I would like to thank Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland and Major General Patrick Gauchat for their participation in this meeting. We welcome and thank them for their important efforts to ensure respect for international humanitarian and human rights law, and to liaise with all regional actors to avoid regional escalation.
As the Secretary-General’s latest report points out, Resolution 2334 of the Security Council condemns – and I quote – “all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation, incitement and destruction”. In this spirit, Switzerland condemned the acts of terror committed by Hamas on 7 October and has since called for the immediate
and unconditional release of the hostages. In his report, the Secretary-General also strongly condemns these acts of terror, including the taking of hostages and the sexual violence committed during the attacks by Hamas.
Since then, thousands of civilians have tragically lost their lives in Israel and many more throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. The risk of regionalisation of the conflict remains real, as shown by the growing tensions on both sides of the Blue Line.
The situation in the West Bank and East Jerusalem also demonstrates this. The number of deaths among civilians there was already reaching frightening records before 7 October. Since then, violence has increased and – according to the UN – more than 250 Palestinians, a quarter of them children, have been killed. More than two thirds of them died during Israeli operations, including air strikes and incursions, particularly in the Tulkarem, Jenin and Balata camps. Switzerland calls on Israel to respect its obligations under international law during such operations. In particular, the use of force must meet the criteria of necessity and proportionality and protect every individual’s right to life and security of person.
We also condemn the violent acts committed by settlers against Palestinian civilians, which reinforce the coercive environment prevailing in the West Bank. This has led to the deaths of several Palestinians, the forced displacement of more than a thousand civilians and the destruction of essential infrastructure since 7 October. The escalation of this violence is unacceptable. Switzerland recalls Israel’s obligations under international law, including the obligation to protect the civilian population. In an environment of near complete impunity, independent investigations must be carried out into all violations of international law in order to bring the perpetrators to justice. In addition, Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territory are illegal under international humanitarian law, as mentioned in Resolution 2334. As the occupying power, Israel must refrain from taking any measures that would introduce permanent changes in the Palestinian Territory.
In Gaza today, the protection of civilians is not being respected. Aid remains insufficient: it must be increased, its relevance must be ensured and, above all, the conditions must be created for its effective distribution throughout the Gaza Strip. We welcome the opening of Kerem Shalom and expect it to allow the entry of humanitarian and commercial goods via a variety of access routes.
In view of the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, with a real risk of a collapse of the social order, we hope that this Council will assume its responsibility and will be able to speak out in support of the Gazan civilian population in need.
While recognising Israel’s right to ensure its defence and security, we call on the parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, in particular to fulfil their obligations in the conduct of hostilities, in particular to respect the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution in all circumstances.
We must support any process that promotes peace and security. The full, equal and meaningful participation of Palestinian and Israeli women is essential. The two-state solution is the only foundation for peace and stability in the region. We must help to rebuild this foundation for two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, of which Gaza is an integral part, living side by side, in peace, within secure and recognised borders.