Worsening Tension, Unspeakable Violence, Grave Suffering in Middle East Must End Now, General Assembly President Says, Resuming Tenth Emergency Special Session

The worsening tension, unspeakable violence and harrowing suffering must end now, UN General Assembly President stressed today at an emergency meeting on the situation in the Middle East, during which he condemned the killing of all civilians on both the Palestinian and Israeli sides and urged all parties to abide by international law and immediately allow for aid to access the Gaza Strip. 

Assembly President Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), resuming the 193-member body’s tenth emergency special session on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”, condemned the attack on Israel by Hamas on 7 October, rejecting the killings and the taking of civilian hostages.  The brutality of the Hamas assaults is shocking and unacceptable and has no place in our world, he stressed.  

“The right of self-defence does not — and cannot — lawfully give license to undertake indiscriminate and disproportionate reprisal,” he continued, adding that the rules of war dictate that civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected.  

He further expressed regret over the killing of UN personnel, expressing condolences to the families of the 35 staff members who have lost their lives.  It is urgent to ensure delivery of basic foodstuff and the safe passage of humanitarian and medical staff.  Depriving the people of Gaza access to essential supplies would be a clear violation of their human rights and an affront to international humanitarian law.  Some 2.5 million people live in Gaza, almost half of whom are children.  

He went on to call for the prompt and unconditional release of hostages, and an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and opening for humanitarian assistance and relief.  The only path to a comprehensive, just and lasting peace is a negotiated two-State solution, he said, urging all parties to set aside their animosities and not further fan the flames of hate, division and revenge.

Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, called for a cessation of the bombing of Gaza to prevent “an even greater man-made humanitarian catastrophe or a regional spill-over”.  More than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed by Israel in the last two weeks, 70 per cent of them women and children, he said, questioning how some Member States could defend the war.  “This is barbarism,” he said.  “Stop it for all those whose lives we can still save.” 

Hospitals have turned into morgues, and doctors and patients wonder if help is on the way, he said, describing the confusion and fear of those ordered to evacuate.  “What choices do you make as a parent when there are only impossible choices, when death is everywhere?” he asked.  Recalling the Israeli Foreign Minister’s call to the Security Council to bring back Israeli hostages, he noted that for millions of Palestinians, there are no homes to return to. 

The answer to the killing of Palestinian civilians is not the killing of Israeli civilians or vice-versa, he said, urging Members to vote to stop the bloodshed and for humanitarian aid to reach those whose survival depends on it. “Vote to stop this madness,” he said, adding: “Choose justice, not vengeance.” 

Gilad Erdan, the representative of Israel, said the 7 October massacre and what ensued has nothing to do with the Palestinians or the Arab-Israeli conflict. “It is the law-abiding Israel against modern-day Nazis,” he said, adding Hamas only has one goal: to annihilate Israel and murder all Jews.  He recounted that during their attack, they brutally murdered civilians in their beds, fired at young people at a concert and tortured babies, taking them from their cribs. 

The hypocrisy is beyond belief, he said.  Hamas abducted babies, toddlers, people with disabilities and Holocaust survivors, he said, expressing disbelief that the Assembly’s resolution and emergency session weren’t solely focused on the atrocities committed by Hamas.  More than 1,400 people were slaughtered.  He showed a video from his iPad of a man being decapitated. To say that this is Israel’s 9/11 would be a gross understatement, he said.  

Israel is at the forefront of the war against Jihadi terrorists.  If Israel fails, the whole world will pay a price, he said, adding that to Hamas, Gaza’s civilians are nothing more than cannon fodder.  The resolution calls for a ceasefire that will allow Hamas to rearm and attack Israel again, he said, and urged Member States to vote against it to stand on the right side of history. 

Ayman Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs of Jordan, speaking on behalf of the Arab Group, said that in times of cruelty, inhumanity and total disregard for international law, it is imperative to speak out, clearly and unequivocally.  “There is no room for grey areas here.  We must stand for life, for justice, for peace,” he said, urging Member States not to fail the Palestinian people, “an occupied people whose days start with death — and end with death”. 

Children are dying under the ruins of homes destroyed by Israeli precision bombs.  “Don’t be fooled.  Don’t let them tell you this is a war between Muslims and Jews,” he said, condemning the killing of all civilians, no matter race, nationality, or religion.  Don’t send weapons to Israel — send delegations to open an immediate path to peace, he said.  

Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, said that the Palestinian Liberation Movement has a right to self-defence and self-determination but is being called a terrorist organization by some countries.  “Today in New York and in the United Nations, I say frankly to the American statesmen who are now managing the genocide in Palestine that we do not welcome the expansion of the war in the region, but if the genocide in Gaza continues, they will not be exempt from this fire.” 

Iran does not compromise with any party and has no reservations when it comes to its security, he continued, adding that Hamas, in accordance with international humanitarian law, is fighting the occupation.  He called on the world to support the release of 6,000 Palestinians in Israeli prisons.  Further, because the Palestinian issue has lasted for about 80 years, “trying to reduce its dimensions to just one attack and on the Palestinian liberation group is a big lie”, he went on to say. 

 “Brutal occupation has transformed into brutal and deep apartheid”, a terrible combination that gives the occupying regime the psychological permission to kill people under occupation, he said.  Iran warns against uncontrollable consequences of the unlimited financial arms and operational support by the White House to the Tel-Aviv regime which has added to the severity of the bombardment of civilians in Gaza and the West Bank. 

Mario Adolfo Búcaro Flores, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Guatemala, said Hamas is confusing the Palestinian cause with the justification of terrorism. “This is a very serious moral and strategic error,” he stressed, adding that it is detrimental to both the Palestinian cause and peace efforts in general.  He further condemned the attacks of the terrorist group Hezbollah on Israel which are in breach of the resolution that establishes the Blue Line border between Israel and Lebanon, and he recalled the words of Golda Meir, to say that if the groups in favour of the Palestinians were to lay down their arms today, there would be no violence.  But if the Israelis were to lay down their arms, there would be no State of Israel.

Jean Asselborn, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg, said that nothing can justify the barbaric acts committed by Hamas.  Israel has an unequivocal right to defend itself, but it must act in accordance with international law.  The people of Gaza are not Hamas, he stressed.  Humanitarian pauses should be established as the people of Gaza need lasting humanitarian assistance.  United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) needs urgent support. 

Sidi Mohamed Laghdaf (Mauritania), speaking on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, said despite the Assembly’s repeated affirmation that the United Nations has a permanent responsibility regarding the Palestinian question, the international community continues to fail the people of Palestine in their inalienable rights to self-determination.  He said 68 per cent of those killed so far in the Gaza Strip have been women and children. 

“As we all know by now, even UN facilities have not been spared”, he continued, underscoring the urgent need of a ceasefire to protect human lives in accordance with “our shared moral and humanitarian obligations and values”.  He said the General Assembly must address this situation and he called on the Security Council to uphold its duty to maintain international peace and security. 

Prior to the debate, the Assembly took note of a letter dated 19 October from the Secretary-General (document A/ES-10/959), regarding Member States deemed, under article 19 of the UN Charter, to have failed to pay their assessments in total due to circumstances beyond their control.  The Assembly adopted resolution 78/2, deciding to permit Comoros, Sao Tome and Principe, and Somalia to vote in the Assembly until the end of its seventy-eighth session, and at the tenth emergency special session, he added.

The General Assembly also decided that the Credentials Committee of the seventy-eighth session should serve for the resumed tenth emergency special session.


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