Thank you for convening this briefing in response to the call from the Secretary-General, whose presence in the Council today Switzerland welcomes. The fact that Article 99 of the United Nations Charter has been invoked for the first time under his mandate bears witness to the dramatic situation prevailing in the Middle East today.
I would like to take this opportunity to reiterate our most sincere condolences for the 130 United Nations staff members who have lost their life.
Switzerland shares the Secretary-General's concern that the situation could have irreversible consequences for the peace and security of the entire region, and even beyond. It is therefore imperative that the Security Council be seized and act to prevent an even more serious deterioration.
On several occasions, Switzerland has strongly condemned the acts of terror, indiscriminate attacks and hostage-taking perpetrated by Hamas since 7 October. They have claimed more than 1,200 victims in Israel, including many women and young girls, who have been exposed to sexual and gender-based violence.
Never before in this region have Palestinian civilians paid such a heavy price in such a short space of time. In two months, more than 17,000 Palestinians, 70% of them women and children, have been killed in the bombardments in Gaza, according to available sources. Switzerland deplores the deaths of thousands of civilians in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory and expresses its deepest condolences to the families of all the victims.
Switzerland has made respect for international humanitarian law, and the protection of civilians in particular, a priority for its mandate on the Security Council. Along with the Secretary General, we have come to the bitter conclusion that there is "no effective protection" for civilians and that "no one is safe" in Gaza today. Not even the humanitarian workers, the medical staff and the wounded. Not even the journalists, more than 63 of whom (according to the Media Freedom Coalition) have been killed since 7 October. Not even the 138 hostages, whose immediate and unconditional release we call for.
We reiterate that all violations of international law committed in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory must be investigated and the perpetrators brought to justice.
The destruction and damage to civilian infrastructure, including more than 60% of housing units, the collapse of the medical system, the saturation of schools and other UNRWA structures - which have become places of refuge for more than a million people - plunges the Gaza Strip into total insecurity. We call for respect for international humanitarian law and human rights, while recognizing Israel's right to ensure its own security. We also remind the belligerents of their obligations in the conduct of hostilities, in particular that of respecting the principles of proportionality, distinction and precaution in all circumstances. Respect for international humanitarian law and human rights is a necessity in order to prevent a regional escalation of this conflict, of which we see worrying signs both in the West Bank and in Lebanon.
Mr President, Mr Secretary-General,
The humanitarian tradition - to which my country is closely linked - was born in the midst of a battlefield of ruins. This tradition advocates the obligation to come to the aid of civilians in need. It is for this reason that Switzerland considers favorably the draft resolution presented by the Emirati delegation, which is due to be put to the vote this afternoon.
Further, resolution 2712 of this Council conveys the same duty of humanity. It reiterates the need to ensure full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to civilians. The observation that the implementation of this resolution is "untenable in the current circumstances" means that this minimum of humanity is not currently guaranteed in Gaza.
Humanitarian aid is an obligation, but not an end in itself. It will save lives and inject a little dignity into a conflict that imperatively needs a political solution, in the terms repeatedly emphasized by this Council, and in accordance with international law.