Madam President, 

Like my colleagues, I would like to start by thanking Special Coordinator Tor Wennesland and Chris Lockyear for their presentations, which cannot leave us indifferent. We are appalled by the recent attacks in Al Mawasi where family members of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) staff were killed – these fatalities add to the growing number of victims we have to mourn. I express my sincere condolences to the families of all the victims and to your organization and I would also like to express my admiration for all the humanitarian workers who are staying on the ground to work despite the circumstances.

It is our duty, as members of this Council, to reaffirm our commitment to the principle of humanity, which is today being severely tested in the Middle East. This principle underpins the rules of international law, in particular international humanitarian and human rights law, and binds us together in our common essence.

We regret the failure to adopt a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. 

Today – we have heard it – over 75% of the population of the Gaza Strip is displaced. Hundreds of thousands of civilians are under siege, facing starvation and epidemics. Most of them in Rafah, a refuge for over one million civilians fleeing the fighting and a vital conduit for humanitarian aid to Gaza. Switzerland is deeply concerned about the catastrophic humanitarian consequences that a large-scale military offensive by Israel in Rafah could have – both directly for the civilian population and for the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

We condemn the fact that hostilities continue to claim numerous civilian victims in Gaza. We now count almost 30,000 people killed, the majority of them women and children. In four months, repeated bombardments of densely populated urban areas have destroyed 70% of Gaza's civilian infrastructure.

We also reiterate our firm condemnation of the acts of terror and indiscriminate attacks by Hamas since October 7, and our repeated calls for the immediate and unconditional release of the hostages. International humanitarian law prohibits the taking of hostages, and demands that those 'hors de combat' – whether detained, wounded or ill – be treated humanely.

In accordance with Article 1 common to the Geneva Conventions, Switzerland calls on all parties to the conflict to strictly respect international humanitarian law, and to take concrete measures to spare and protect the civilian population. This includes the fundamental principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities. In this sense, Switzerland also recalls that indiscriminate rocket fire is prohibited by international humanitarian law.

It is important to reiterate that medical units such as hospitals must be respected and protected in all circumstances. They enjoy special protection under the Geneva Conventions [Art. 20 GC IV]. They must not be attacked or used outside their humanitarian function to commit acts harmful to the enemy. 

We are deeply concerned by the consequences of the collapse of the health system in the Gaza Strip on civilians, including nearly 70,000 wounded. According to Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, "the Occupying Power has the duty to ensure the provision of food and medical supplies to the population". This must be done, now.

In this respect, the International Court of Justice has been clear: Israel must take effective measures without delay to enable the provision of urgently needed basic services and humanitarian aid throughout the Gaza Strip. Switzerland reminds Israel that it must comply with the Court's order, and in particular take the necessary measures to this end. 

As we have heard, already fragile humanitarian aid operations cannot be kept afloat without adequate security guarantees and sufficient access for humanitarian personnel.

In the short term, we see no alternative to UNRWA in saving lives, providing shelter and organizing assistance to civilians in Gaza. Following the serious accusations made against certain UNRWA employees, we expect independent investigations to shed full light on these allegations, and call for all necessary cooperation to this end. 

Madam President, 

We must work now to protect civilians displaced within the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Strip must be an integral part of the future Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel in peace and security. 

Switzerland remains ready to support diplomatic efforts on the ground. A humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza is necessary, also to achieve regional de-escalation as quickly as possible. We stand ready to cooperate with all members of the Council to find a consensus in the search for a solution that can put an end to human suffering and revive the prospects for peace. 

Thank you.


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