Palestinian Ambassador and Permanent Observer to the United Nations, Dr Riyad Mansour, has addressed an emergency session of the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.
He said: ‘Mr President,
‘I thank you for convening this urgent meeting to address the critical situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, particularly the grave humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as a result of the continued siege being imposed by Israel, the occupying power.
‘I wish to specifically address the crisis that is prevailing in the Gaza Strip, where more than 1.5 million Palestinians – including children, women, elderly, and ill and disabled persons – are facing miserable socio-economic conditions, a dire humanitarian crisis and the virtual collapse of their society and all coping mechanisms as a result of Israel’s total siege and closure of the area, which has obstructed even humanitarian aid from reaching the Palestinian civilian population.
‘Every sector of life in the Gaza Strip has been disrupted by this criminal, punitive siege.
‘Poverty, hunger, disease, and unemployment have risen to alarming levels.
‘In our world today, as we collectively face and seek a panacea for the growing economic and food crises, I wish the members of the Council to pause to consider the following harsh realities that the Palestinian people in Gaza are being forced to endure, not as a result of a natural disaster or some unforeseen global developments, but rather as a result of deliberate, unlawful policies by the occupying power intended to punish the population and sink them into desperation:
‘Today, 80 per cent of civilians in Gaza, the majority of whom are refugees and 50 per cent of whom are children, live below the poverty line.
Eighty per cent of the population is also dependent on food aid for survival.
‘Over 95 per cent of industry, businesses and workshops are now closed and nearly 50 per cent of the workforce is unemployed.
‘Health and sanitation systems and other infrastructure are falling into disrepair and decay as spare parts and building materials, including those for UN projects, remain restricted and in rare supply, hastening the collapse of these systems.
‘As reported by various UN agencies and international organisations, the negative short and long-term repercussions of this crisis on the Palestinian people and their institutions, public services and infrastructure are vast and will be catastrophic if this situation continues.
‘Moreover, without redress, tensions, insecurity and despair in the Gaza Strip will continue to rise and will further destabilise the entire situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, with all the destructive ramifications this would entail for the fragile, struggling peace process and thus the prospects for stability in the region as a whole.
‘Mr President, the Palestinian leadership is engaged in a peace process and committed to this process to achieve a just, lasting and peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine in all its aspects.
‘However, the existence of this peace process cannot be used as a cover or distraction by the occupying power as it continues pursuit of illegal policies and practices that are destroying the Palestinian society, destroying the Palestinian land and destroying our chances for achieving an end to the occupation, an end to the conflict and real peace for our peoples.
‘There is indeed no legal, political, moral or human justification for the inhumane, barbaric policies Israel is carrying out against the Palestinian people, especially in the Gaza Strip.
‘While the Palestinian leadership continues to exert all efforts to advance the peace process and uphold its commitments, Israel continues instead its illegal practices and provocative actions in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
‘This is to no one’s benefit – it will only hasten the destabilisation of the situation and a resurgence of the deadly cycle of violence that will surely sabotage the peace process.
‘Such an outcome must be averted at all costs and requires urgent action and not continued tolerance for this totally unjust situation.
‘It is therefore imperative that Israel be compelled first and foremost, immediately and completely to lift its siege of the Gaza Strip to allow for movement of persons and goods to ease the isolation and humanitarian suffering of the Palestinian civilian population.
‘In this regard, once again, the Palestinian Authority reiterates its readiness to assume responsibility for the Palestinian side of Gaza’s border crossings in line with the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.
‘Israel should be called upon to abide by its commitments and legal obligations in this regard, including vis-à-vis the Palestinian civilian population under its occupation in the Gaza Strip, in respect of the Fourth Geneva Convention, by which it is bound as the occupying power.
‘The international community must act; it cannot remain on the sidelines as Israel continues to flagrantly and blatantly breach international law and UN resolutions, which have only emboldened the occupying power’s impunity over time.
‘It is high time that the international community, including this Security Council, undertakes its collective duty to exert the necessary, serious efforts to redress the illegal situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and bring an end to Israel’s illegal policies and practices.
‘Peace can never be realised as long as Israel remains defiant of the law and remains an unwilling partner in the peace process.
‘The international community must thus cease its appeasement of such behavior by Israel and must bear its responsibilities in this regard in order to bring about a change of course that will actually help the parties to actually realise the Two-State solution for peace of a sovereign, independent, contiguous and viable State of Palestine living side by side with Israel in peace and security on the basis of the 1967 borders and ultimately bring peace to the region as a whole.
‘I thank you, Mr President.’