UPDATING LIVE: Security Council meets as Gazans stare ‘into the abyss’, says Guterres
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine to the UN, outlined the impact of the strikes by Israel, saying the bombardment “placed every possible impediment on humanitarian aid and access.”
“And we are all supposed to pretend that this aggression is not aimed at the destruction of the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip, when it has besieged and bombed our people and deprived them of all requirements of life?”, he said.
“I keep reading in the media that Israel has no clear war objectives, are we supposed to pretend that we don’t know the objective is the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip?” he continued.
He said that if anyone says they are against the destruction and displacement of Palestinian people, they have to be in favour of an immediate ceasefire.
“When you refuse to call for a ceasefire, you are refusing to call for the only thing that can put an end to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This is how Israel is conducting the war, through atrocities,” Mr. Mansour said.
Aim is not security
Mr. Mansour noted that the aim of the war by Israel is not security, but to “prevent for ever any prospect of Palestinian impudence and peace”.
“These intentions are clear in the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he said.
He further underscored the universality of international law, stating that the “Israeli exceptionalism has to end, and it has to end now”.
“Stop rewriting international law to fit Israeli crimes and stop calling for respect for international law while supporting an assault that has torn it into shreds,” he said.
“The Palestinian people will not die in vain, the Palestinian people deserve respect … we have earned it, we have paid the heaviest price to end it … show us respect, not in words but in deeds, show us respect for our lives and our rights,” he added.
Looking into the abyss: UN chief
Stressing that the people of Gaza “are looking into the abyss”, the UN chief called on the international community to do “everything possible” to end their ordeal.
“I urge the Council to spare no effort to push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, for the protection of civilians, and for the urgent delivery of lifesaving aid,” he said, recalling also the importance of the two-State solution, based on UN resolutions and international law, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.
“This is vital for Israelis, Palestinians, and for international peace and security. The eyes of the world – and the eyes of history – are watching,” he said.
‘Unreserved condemnation’ of Hamas attacks
The Secretary-General also reiterated his “unreservedly condemnation” of Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel on 7 October, stressing that he is “appalled” by the reports of sexual violence.
“There is no possible justification for deliberately killing some 1,200 people, including 33 children, injuring thousands more, and taking hundreds of hostages,” he said, adding “at the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
“While indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israel, and the use of civilians as human shields, are in contravention of the laws of war, such conduct does not absolve Israel of its own violations,” Mr. Guterres said.
He underscored that international humanitarian law includes the obligation to protect civilians and to ensure that civilians’ essential needs must be met, including by facilitating the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian relief.
Horror of ‘human pinball’
The UN chief went on to note the catastrophic situation continues to worsen by the day.
More than 17,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the start of Israel’s military operations, including over 4,000 women and 7,000 children. Tens of thousands are reported to have been injured, and several are missing, presumably under the rubble.
About 85 per cent of Gaza’s population has been displaced; hospitals, schools and UN facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
There is also a serious risk of starvation and famine, Mr. Guterres reported, noting that half the people in northern Gaza and more than one third of displaced people in the south are “simply starving”.
“Attacks from air, land and sea are intense, continuous and widespread,” he said, adding that people in Gaza “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”
Conditions for effective aid delivery ‘no longer exist’ – Guterres
The president of the Council has gavelled the meeting to order, and invited the UN chief to speak.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres thanked ambassadors for their response to his invocation of Article 99 saying he had written because “we are at breaking point” in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
“There is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which might have devastating consequences.”
He said public order can completely break down, increasing pressure for mass displacement across the border into Egypt.
“I fear the consequences can be devastating for the security of the entire region”, he said, adding that the Occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, had already been drawn in to the conflict to varying degrees.
There is clearly, in my view, a serious risk of aggravating existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security”.
He said more than 130 of his colleagues had already been killed: “this is the largest single loss of life in the history of this Organisation. Some of our staff take their children to work so they know they will live or die together.”
Despite this, the UN is totally committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza, said the UN chief.
He said the humanitarian situation however, was “simply becoming untenable.”
“The conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist.”
Following the discussions, Council members are expected to vote later in the day on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as well as an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
The draft resolution also reiterates the demand of the Council for all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to protection of civilians in both Palestine and Israel.
Draft resolutions do not represent an official position of the Security Council until they are adopted.
In his letter the Secretary-General invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which grants him with the responsibility to “bring to the attention” of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.
It was the first time ever that Mr. Guterres had used the rarely invoked clause.
“Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” Mr. Guterres wrote on X, formerly Twitter, after dispatching the letter.
The Security Council last discussed the situation in Gaza, in an open doors meeting, on 29 November. Here are the highlights:
- “We need a true humanitarian ceasefire,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, describing a catastrophe on the ground in Gaza and underlining the need to release all hostages
- Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, had “a message that resonates today as we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People: There must be a new and different approach, or we are doomed to return to the path of managing a conflict that clearly cannot be managed”
- Council members, including several ministers, roundly decried the unfolding humanitarian crisis and commended the ongoing pause in fighting, with some calling for the full implementation of its resolution 2712 on the crisis
- “We cannot afford to lose more lives,” said the ambassador of Malta, penholder of resolution 2712, adopted in mid-November following several failed attempts
- Non-Council members echoed those calls, with Qatar’s Prime Minister saying “it is high time to take real measures towards peace; the region will not enjoy peace and security without the establishment of a Palestinian State”
- Israel’s ambassador said the Council has not addressed Hamas’s “central role in the ruin of the region”
- “We are at a historic crossroad,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the observer State of Palestine
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