Israel-Palestine: Protection of civilians ‘must be paramount’ in war Guterres tells Security Council
25 October 2023
The UN Security Council met on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York for a scheduled quarterly open debate on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres gave what he termed an introduction to the current crisis, saying the situation in the Middle East is "growing more dire by the hour”.
"Divisions are splintering societies and tensions threaten to boil over", he said.
"It is vital to be clear on principles" he added, starting with the protection of civilians.
Secretary-General Guterres underscored the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, “to ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer and facilitate the release of hostages”.
He also emphasized that the world cannot lose sight of the only realistic foundation for peace and stability in the Middle East - a two-State solution.
“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.
Mr. Guterres said nothing could justify the deliberate killing and kidnapping of civilians, or the Hamas rocket launches against civilian targets, but he said it was important to recognize the attacks by Hamas "did not happen in a vacuum.”
"The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation", he added.
"But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the punishment of the Palestinian people.”
He said we must demand that all parties uphold and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law; take constant care in the conduct of military operations to spare civilians; and respect and protect hospitals and respect the inviolability of UN facilities which today are sheltering more than 600,000 Palestinians.
Guterres said, "The relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the level of civilian casualties, and the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods continue to mount and are deeply alarming.
I mourn and honour the dozens of UN colleagues working for UNRWA – sadly, at least 35 and counting – killed in the bombardment of Gaza over the last two weeks.
I owe to their families my condemnation of these and many other similar killings.
The protection of civilians is paramount in any armed conflict.
Protecting civilians can never mean using them as human shields.
Protecting civilians does not mean ordering more than one million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, no food, no water, no medicine and no fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.
I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza.
Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law".
What's at stake
It marks the fourth time the 15 ambassadors of the UN’s premier peace and security body convened since the intense cycle of violence began.
So far, there has no agreement on any action, to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught up in the spiralling conflict between Hamas militants, who control the enclave of over two million Palestinians.
The Council failed to adopt two previous draft resolutions addressing the escalation. The first from Russia calling for an immediate ceasefire, failed to get enough votes, while a Brazilian draft was vetoed by the United States. Although it called for humanitarian pauses for aid access, the US determined objected to the fact it did not mention Israel’s right to self defence.