Check against Delivery
For the second time in the course of a week, I come before the Security Council, upon the instructions of the Palestinian leadership under President Mahmoud Abbas, to appeal once again for the Council to uphold its Charter duties for the maintenance of international peace and security and to act forthwith for the protection of civilian lives, which are being lost and destroyed with each passing minute of the brutal Israeli military aggression being waged against the Gaza Strip. I speak on behalf of a gravely suffering people – the Palestinian people – who are enduring yet another barrage of death, destruction, trauma and terror at the hands of the Israeli occupying forces.
I come before this Council to say: Enough. Enough of the bloodshed of the Palestinian people, enough of their oppression under Israel’s illegitimate occupation, enough of this never-ending violence and conflict, enough of this injustice. The Security Council must rise to the occasion; it cannot justify remaining paralyzed, divided and marginalized as Israeli military war crimes continue to be perpetrated against the Palestinian civilian population in the Gaza Strip and in the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.
The Security Council is today at a crossroads and the choice before it is clear: it can either choose to stand aside and allow the forces of war to prevail or it can choose to act in the interest of promoting peace and security in our troubled region. The Council can choose to bear its responsibilities and uphold international law, acting to protect the lives of the civilians caught in this tragic conflict and contributing to the efforts to de-escalate the dangerous crisis; or it can choose to further diminish itself, once again failing to act collectively to bring a halt to the violence and bloodshed.
Today, we urgently call on the Security Council to choose peace over war. We call on the Council to take an unequivocal stand for international law, for the protection of civilians, for human rights, and for the maintenance of peace and security. Continued failure to do so will only further embolden Israel, the occupying Power, to continue on its war path, depleting the remaining prospects for peace and indeed hastening the destruction of the two-State solution that has for so long been championed by the international community as the crux of a just and lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The Palestinian people, whose perseverance and steadfastness we honor and praise and who have endured decades of Israeli oppression, brutality and inhumanity, look to this Council and to the international community at this critical moment to stand by the principles and words they have committed themselves to over and over. Now is the time to act resolutely in line with those abiding, principled positions in support of the inalienable rights of our people, including to self-determination and freedom, and to a peaceful and just settlement of this conflict, for which there is clearly no military solution.
Since the Council’s emergency meeting on 14 November 2012, I have conveyed another four letters (15, 17, 19 and 20 November 2012), detailing the crimes and human rights violations being committed by Israel, the occupying Power, against our people in broad daylight. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines grave breaches as, inter alia, the willful killing and inhumane treatment of protected persons, willfully causing great suffering or serious injury to body or health of protected persons, and extensive destruction of property unlawfully and wantonly. All of this is being deliberately and systematically perpetrated by Israel, employing all means of illegal measures and the most lethal weaponry in its vast arsenal, erasing any doubt that it is committing war crimes and State terrorism against the Palestinian people. This has not ceased for one moment over 45 years of its illegitimate military occupation. We thus reiterate what we have said many times before this Council: Our people are in need of protection, to which they are entitled in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Fourth Geneva Convention.
For days, despite the efforts to achieve a ceasefire, Israel has persisted with more than 1,500 missile air strikes and artillery bombardment from tanks and naval gunboats targeting civilian areas, including Palestine refugee camps, in the northern, central and southern Gaza Strip, with no regard for civilian life. These attacks have killed and injured hundreds of Palestinians, caused massive destruction of property, including homes, public institutions and UNRWA schools and facilities, and displaced hundreds of families. Furthermore, the already critical humanitarian situation in Gaza, long-suffering under Israel’s illegal blockade, is rapidly deteriorating. Life has come to a standstill there, with schools closed, businesses closed, broad power outages, medicine shortages and panic and fear gripping the population.
At this moment, the Palestinian death toll stands at more than 150 people, including babies, young children, women, men, elderly and disabled persons, and nearly 1,000 people injured, many critically wounded and struggling for their lives.
Children are suffering disproportionately and, reminiscent of Israel’s military aggression of December 2008-January 2009, constitute a significant portion of the victims. Moreover, families continue to suffer multiple tragedies, with some families in their entirety being decimated, deepening the trauma and fear that has gripped the Palestinian civilian population. We bear witness to their suffering and, as we conveyed in our letters to the Council, we recall here some of the many lives that have been lost to this insane, inhumane Israeli brutality.
Among the many innocent children brutally killed in the past several days were: Tamer Salameh Abu Esei’fan, age 3 and his sister, Joumana Salameh Abu Esei’fan, age 1; Tasneem Zuheir Al-Nahhal, age 9,; Mohammed Eyad Abu Zour, age 5; Eyad Abu Khusa, age 18 months; Rama Al-Shandi, age 1; Mo’men Suheil Hamada, age 15, who was killed with his father, Suheil Hamada; Hussein Jalal Nasser, age 8, who was killed with his father, Jalal Nasser; twin brothers, Suhaib and Mohammed Hijazi, age 4, who were killed with their mother and father, Amna and Fuad Hijazi; two brothers, Ahmed Tawfiq Al-Nasasra, age 17, and Mohammed Tawfiq Al-Nasasra, age 15; Ilham Nabahin, age 4; Abdulrahman Naem, age 2; Mahmoud Abu Khusa, age 13; and Ayman Al-Asalai, age X and his sister Hadeel, age X, who were killed with their father, Talal Al-Asalai.
We also mourn 11 members of one family, Al-Dalou family, who were massacred by an Israeli air assault on Al-Nasr neighborhood in Gaza City that struck and destroyed their home atop of them, killing three generations of family, including children, mothers and a grandmother. The dead are: Ibrahim Mohammed Al-Dalou, age 1; Jamal Mohammed Al-Dalou, age 7; Sarah Mohammed Al-Dalou, age 7; Yousef Mohammed Al-Dalou, age 10; Ranin Mohammed Al-Dalou, age 5; Samah Al-Dalou, age 25; Mohammed Jamal Al-Dalou; Tahani Al-Dalou, age 46; Sulafa Al-Dalou, age 50; Abdullah Al-Mzanner, age 23; and Amina Matar Al-Mzanner, age 83.
What justification can there be for the senseless killing of these innocent lives? What justification can there be for the brutality being meted out against the Palestinian civilian population by Israel, the occupying Power, day after day, year after year? There can be none. The only answer must be to do all that is in our power, including the power of this august Council, to bring a halt to the violence and terror that is being perpetrated against civilians.
Collective and serious efforts must be exerted at all levels to uphold and enforce respect for international law, including humanitarian and human rights law. To continue to only pay lip service to the legal and moral rules and principles created to govern international relations and to ensure peace and security for all peoples, while children, women and men are slaughtered and the cycle of violence, death and destruction is so blatantly fomented constitutes a reckless abandonment by the Security Council of its responsibilities.
We have repeatedly called for collective action to hold Israel accountable for its flagrant violations against the Palestinian people held captive under its military occupation and we make this call again today. Israel, the occupying Power, must be held accountable for its countless human rights violations and war crimes, including the cold-blooded killing of Palestinian civilians, the wanton destruction of Palestinian property and the malicious colonization of the Palestinian land. These crimes being perpetrated by Israel throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, are clearly aimed at entrenching its illegal occupation and at intimidating and terrorizing our people to surrender to this illegal agenda. We will not surrender – our legitimate national aspirations to realize our rights and to achieve peace and justice in our homeland persist. And the international community too must not surrender; it must uphold the rule of law and not relent to Israel’s crimes and impunity.
A direct, firm message must be sent by the Security Council to Israel to cease immediately its military campaign against the Palestinian people and to abide forthwith by its obligations under international law. Again, the choice is one between war and peace. The failure to act, as in the past, can only embolden Israel’s impunity and its cynical pursuit of the path of war that will only claim more innocent lives and further destabilize the situation, obstructing the forces of peace and taking us on a path farther away from the realization of the Palestinian aspirations for the freedom, peace and justice that our people have for too-long been denied and the realization of peace and security in our region.
Today, we thus reiterate our appeal to the international community to stand for the protection of civilians, for the rule of law, for right over might, and for peace and stability. We call on the Security Council to act now to protect the Palestinian people from the wrath of Israel, the occupying Power; to stop the bleeding in Gaza; and to revive our dying hopes in the prospects for peace.
I thank you, Mr. President.