capacity, he stated that, while many occupying countries have committed atrocities, he had “never ever heard an occupying State claim to be the victim as Israel is doing now”.
Mr. ZHANG (China), responding to the representative of the United States, said he accused Beijing of vetoing the draft resolution put forward by Washington, D.C. He said that the accusation was the most unreasonable thing he had heard today. The United States wants China to be responsible for what is going on. “We are not to blame for this.” He added that the representative of the United States should know very well how the situation of the Middle East evolved, the United States’ role in it and that Washington, D.C., has vetoed the draft resolutions of the Council on Palestine and Israel — this has led to the difficulty of the organ in playing a constructive and responsible role on this issue, and it being hard for it to do anything about implementing the two-State solution. Washington, D.C., should also be very clear that China, with many other countries, opposed the United States’ resolution it hastily put forward after hastily vetoing the one by Brazil. But, the United States’ resolution totally disregarded the strong call by most of the world for a ceasefire, he noted. It attempted to take the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to another narrative, another path, he said. This behaviour will give a green light to the escalation of the situation there. He said his country has all the reasons to oppose such a draft resolution and its position is based on facts, law, conscience, justice and the strong call of the entire world, especially the Arab countries. He highlighted that the General Assembly resolution sent a clear and unequivocal message for a truce, showing that his country’s position is entirely correct. He hoped the United States would adopt a responsible attitude and work with Council members on the most pressing issues: the ceasefire, protection of civilians, humanitarian aid and the prevention of further humanitarian catastrophe.
Mr. WOOD (United States), taking the floor again, recalled that as the record shows, on Wednesday, 25 October, China’s delegation cast a “no” vote on the resolution put forward by his delegation. “That is a fact,” he affirmed.