UN Security Council members urge immediate ceasefire and protection of civilians in Gaza

Radwa ElSayed Hani , Wednesday 25 Oct 2023

In a ministerial meeting addressing the ongoing events in the Middle East, UN Security Council members made an urgent plea for an immediate ceasefire as the humanitarian crisis deepens in the Gaza Strip and Israeli bombardment persists.


UN Security Council meets to talk about the situation in the Middle East, AFP

The Council's quarterly open debate, reflecting the escalating tensions in the region, marked the fourth time Council members have convened on this agenda item since the commencement of the Israeli conflict in Gaza on 7 October. This conflict has already resulted in thousands of deaths and injuries.

Addressing the members, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres stressed the necessity of an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to alleviate immense suffering, facilitate the safe delivery of aid, and promote the release of captives. He emphasized the enduring importance of a two-state solution as the most realistic foundation for peace and stability in the Middle East.

Guterres stated, "Israelis must see their legitimate need for security materialized, and Palestinians must see their legitimate need for an independent state realized, in line with UN resolutions, international law, and previous agreements."

Highlighting the plight of the Palestinian people under 56 years of occupation, Guterres acknowledged that the recent Hamas attacks did not occur in isolation. He pointed out their enduring struggle, with land consumed by settlements, plagued by violence, an economy stifled, people displaced, and homes demolished. He noted that their hopes for a political solution have been rapidly diminishing.

The remarks of Guterres infuriated Israel and its ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called on the UN Secretary-General to "resign immediately" and canceling a planned meeting with him.

 

From his side, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad Al-Maliki emphasized the Security Council and the international community's duty and responsibility to save lives.

"Continued failure at this Council is inexcusable," he stressed.

He said that only "international law and peace" were worthy of unconditional support by countries, adding that "more injustice and more killing, will not make Israel safer."

Wide support by Brazil, Russia, China and Arab States

 

 

Brazil's Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira, who chaired the meeting, emphasized Israel's legal and moral obligation under International Humanitarian Law to protect Gaza's population. Recent events, including evacuation orders, have led to unprecedented misery for innocent people, he added.

From his part, Russian Ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzya, pointed out the alarming number of deaths and injuries, underscoring the extent of the humanitarian disaster in Gaza. He reiterated that a fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, in accordance with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and the two-state solution, is vital for regional stability.

"Following this there must be the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, coexisting in peace and security with Israel."

Speaking about the humanitarian situation in Gaza, China’s Ambassador to UN Zhang Jun said urgent efforts are needed. Aid supplies currently allowed to enter the strip are "a drop in the bucket". The full siege of Gaza must be lifted alongside the collective punishment of Palestinians.

He called on Israel to stop its attacks and allow aid to be delivered, adding that international humanitarian law must be upheld. The Council must defend the rule of law at every level and oppose any violations, he said.

"The root cause of the conflict rests in the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory and a lack of respect for their rights," he said, adding that the Council actions must not deviate from this.

Arab states have also condemned Israeli aggression on Gaza and called for an immediate ceasefire to allow humanitarian aid to flow into the strip.

UK’s Minister for Security Tom Tugendhat recognized that Palestinians are suffering, noting that the UK has committed an extra $37 million to support civilians in Gaza.

"The UK’s longstanding position on the Middle East Peace Process supports a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state" he said.

Tugendhat said that the events of the past week show with total clarity "the need to achieve these goals", adding "Hope and humanity must win out."

Furthermore, Catherine Colonna French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs said that safe and swift aid access is urgently needed in Gaza; "each minute counts", she said.

Colonna called for humanitarian pauses and a truce that could lead to a sustained peace, underlining France's continued provision of aid to the strip.

"It is our duty to pave the way to peace," she said. "The only viable solution is the two-State solution. We need to do all we can. This Council must act and it must act now."

Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ambassadors that among the more than 1,400 people Hamas killed on 7 October were citizens of over 30 UN Member States, including Americans.

"Every one of us has a stake, every one of us has a responsibility in defeating terrorism," he said.

He also underscored the vital need to protect civilians, adding that "Israel has the right and the obligation to defend itself" and "the way it does so, matters."

Last Wednesday, the 15-member UN Security Council failed to adopt a Brazilian draft resolution calling for a "humanitarian pause" to Israel's war on Gaza and urging Israel to rescind its order for Gaza civilians to move to the south of the Palestinian enclave.

Israel has continued its intense bombardment of Gaza for 18 consecutive days, killing over 5,000 Palestinians, including approximately 2,000 children.

Numerous buildings have been reduced to rubble, and over a million individuals have been displaced in the besieged territory. Essential resources such as water, food, and other basic supplies are becoming increasingly scarce.

 

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