9498th Meeting (AM)

Secretary-General Urges Security Council to Call for Ceasefire in Gaza, Declaring That Humanitarian Situation Is Now at ‘Breaking Point’

‘Nowhere in Gaza Is Safe,’ Council Told Ahead of Key Vote Later Today

The Secretary-General went before the Security Council today to call for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza to avert a humanitarian catastrophe that could have ramifications for peace and security in the region and beyond, two days after he invoked Article 99 of the United Nations Charter.

“We are at a breaking point [and] the situation is simply becoming untenable,” António Guterres told the 15-member organ, emphasizing that there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in the Gaza Strip as Israel’s war against Hamas raged for a sixty-third day.

“The people of Gaza are being told to move like human pinballs — ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival — but nowhere in Gaza is safe,” he said, warning that Palestinians in Gaza are, according to the World Food Programme (WFP), at serious risk of starvation and famine while health care is collapsing.

“The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss.  The international community must do everything possible to end their ordeal,” he said, ahead of another meeting later today when the Council is expected to vote on a draft resolution, presented by the United Arab Emirates, demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine asked whether the Council is supposed to pretend that Israel’s objective is not the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip.  If the Council is against the destruction of the Palestinian people, then it must be in favour of an immediate ceasefire.  More than 2 million Palestinians in Gaza are fighting for their lives every day, he said, adding:  “Tell them — show them — help is on the way.”

Israel’s delegate, noting that Article 99 was not invoked with the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine, said that security and stability in the Middle East requires the elimination of Hamas. The “true path” to peace means supporting Israel’s mission — not a ceasefire.  Without military pressure, no amount of diplomacy can secure the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza, he said, adding that Hamas is “solely responsible” for the humanitarian situation.  Noting that today is the start of Hannukah, he stated:  “I pray that we see another Hannukah miracle here in the UN.”

Among Council members, the representative of the United Arab Emirates said that the scale of destruction in Gaza has surpassed that of the 1945 bombing of Dresden.  The Council must act when too little aid is getting in, when humanitarian workers cannot deliver aid for fear of being killed, when the siege of Gaza is becoming a major source of death and when unrelenting bombardment has killed more than 130 UN staff members, he said.

The United States’ representative said the undeniable reality is that, if Israel unilaterally lays down its weapons, Hamas would continue to hold hostages, many of whom are being subjected to inhumane treatment.  Hamas remains a threat to Israel, he said, adding that the United States does not support calls for an immediate ceasefire, as Hamas has no desire for either peace or a two-State solution.

The Russian Federation’s representative, calling on other Council members to support the proposed draft resolution, said that a systematic strategy has taken shape for the violent displacement of Palestinians. Its cannibalistic logic is very simple — “to make life in Gaza unendurable and even possibly to leave the population with a single choice — to leave their homes or to be killed”, he said.

The representative of France called for a new, immediate and lasting humanitarian truce that should lead to a permanent ceasefire.  New crossing points for humanitarian assistance must also be opened.  It is unacceptable that the Council has been unable to condemn Hamas’s 7 October attacks, he said, adding that all hostages must be released.

Egypt's representative, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, described the ongoing conflict as collective punishment and genocide against the Palestinian people. The forcible displacement of 85 per cent of Gaza’s people, living in dire circumstances, represents not only the worst of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but also an effort to eliminate the Palestinian people, he stated.



ANTÓNIO GUTERRES, Secretary-General of the United Nations, said he invoked Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations because “we are at a breaking point”.  There is a high risk that the humanitarian support system in Gaza will collapse and that would have devastating consequences, including a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt. “I fear the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region.”  He also emphasized the complete lack of safety and security for UN staff and the intensity of military operations, with at least 130 UN staff killed so far.  “Some of our staff take their children to work so they know they will live or die together,” he said.

“The conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist,” he continued.  The Rafah crossing point is a major bottleneck and even if sufficient supplies were allowed in, it would be impossible to reach people in need due to the intense bombardment, Israeli restrictions on movement, fuel shortages and interrupted communications.  Between 3 and 5 December, UN aid distribution was possible in only one of Gaza’s five governorates, namely Rafah.  “People are desperate, fearful and angry.”

More than 17,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed, including more than 4,000 women and 7,000 children, he said.  Tens of thousands have been injured and many are missing.  Some 339 education facilities, 26 hospitals, 56 health-care facilities, 88 mosques and three churches have been hit. Over 60 per cent of Gaza’s housing has reportedly been destroyed or damaged and 85 per cent of the population is displaced.  “The people of Gaza are being told to move like human pinballs — ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.  But, nowhere in Gaza is safe.”  People are running out of food, with the World Food Programme (WFP) reporting a serious risk of starvation and famine.  WFP’s own food stocks are running out and in the north of Gaza, 9 out of 10 people have spent at least one full day and night without food.

Gaza’s health system is collapsing while needs are escalating, with just 14 out of 36 hospitals still functioning, he stated. Of these, three are providing basic first aid.  Many patients are being treated on the floor and without anaesthetics, while unsanitary conditions in shelters and insufficient water supplies are leading to more respiratory infections, scabies, jaundice and diarrhoea.

He said that he condemns unreservedly the brutal terror attacks unleashed against Israel by Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups on 7 October, adding that he is also appalled by reports of sexual violence.  There is no possible justification for the deliberate killing of 1,200 people, he said, calling for the immediate release of the 130 remaining hostages.  “At the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”  International humanitarian law is binding on all parties equally at all times, and the obligation to observe it does not depend on reciprocity.

“The people of Gaza are looking into the abyss.  The international community must do everything possible to end their ordeal,” he said, urging the Security Council to push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the protection of civilians and the urgent delivery of life-saving aid.  At the same time, he added, the international community must not lose sight of the only viable possibility for a peaceful future — a two-State solution. “This is vital for Israelis, Palestinians and for international peace and security,” he said.


RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, noted that Ecuador is the third President of the Security Council to take office “since Israel started its carpet bombing of the Gaza Strip”.  He thanked the Secretary-General António Guterres for “the clarity of his voice” and condemned “despicable attacks” on UN personnel.  In two months, Israel has killed 17,000 Palestinians including 7,000 children, displaced 1.9 million people, “and we are all supposed to pretend that this aggression is not aimed at the destruction of the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip”.  He added:  “Are we supposed to pretend we don’t know the objective is the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip?”  If the Council is against the destruction of the Palestinian people, it must be in favour of an immediate ceasefire, as Israel is conducting the war through atrocities and by telling people to head south to be safe while bombing them in the south itself.

“This is the moment of truth,” he continued, as the shame is not on those calling for a ceasefire in the face of such atrocities — it haunts those refusing to do so.  “This is Netanyahu’s war […] the war of the extremist coalition in power in Israel.” No one should pretend that this war is targeting Hamas when 70 per cent of those killed are women and children.  Citing hostages held by Israel as a means to terrorize and pressure the Palestinian people, he referred to “2 million hostages in the Gaza Strip.”  There is no hierarchy of races, faiths or nationalities and no one should take example from the horrors of the Second World War to justify horrors taking place in Gaza.  Israeli exceptionalism must end immediately, he said, calling on the international community to stop rewriting international law to fit Israeli crimes.

“The Palestinian people will not die in silence,” he said, emphasizing that they have survived every attempt to annihilate them over a century.  This is a moment in history, one where everyone will be asked where they stood, and that will determine who they truly are and what they really stand for. Calling on the Council to heed the call of the overwhelming majority of States and billions of people worldwide, he said that the organ has no role more important than saving civilian life. Noting that 2.3 million Palestinians are fighting for their lives every single day, he said:  “Tell them — show them — help is on the way.”  The Council must vote for a ceasefire by supporting the draft resolution presented by the United Arab Emirates as the Arab representative on the Council, he said, adding:  “Time is up.”

GILAD MENASHE ERDAN (Israel) said that, after the Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine, a chance of a global war became a possible reality, yet Article 99 was not invoked. Thousands of people were also killed and millions displaced in Yemen and Syria, but again, Article 99 was not invoked.  Regional stability and security of Israelis and Gazans can be achieved once Hamas is eliminated and the true path to that goal means supporting Israel’s mission, not a ceasefire.  “On 6 October, there was a ceasefire in place.  But, on October 7, Hamas broke the ceasefire with an unprovoked invasion,” he said, adding that a ceasefire would cement Hamas’s control of Gaza. Without military pressure, no amount of diplomacy can secure the release of hostages, he added.

Hamas knows that they cannot win against Israel on the conventional battlefield; therefore, it hides behind the civilian population to maximize casualties.  “The more civilian fatalities there are, the more pressure the international community will put on Israel.”  In addition, Hamas fabricates death tolls which are taken at face value at the United Nations.  “Do we want to be the actors in the show that Hamas has carefully crafted?”   Hamas violated the recent humanitarian pause while still holding 138 hostages in Gaza, he noted.  “If the Security Council wants to see a ceasefire, start by demanding it from Hamas — the party that broke the past two,” he said.

Hamas is solely responsible for the humanitarian situation in Gaza, he said, adding that that group is committed to bringing death and destruction to both Israelis and Gazans.  “Israel is taking every possible effort to improve the situation,” he said, reporting that since the war began, more than 35,000 trucks carrying more than 70,000 tons of humanitarian supplies entered Gaza through the Rafah crossing.  Israel has also facilitated the entry of 65 trucks with fuel, he said, adding that the UN has a limited capacity to accept more trucks. Israel has facilitated the construction of two field hospitals, while France has supplied a floating hospital with Italy to follow suit.  Furthermore, Saudi Arabia donated 21 additional ambulances and 5 more field hospitals are set to open soon.  “This was all allowed and facilitated by Israel,” he said, adding that aid is being distributed by Hamas among its terrorists.  Noting that today is the start of Hannukah, he stated:  “I pray that we see another Hannukah miracle here in the UN.”

MOHAMED ISSA ABUSHAHAB (United Arab Emirates) said that the scale of destruction in Gaza has surpassed that of the 1945 bombing of Dresden.  “The invocation of Article 99 must be a tipping point.”  The Council must act when too little aid is getting in, when humanitarian workers cannot deliver aid for fear of being killed, when the siege of Gaza is becoming a major source of death and when unrelenting bombardment has killed more than 130 UN staff members. Resolution 2712 (2023) must be fully implemented, “but we all know that the only way to end this tragedy is to impose an immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.  After two months of war, ambulances are delivering more dead than survivors to the few emergency rooms still functioning in Gaza, he said, adding that the United Arab Emirates has circulated a draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire, on which the Council will vote later today.

DMITRY A. POLYANSKIY (Russian Federation) said that, after a pause, Israel — supported by the United States — transitioned to a more violent phase of its ground operation.  Calling on Council members to adopt the draft resolution prepared by the United Arab Emirates, he said that indicators of deliberate destruction of objects protected by international humanitarian law and war crimes are mounting.  Israel’s plans to flood underground facilities with sea water would constitute a blatant war crime, as the consequences of groundwater pollution — the sole source of fresh water in Gaza — will persist for a century.  A systematic strategy has taken shape for the violent displacement of Palestinians and its cannibalistic logic is very simple — “to make life in Gaza unendurable and even possibly to leave the population with a single choice — to leave their homes or to be killed”.  Hamas’s actions in October, which the Russian Federation condemns, cannot justify war crimes, he added.

ZHANG JUN (China) said the Secretary-General's call demonstrates the urgency of the situation. “Act immediately, activate a ceasefire, protect civilians and avoid a humanitarian catastrophe on a larger scale,” he said.  The draft resolution circulated by the United Arab Emirates reflects the international community’s universal call and is the right direction for restoring peace. Only a ceasefire can save lives, avoid a bigger humanitarian catastrophe, avert regional conflagration and revive a political process for a two-State solution.  Only a ceasefire is befitting the appropriate role of the Council and it has no other option but to act urgently.  Any hesitation or excuse would be irresponsible, he said.

ROBERT A. WOOD (United States) noted that his country, in partnership with Qatar and Egypt, helped reunite more than 100 hostages with their loved ones and dramatically expanded aid.  “Hamas, however, has a different set of goals,” he stated, refusing to release young women hostages, while he cited the Council’s serious moral failure to condemn that group’s evil attacks on 7 October.  An undeniable reality is that if Israel unilaterally laid down its weapons, Hamas would continue to hold hostages, many of whom are being subjected to inhumane treatment.  Hamas continues to pose a threat to Israel — one that no other Member State would allow to exist on its borders.  His delegation does not support calls for an immediate ceasefire, as Hamas has no desire for peace or a two-State solution.  Condemning extremist settler violence, he noted that his Government is implementing a visa restriction policy on guilty parties.

ALBANA DAUTLLARI (Albania), noting that about 80 trucks per day made their way into Gaza this week compared to over 200 during the November week-long humanitarian pause, stressed that civilians there need much more humanitarian aid than before the Hamas attack. Condemning the Hamas 7 October attack, she called for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. “We regret that the Security Council has not been able to condemn Hamas terror, by not condemning Hamas the Security Council risks empowering them,” she said.  She also called on Israel to fully comply with international humanitarian law, as protection of civilians at war is a must and lives matter the same, Israelis and Palestinians alike.  She also called on Israel to address the issue of increased settlers’ violence on Palestinian civilians in the West Bank, deploring the extremist violence.

FRANCESCA MARIA GATT (Malta), expressing disappointment over the breakdown of the temporary truce, stressed that the Council’s inaction “is not an option”.  “There is no scenario which justifies the denial of aid for 2.2 million people, 80 per cent of whom have been displaced,” she said, observing that the only way to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure is through a humanitarian ceasefire.  Reiterating Malta’s condemnation of the 7 October attacks, she voiced concern over the escalations in the West Bank, including in refugee camps.  She condemned the forcible transfer of the Palestinian community in Zanuta and the recent destruction of its European Union-funded school by Israeli settlers.  Also denouncing all violations on the Blue Line and attacks against the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), she stressed:  “Further conflict fronts must be avoided at all costs.”

NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) called for a new, immediate and lasting humanitarian truce that “should lead to a permanent ceasefire”. Further, the opening of new crossing points is necessary, and procedures for inspecting aid should not delay its delivery.  For its part, France has announced an additional pledge of €100 million for 2023 — including €54 million for the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) — and is caring for civilians on the helicopter carrier Dixmude.  He went on to state that it is “unacceptable” that the Council has been unable to condemn Hamas’ 7 October attacks, underscoring that all hostages must be released.  Expressing concern over the situation in the West Bank, he condemned recent decisions regarding settlement-expansion, along with violence carried out by settlers. Israel must put an end to this, he stressed, adding that his country is considering certain entry bars and asset freezes in this context.

PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that Article 99 being invoked for the first time under the Secretary-General’s mandate bears witness to the dramatic prevailing situation in the Middle East. “Switzerland shares the Secretary-General's concern that the situation could have irreversible consequences for the peace and security of the entire region, and even beyond.”  It is therefore imperative that the Council be seized and act to prevent an even more serious deterioration, she said.  Her country prioritizes respect for international humanitarian law and the protection of civilians in particular, for its mandate on the Council.  Her country has come to the bitter conclusion that no one is safe in Gaza today — not even humanitarian workers, medical staff, the wounded, journalists nor the hostages.  She said the situation has plunged the Gaza Strip into total insecurity.  She called for respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, while recognizing Israel’s right to ensure its own security.  Her country supports the United Arab Emirates’ draft resolution.

DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) noted the increasingly dire situation in Gaza since the resumption of hostilities on 1 December, after a week of the humanitarian pause, and its potential long-term effects on the Palestinian people and regional security.  Pointing to the possibility of a collapse in the humanitarian system, he echoed the Secretary-General’s appeal for an immediate ceasefire to prevent a humanitarian crisis.  The repeated warnings from UN agencies, humanitarian organizations and other players of the monumental humanitarian crisis that is impending should prompt the Council to take immediate action.  Given the scale of the loss of life in Gaza, he said, the Council must fully leverage its influence to ensure the cessation of hostilities and restoration of dialogue.  Urging Israeli authorities to implement Council resolution 2712 (2023) and enable the delivery of life-saving supplies for civilians, he said all parties involved must demonstrate leadership and courage.

BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said “these are dark days”, citing the horror of the 7 October attacks, and the heart-wrenching suffering of innocent Palestinians, including many women and young children — “a humanitarian tragedy unfolding before our eyes”.  Voicing support for the Secretary-General, she noted the shocking scale of civilians killed — and while supporting Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism, she called for it to be “targeted and precise in achieving that goal”.  Stressing that the sanitation and shelter picture together with the lack of medical provision in Gaza is dire, she urged Israel to go further and fully open Kerem Shalom to allow goods to cross, including at minimum the 200,000 litres of fuel per day for which the UN has called.  She further stressed that Israeli settlements are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace and threaten the physical viability of a two-State solution.

MICHEL XAVIER BIANG (Gabon), highlighting the fundamental need to achieve an immediate ceasefire to end the tragedy in Gaza, condemned all attacks targeting civilian populations and called on all parties to exercise restraint and comply with their obligations under international humanitarian law.  He called on the Council to pursue efforts to save human lives, particularly those of children, women and civilian populations in Gaza and the region.  He also stressed that humanitarian assistance must be delivered without hindrance and that the unconditional release of the hostages must take place.  The Council should ensure accountability for grave violations of international law, he said, adding that for Gabon, the solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is dependent on the resumption of dialogue and the peace process to reach a two-State solution.  “To achieve this, dialogue and negotiation are key with the central role of the United Nations,” he concluded.

ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan) said that he unequivocally condemns the terror attacks by Hamas and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.  Turning to the Secretary-General's invocation of Article 99 of the UN Charter, he called for a humanitarian ceasefire, given the grave human loss in such a short period of time.  He expressed regret that no significant humanitarian aid has been delivered since the breakdown of the humanitarian pause last week.  The delivery of essential supplies solely through the Rafah crossing is utterly insufficient.  More access points, including Kerem Shalom, should be seriously considered, along with the establishment of a monitoring mechanism under the UN authority.  “It is our responsibility to address this grave humanitarian situation immediately.” Emphasizing the growing risk of a spillover into the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and the Red Sea, he said that the situation could all too easily engulf an already volatile region.

CAROLYN ABENA ANIMA OPPONG-NTIRI (Ghana), welcoming the Secretary-General’s decision to invoke Article 99, said that the Israel-Hamas conflict has created a serious crisis not only in Gaza, but also in Israel and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Expressing concern over the decision of Israel’s Government to expand its ground operation in the Gaza Strip, she called on Israel’s security forces and Hamas to make the protection of civilians on both sides a priority.  Underscoring the importance of international cooperation and direct diplomatic negotiations, she said that frank dialogue between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is essential for achieving peace.  In that regard, she called on the Council members with a moderating influence on both Israel and Hamas to use all means possible to heed the international community’s calls for steps leading to peace and an eventual settlement of the conflict.

SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil), emphasizing the urgent need for a ceasefire, recalled that a draft resolution calling for immediate humanitarian pauses — put forward by Brazil when it was Council President — was supported by a majority of Council members, but vetoed by a permanent one. “If adopted on that occasion, thousands of lives would have been saved.”  Today, the dramatic situation in Gaza leaves the Council with no alternative, he said, calling for an immediate halt in hostilities — for as long as necessary — to allow proper humanitarian action.  Council members have a moral imperative to do whatever possible to stop this humanitarian catastrophe, he said, warning that a failure to do so would likely further erode the Council’s authority and legitimacy and prove its inability to discharge its duties under the Charter.

JOSÉ JAVIER DE LA GASCA LOPEZ DOMÍNGUEZ (Ecuador), Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, expressed its solidarity with Israel and Palestine “because every life is valuable (and) because all death hurts us”.  There is no justification for causing pain and death to innocent civilians.  He highlighted Israel’s right to self-defence as well as the unavoidable obligation to respect international law and international humanitarian law. Rejecting Hamas’s use of civilians as human shields, he said that Ecuador’s position is guided by international law and the defence of human life and dignity.  A humanitarian ceasefire is essential to alleviate the terrible situation in Gaza and to reduce the risk of violence expanding across the region, and in that regard, the Council can aim to avoid more suffering, more pain and more death, he said.

OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt), speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said the Muslim and Arab worlds and all people with a conscience are looking to the Council to act in response to this unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe.  They also feel rage over the Council’s failure to agree on a ceasefire.  Civilian fatalities lay bare the lie that the war is against an armed group.  Rather, it is a collective punishment and genocide against the Palestinian people, he said.  Citing the extensive destruction of civilian infrastructure and the targeting of UN staff members, he said that the forcible displacement of 85 per cent of Gaza’s people, living in dire circumstances, represents the worst of war crimes and crimes against humanity, as well as an effort to eliminate the Palestinian people.

More than 250 people have been killed amid escalating settler crimes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, he said, adding that Syria and Lebanon have also been targeted with attacks.  The Council must uphold its duties and demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, as per the draft resolution before it.  A ceasefire and the opening of humanitarian crossings is not an act of pity or sympathy, but a right of civilians, as well as a political, legal and moral obligation.  Arab States were the ones that initiated peace with Israel, as they understand that violence will not lead to peace and genocide, nor will it end the cause of a nation.  He went on to call for resumption of a peace process leading to a Palestinian State based on 1967 borders with East Jerusalem as its capital.

ALYA AHMED SAIF AL-THANI (Qatar), speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, said that Israel’s aggression cannot be considered to be self-defence.  “We invite the international community to provide protection to brotherly Palestinian people.”  She welcomed the mediation of the United States, Egypt and others in achieving a humanitarian truce which led to the exchange of hostages and the delivery of humanitarian assistance.  However, it is regrettable that the end of the truce and increasing Israeli attacks have led to the displacement of millions of people.  She called on the Council to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and for the international community to step up humanitarian assistance. She also reiterated the centrality of the Palestinian question, the need to put an end to the Israeli occupation and the creation of the Palestinian State with East Jerusalem as its capital.

ARRMANATHA CHRISTIAWAN NASIR (Indonesia), speaking for a group of likeminded countries, said:  “In one autumn season, the world stood by and watched over 16,000 people killed in Gaza — whole families and generations wiped out.”  Pointing to “apocalyptic conditions” of civilians, he added:  “If we fail to act, history will judge us as accomplices to crimes against humanity.”  Expressing support for a humanitarian ceasefire, he said that Indonesia co-sponsored the draft resolution.  Calling on the Council to adopt this declaration, he warned those present of the global spillover effect of the crisis.  The situation in Gaza is being broadcasted around the clock, uncensored, via social media and electronic channels, he noted, stressing that Council members cannot afford to let radical elements take up arms in different parts of the world.  Underscoring that there must be no double standards on humanity, he called on Member States to “do the right thing”.

HEDDA SAMSON, representative of the European Union, in its capacity as observer, expressed support for the Secretary-General’s call on the Council to act to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza.  Deploring the high number of civilian casualties, the majority of which are women and children, she highlighted the deaths of a record number of United Nations staff members and other humanitarian workers.  Calling for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable unhindered humanitarian access, she said the civilian population is in desperate need of more food, water, fuel, electricity and medical care, as well as safe shelter.  The Union has already increased its humanitarian aid to more than €100 million and will continue to work closely with international partners, she said.

Condemning Hamas’s brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks across Israel, she added that Israel has the right to defend itself in line with international law.  All hostages must be immediately released, and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) must be granted access to them.  Also calling on regional actors to refrain from any aggravating actions, she added that the Palestinian Authority must be reinvigorated to ultimately return to govern Gaza as the legitimate governance body in charge of the whole Occupied Palestinian Territory.  Also condemning the increased extremist settler violence in the West Bank, as well as Israel’s settlement policy, she said the Union is ready to contribute to reviving a political process on the basis of the two-State solution.

For information media. Not an official record.