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Nusseibeh during a Security Council meeting on the Israel-Hamas war at United Nations headquarters on October 30, 2023 in New York City. Image Credit: AFP

Abu Dhabi: The UAE has called for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce in Gaza, warning that the drums of war are beating.

Addressing the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN, on Monday reiterated that a ceasefire is needed now, as is ensuring safe, sustained and humanitarian aid reaches Gaza, and that access to electricity, clean water and fuel is restored.

“If we lean on the General Assembly’s moral responsibility in other settings, we must also respect it in this one,” she said, noting that “this Council, ignoring the expressed will of the majority of the world, [is] maybe what breaks it.”

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Ambassador Nusseibeh went on to note that while our eyes have been trained on Gaza, the occupied West Bank has not been spared from violence either.

“Israeli settlers are escalating their attacks against Palestinian civilians and forcing their displacement. These attacks must be prevented by the State of Israel,” she said, adding that across the region, there have been several credible warnings of a wider escalation.

“The drums of war are beating,” she said, urging Security Council members to take the warnings seriously.

“We do not serve Israel’s security by enabling it [the war] to go on. We cannot reverse the heinous October 7 attacks by condoning this war in which civilians are paying the price,” she noted, adding “ignoring what could happen day after day will have devastating consequences – not only for Israelis and Palestinians but for the prospects peace and stability in our region.”

Ultimate sacrifice

“I was very shaken by your recent words to your staff over the weekend, in which you said, “I am constantly hoping that this hell on earth will soon come to an end.” I want to extend the UAE’s deep condolences for the 64 UNRWA workers killed in this war. They paid the ultimate sacrifice for the lifesaving work the United Nations does every day around the world, and we have failed to protect them,” Ambassador Nusseibeh said.

“Last Friday, 121 countries – representing an overwhelming majority of the world – issued an unambiguous call for an immediate, durable, and sustained humanitarian truce in Gaza. They stood up for the humanitarian imperative, for human rights, for international law, and most importantly, for the self-evident truth that Palestinian life is precious, equal, and deserving of the full protection of the law.”

Many in Gaza are not Hamas

“We have heard many say that the 2.2 million Palestinians in Gaza are not Hamas, that this is not a war against them. And while these are welcome words, it is time that action reflected them,” She added.

She went on to say: “More than 8,000 people that have been killed in Gaza, and as we heard today, 70 per cent of whom were women and children, were surely not all Hamas. Nearly 1,000 children are missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble. They are not Hamas. Will we help them? The number of Palestinian children killed in just three weeks of Israel’s bombardment of Gaza exceeds the total number of children killed in conflicts worldwide in each of the last four years.”

Nusseibeh added that the shutdown of cellular and internet services over the weekend as part of the offensive meant that wounded civilians were searching for help in the dark.

76 attacks on healthcare facilities

“As we have heard today, there have been 76 attacks on healthcare, including 20 hospitals and clinics damaged or destroyed. More than 650,000 people are sheltering in UNRWA facilities. Let me be absolutely clear on this point: These sites are protected by international humanitarian law. Announcements that they are targets or warnings for them to evacuate do not, I repeat, do not alter their protected status,” she added.

Evacuation order is cruel. It is reckless

“We need to see the rescission of dangerous unrealistic evacuation orders. On Saturday, the Palestinian Red Crescent reported warnings from Israel to immediately evacuate Al Quds Hospital which hosts hundreds of patients, including new-born babies in incubators.”

“Around 12,000 civilians are also seeking refuge there right now as we sit here in this chamber in New York speaking to each other again and again and debating the language of our humanitarian resolution and response.”

“An evacuation order in these conditions is cruel. It is reckless. And so is our delay as a Security Council. All of Gaza’s civilian population is at risk by the escalating hostilities, as are the Israeli and international hostages taken by Hamas. Wrongly taken by Hamas.”

“While our eyes have been trained on Gaza, the occupied West Bank has not been spared from violence either. As we work on responding to the General Assembly’s clear call on this body to live up to its responsibilities under the UN Charter, we should also keep in mind, always, the dying words of the dead so that their memories are a blessing to us.”

She ended her statement by saying that what we, and 121 countries, are advocating for may be the harder road, but history warns us of the consequences of not taking it.