Thank you, Mr President, for organising this session, devoted in particular to the situation of women and children in the context of the conflict in the Middle East.
It's a glimmer of hope that accompanies us today. Switzerland welcomes the agreement allowing the release of hostages and a humanitarian pause of four days. We thank all the countries that have contributed to this agreement, in particular Qatar , Egypt and the United States, and we wish those released and their families a speedy reunion and recovery from their physical and psychological wounds. We call for the full implementation of Resolution 2712, adopted a week ago by this Council, which emphasises the fundamental principles of international humanitarian law. This includes the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages who are still being held by Hamas and other groups in appalling conditions in Gaza, as well as the observance of pauses to allow the rapid, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid to civilians through all possible crossing points.
Allow me also to thank the Executive Directors of UN Women, UNICEF and the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), Sima Bahous, Cathy Russell and Natalia Kanem for their poignant testimonies, which we will not soon forget, as well as the visit of the head of UNICEF to Gaza last week. I would like to thank all those involved, in particular the World Health Organisation (WHO), for the rescue – last weekend – of 31 newborn babies from Al-Shifa hospital.
Switzerland remains deeply concerned by the high number of civilian victims in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory since the acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October, which we strongly condemned. Two-thirds of the victims are women and children. The director of UN Women told us: two mothers an hour, seven women every two hours. This high number is unacceptable. Given their vulnerability and specific needs, the protection of children is central.
At the same time as it recognizes Israel's right to ensure its defence and security, Switzerland has consistently called on the parties to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law, in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution.
My country also remains deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian situation and its impact on all civilians. In Gaza, the health situation is deteriorating very rapidly, particularly for the 1.7 million or so displaced people, many of whom are children. Switzerland has allocated USD 100 million in emergency aid to the region.
We recall that all civilians, the wounded and sick, humanitarian and medical personnel, and civilian infrastructure – including UNRWA – are protected by international humanitarian law. All civilians must have access to services essential to their survival, such as drinking water, food and electricity. The impact of the conflict on women and girls also deserves our full attention, as we have just heard from the Directors of UN Women and the United Nations Population Fund. Access to medical care is essential, particularly for pregnant women.
Moreover, we must avoid at all costs an even more serious escalation, or even a regionalisation of the conflict, of which we see worrying signs both in the West Bank and in Lebanon. In the West Bank, Switzerland recalls that in the context of operations by the Israeli security forces, the use of force must in particular meet the criterion of proportionality and respect every individual’s right to life and security of person. We also recall that Israel is bound by international humanitarian law to guarantee, to the fullest extent of its means, the satisfaction of the basic needs of the population throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory. It must also respect and protect human rights there. Independent investigations must be carried out into all violations of international law in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
This Council must unite around the two states foundation that alone can guarantee peace and stability in the region. We also heard the call to include the voices and contributions of Palestinian and Israeli women, as called for in resolution 1325. We must all contribute to rebuilding – without further delay – the foundation of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side, in peace, within secure and recognised borders.