I would like to thank you for chairing an emergency meeting of the Security Council on the situation in the Middle East for the second time this month. I would also like to thank UNRWA Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini, OCHA Director Lisa Doughten and UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell for their briefings, but above all, for all their efforts in these particularly tragic circumstances. We offer our condolences to the UN – in particular UNRWA – for the dozens of personnel who died in the course of their duties. Our condolences also go to the relatives of the thousands of Israeli and Palestinian civilians – more than a third of them children – who have so tragically and sadly lost their lives in recent weeks.
As early as 7 October, Switzerland strongly condemned the acts of terror, indiscriminate rocket fire against the Israeli population and hostage-taking perpetrated by Hamas. In this context, Switzerland expressed its solidarity with the Israeli people. All hostages held in Gaza must be released immediately and unconditionally. We have recognized Israel's legitimate concern for national defence and security, recalling that the legitimate needs of security and military necessity are taken into account by international humanitarian law, which must be respected by all parties to the conflict. We stress once again the binding nature of all its rules – without exception – in particular the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities. All violations of international law must be investigated so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.
As it has done on many occasions, Switzerland reiterates that the application of international humanitarian law and human rights, in particular the protection of civilians, is – and must remain – a priority for this Council. It is therefore imperative to protect civilians and people who are no longer taking part in hostilities. We must protect them from acts of terror in Israel, and we must protect them in Gaza and the West Bank, where the increase in violence, particularly by settlers, is worrying. We must exert our influence on the parties to the conflict to ensure that international humanitarian law is respected, to halt the current spiral of violence and prevent it from spreading throughout the region.
As we have heard, in Gaza, the entire population, almost half of whom are children, is now under siege. Civilian infrastructures, including UNRWA schools, and in particular hospitals, are protected by international humanitarian law. They must be able to provide security and assistance to civilians. The population must have access in sufficient quality and quantity to essential goods and services, including drinking water, food, medical care and fuel.
Switzerland has been very active in this Council and in the General Assembly in calling for the respect for international humanitarian law and for the introduction of measures – such as humanitarian pauses or truces – to guarantee access for aid. Such measures, accompanied by security guarantees, are necessary to enable the personnel of impartial humanitarian organisations to work effectively to respond to the needs of the population and to alleviate the worsening sanitary crisis in Gaza. This is all the more necessary in the light of the intensification of hostilities in recent days.
Unified action by this Council is therefore more necessary than ever to put an end to the violence, ensure respect for international law and work towards peace. Switzerland will continue to make every effort to seek such action by this Council, so that it assumes its responsibility in the face of this crisis.