Madam President,

I would like to join my colleagues in thanking the Commissioner General of UNRWA, Philippe Lazzarini, for his presentation, and commend all the efforts made by him and his organization to alleviate the suffering of the civilian population in Gaza, at a time when UNRWA itself has lost many of its staff. I offer my deepest condolences to their families and friends.

The humanitarian situation in Gaza is catastrophic and keeps deteriorating. Famine is imminent, with the entire population of the Gaza Strip facing high levels of acute food insecurity. To help meet the huge needs, Switzerland has allocated an additional US$100 million in humanitarian aid for the Middle East region. We reiterate, however, that a political solution is necessary, and that UNSC Resolutions 2728, 2720 and 2712 must be implemented immediately. In particular, a ceasefire must be observed immediately. This is essential if humanitarian actors are to be able to fully perform their vital activities. We also reiterate our call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

UNRWA is the largest humanitarian actor in Gaza. No other agency or organization could currently take over all its tasks. At regional level, and in the absence of a political solution to the conflict, UNRWA is also crucial in preventing further destabilization by providing essential services in the West Bank, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria.

Switzerland is concerned about the serious charges brought against 12 UNRWA employees, suspected of involvement in the acts of terror perpetrated by Hamas on October 7 2023, which we have strongly condemned. Switzerland has taken note of the immediate measures taken by UNRWA, including the immediate dismissal of those accused. We expect the investigation by the UN Office of Internal Oversight Services to shed full light on these allegations. Switzerland also stresses the importance of strong mechanisms to ensure UNRWA's neutrality and accountability, which are the subject of Ms. Colonna's independent review. We also note that UNRWA has already launched an internal action plan to carry out certain reforms. We look forward to a swift conclusion to these processes, with diligent implementation of the recommendations thereafter. Switzerland calls on Israel and any other state in possession of information to cooperate fully with the United Nations and Madame Colonna to this end.

Madam President,

Suffering and mass destruction have reached a very high level in the region. This is also illustrated by the fact that 161 UNRWA facilities have been damaged or destroyed by the hostilities, killing many people seeking safety and protection. The fact that UNRWA-operated schools, where the children are supposed to learn to build their future, have almost all been turned into emergency shelters for displaced persons also bears witness to the catastrophic situation. It is high time for the parties to the conflict to strictly respect international law, in particular human rights and international humanitarian law. Parties must protect the civilian population and those hors de combat.

All parties must allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access to those in need, including in the northern Gaza Strip. Every occupying power has an obligation under international humanitarian law to meet the basic needs of the population under its control. According to the order of the International Court of Justice on March 28, Israel must in particular take all necessary and effective measures, in close cooperation with the UN, to ensure the provision by all interested parties of urgently required basic services and humanitarian aid.

We have said it over and over again: we are in urgent need of re-establishing a political horizon based on the two-state solution. This solution remains the basis for peace and stability in the region: two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders.

Thank you.