Israel-Palestine: Protection of civilians ‘must be paramount’ in war Guterres tells Security Council
The UN Security Council met on Tuesday at UN Headquarters in New York for a scheduled quarterly open debate on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, now given greater urgency by the Hamas attacks of 7 October and the deepening humanitarian crisis as the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip continues. The UN chief said the situation "is growing more dire by the hour", repeating his call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. Here are some of the main highlights of the day...
UN News has wound down rolling coverage of today's events in the Council. For full blow by blow coverage of the debate on the Israel-Palestine crisis, you can visit our special UN Meetings Coverage Section, here.
After four meetings on the crisis, the Security Council has still failed to agree any course of action, or make any official call for a ceasefire or humanitarian pause. So what now? Check out our UN News explainer published last week, outlining possible steps ahead.
Here's details of the the key address by the Secretary General Antonio Guterres shortly after 10am:
'More dire by the hour': Guterres
10.11: Mr. Guterres gave what he termed an introduction to the current crisis, saying the situation in the Middle East is "growing more dire by the hour".
"Divisions are splintering societies and tensions threaten to boil over", he said.
"It is vital to be clear on principles" he added, starting with the protection of civilians.
Secretary-General Guterres underscored the need for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, “to ease epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer and facilitate the release of hostages”.
Watch the UN chief's full remarks here:
He also emphasized that the world cannot lose sight of the only realistic foundation for peace and stability in the Middle East - a two-State solution.
“Israelis must see their legitimate need for security materialized and Palestinians must see their legitimate need for an independent State realized, in line with UN resolutions, international law and previous agreements.”
Mr. Guterres said nothing could justify the deliberate killing and kidnapping of civilians, or the Hamas rocket launches against civilian targets, but he said it was important to recognize the attacks by Hamas "did not happen in a vacuum."
"The Palestinian people have been subjected to 56 years of suffocating occupation", he added.
"But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the appalling attacks by Hamas. And those appalling attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."
Ambassadors weigh in
Here's where we left off Tuesday night with our coverage of views from around the world, as more than 80 countries weighed in at the Security Council on Tuesday:
Syria's Representative Al Haka Dindi, said Israel’s criminal and bloody campaign was beyond comprehension and imagination.
This illegal campaign would not have been possible if certain Western States had not given carte blanche to what they describe as the right to self-defence.
By committing massacres and genocide against the Palestinian people, Israel is pursuing a scorched earth policy, thanks to the US which not only obstructed the decisions of the Security Council but also provided military aid to Israel and millions of dollars to eliminate the Palestinians he said.
We must be careful not to put the victims and the occupying power on an equal footing and recognize the legitimate right of the Palestinians to an independent State, Syria concluded in the Council chamber.
Ambassador Alya Ahmed Saif Al-Thani of Qatar, associating herself with the Arab Group, recalled that on many occasions, her country over recent months has expressed caution against the intensification of Israeli policies, including attempts to change the historic status quo and geographical status quo of the holy sites in Jerusalem.
Over the last two weeks, it has made appeals and tireless diplomatic efforts for mediation and dialogue toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict, she added, noting her country’s efforts for the release of hostages from the Gaza Strip.
She said Qatar strongly rejects the words of Israel who gave a false image of the mediation efforts of her country, which were welcomed by friendly countries, the UN and international partners.
Support provided by Qatar to civilians in Gaza covers humanitarian and development support for UN distribution and is part of its humanitarian and moral obligation to the Palestinian people.
Its support is also in response to appeals from international partners who called on her country to play a leading role to achieve stability for Gaza and the region, she added.
Lebanon's Representative said that there is no law or doctrine that justifies the systemic killing of a population that has lived in an open-air prison for more than half a century.
“Speaking of resolutions, we regret to tell you that they have been disregarded completely and ignored by the Israeli occupying forces,” he said.
“The arrogant Israelis have even not responded to the repeated calls of the UN Secretary-General because they do not believe in this Organization and do not believe in peace,” he continued, adding that the Arab States had accepted peace in 2002 through a Saudi initiative.
“Lebanon was never an aggressor, it has always been a victim of aggression by Israel since the 1960s,” he stated, reminding that Israel has maintained parts of Lebanon under its occupation.
Amir Saied Iravani, Iran's ambassador, said that today, the US Secretary of State once again attempted to wrongly place the blame on Iran.
The United States' unwavering support for occupation and aggression has rendered it an active part of the problem. The U.S. has further exacerbated the conflict by overtly aligning itself with the aggressor at the expense of the innocent Palestinian population, he said.
Its rapid provision of military and logistical support to the oppressive occupying regime, thus made the US complicit in the brutal massacre of innocent Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.
It is regrettable that today at this Chamber, the US and certain Western States - he continued - attempted to shift the blame from the wrongdoer to the victim.
They equate the self-defense and right to self-determination of the Palestinian people with terrorism, attempting to grant the occupying regime, Israel, an unjust right to self-defence.
International law is clear on this matter, he said. There is no provision for an occupying regime to invoke the right to self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter.
Eltaher Salem Elbaour, the Acting Minister for Foreign Affairs for Libya, condemned Israel’s brutal aggression against the Gaza Strip, saying: “No media in the world can falsify what happened in Gaza,” he said, alluding to the bombing of Al-Ahli Arab hospital, which claimed 500 lives.”
To “so-called civilized nations” who voice support for the aggression, exposing the falsehood behind slogans about human rights, he asked: “What kind of message are you sending the world? The world is fully aware of what is happening in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Enough double standards; enough falsifying facts.”
Retno Marsudi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Indonesia, called on the Council to move beyond politics and bring back its sense of humanity.
“Please use your great power to be more human,” she urged, emphasizing that Palestinians deserve equal rights and treatment.
Annalena Baerbock, Germany’s Foreign Affairs Minister, spoke acknowledging the greatest crime of all committed by the Nazi regime in the last century.
“Never again”, to me as a German, means that we will not rest knowing that the grandchildren of Holocaust survivors are now being held hostage by terrorists in Gaza, said the Federal Minister.
For Germany, Israel’s security is non-negotiable. Like any other State in the world, Israel has the right to defend itself against terrorism within the framework of international law.
Addressing the plight of the Palestinians in no way contradicts this clear and unwavering stance. It is a key part of it, she declared.
Sameh Shoukry Minister for Foreign Affairs of Egypt said the “Palestinian territories are going through horrific developments”, noting that the thousands of people had been killed there, including thousands of children.
“It is shameful that some continue to justify what is happening, citing the right to self-defence and resisting terrorism".
He asserted that silence in this case is tantamount to giving one's blessing, and that calling for respect for international humanitarian law without describing specific violations, is tantamount to participating in the crimes.
Check out our UN News explainer published last week, outlining what happens if ambassadors serving on the Security Council are unable to agree a course of action as has been the case so far with the crisis in Gaza.
Israeli diplomat calls on UN chief to resign
Outside the Security Council chamber, speaking at the stakeout and earlier in a tweet, the Israeli ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan called on the UN Secretary-General to "resign immediately" arguing the UN chief was "justifying terrorism", in reference to Mr. Guterres' remarks to the Council that Hamas attacks "did not happen in a vacuum".
Separately, the Secretary-General was due to meet late in the day with family representatives of hostages being held by Hamas in Gaza, with UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric adding they would be accompanied by a representative of the Israeli Permanent Mission to the UN. A scheduled bilateral with Foreign Minister Eli Cohen was cancelled.
China’s Ambassador Zhang Jun said “the eyes of the entire world are on this Chamber,” calling on the Council to send a powerful, united message.
That includes an immediate ceasefire, which the Council must express in clear, unambiguous language. If not, the two-State solution could be jeopardized. States should uphold a moral conscience not double standards.
Turning to the humanitarian situation in Gaza he said urgent efforts are needed. Aid supplies currently allowed to enter the enclave are “a drop in the bucket”. The full siege of Gaza must be lifted alongside the collective punishment of Palestinians.
In this vein, he called on Israel to stop its attacks and allow aid to be delivered, adding that international humanitarian law must be upheld. The Council must defend the rule of law at every level and oppose any violations, he said.
The root cause of the conflict rests in the prolonged occupation of Palestinian territory and a lack of respect for their rights, he said, adding that Council actions must not deviate from this.
Vasily Nebenzya Russia's ambassador to the UN said it was unfortunate the meeting was taking place on UN Day against the backdrop of “unprecedented” violence that has caused “catastrophic” casualties on both sides, with Russians among the victims.
The number of deaths and injuries “bears witness to the fact that scale of the humanitarian disaster in the Gaza Strip has exceeded all of our worst imaginations,” he said.
The “terrible acts” of 7 October and the “tragic events” that followed were the result of years of “destructive positions” that Washington had taken, accusing the US of sabotaging potential solutions to the protracted conflict in the region.
“We along with many others for several years now, have warned that the situation is on the brink of explosion and the explosion occurred,” Mr. Nebenzya said.
“This crisis has once again shown that without fair settlement of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in line with Security Council and General Assembly resolutions and based on approved international decisions on the two-State solution, regional stabilization will be out of reach,” he added, reiterating Russia’s position that there needs to be a sustainable negotiation process.
“Following this there must be the establishment of a sovereign Palestinian State, within the 1967 borders, with East Jerusalem as its capital, coexisting in peace and security with Israel.”
Tom Tugendhat the UK’s Minister for Security expressed resolute support Israel’s right to self-defence. At the same time he recognized that Palestinians are suffering, noting that the UK has committed an extra $37 million to support civilians in Gaza.
“We must prevent this conflict sparking conflict beyond Gaza and engulfing the wider region in war,” he said, pointing to Hezbollah attacks on Israel’s northern border and rising tensions in the West Bank. “It is in the interest of Israeli and Palestinian civilians and all States in the region, that this conflict does not spread further.”
The UK’s longstanding position on the Middle East Peace Process supports a negotiated settlement leading to a safe and secure Israel living alongside a viable and sovereign Palestinian state.
“The events of the past week show with total clarity, the need to achieve these goals,” he said. “Hope and humanity must win out.”
Catherine Colonna France’s Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs said it is “high time” for the Council to shoulder its duty to condemn Hamas’ attack in Israel.
France stands firmly with Israel which has the right to defend itself, while respecting international humanitarian law. Indeed, all civilian lives must be protected she stressed.
Safe, swift aid access is urgently needed in Gaza; “each minute counts”, she said, calling for humanitarian pauses and a truce that could lead to a sustained peace, underlining France’s continued provision of aid to the enclave.
At the same time the Council must mobilize and fully exercise its responsibilities, she added.
“It is our duty to pave the way to peace,” she said. “The only viable solution is the two-State solution. We need to do all we can. This Council must act and it must act now.”
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told ambassadors around the horseshoe table that among the more than 1,400 people Hamas killed on 7 October were citizens of over 30 UN Member States, including Americans.
“Every one of us has a stake, every one of us a responsibility in defeating terrorism,” he said.
He also underscored the vital need to protect civilians, adding that Israel has the “right and the obligation” to defend itself and “the way it does so, matters.”
Secretary Blinken said that Hamas does not represent the Palestinian people and Palestinian civilians are not to blame for the “carnage” committed by the militants.
“Palestinian civilians must be protected, that means Hamas must cease using them as human shields. It is hard to think of an act of greater cynicism,” he said.
He noted that Israel must take all possible precautions to prevent harm to civilians and that food, water, medicine and other humanitarian assistance must be able to flow into Gaza and to the people who need it.
He also said that civilians must be able to get out of harm’s way, urging the consideration of humanitarian pauses.
Maura Vieira Minister for Foreign Affairs of Brazil underscored that under International Humanitarian Law, Israel as the occupying power “has the legal and moral obligation” to protect the population of Gaza.
“Recent events in Gaza are particularly concerning including the so called evacuation order, which is leading to an unprecedented level of misery for innocent people.”
He added that the amount of aid flowing into Gaza through the Rafah crossing is “certainly insufficient” to meet the needs of the civilian population in the enclave noting that the lack of power is impacting healthcare workers and hospitals - with safe water supplies very limited.
“Civilians must be respected and protected at all times and everywhere,” the Minister stressed, reminding that all parties must “strictly abide” by their obligations under international law.
“I highlight in this respect the fundamental principle of distinction, proportionality, humanity, necessity and precaution which must guide and inform all actions and military operations,” he said.
11.04: Israel’s Foreign Affairs Minister Eli Cohen holding up a collage of those kidnapped by Hamas, said the hostage situation is a “living nightmare”. Recalling the 7 October attack on Israel, he said the day “will go down in history as a brutal massacre” and a “wake-up call” against extremism and terrorism.
“Hamas are the new Nazis,” he said, calling for immediate access to hostages and their unconditional release.
Qatar could facilitate.
“You, members of the international community, should demand Qatar to do just that,” he said. “The meeting should conclude with a clear message: bring them home.”
Israel has a right and duty to defend itself, he said. “It’s not just Israel’s war. It’s the war of the free world.”
The proportional response to the 7 October massacre is “a matter of survival,” he said, thanking nations for supporting Israel.
“We are going to win because this war is for life; this war must be your war as well,” he said. Right now, the world faces a “clear choice of moral clarity”.
“One can be part of the civilized world or surrounded by evil and barbarity,” he said. “There is no middle ground.”
If all nations do not stand decisively by Israel’s mission to “eliminate the monsters from the face of the Earth”, he said this will be “the darkest hour of the UN” which will “have no moral justification to exist”.
State of Palestine
10.45: Riyad al-Maliki Minister of Foreign Affairs of the State of Palestine stated that the Security Council and the international community has a duty and an obligation to save lives.
“Continued failure at this [Security] Council is inexcusable,” he stressed.
He emphasized that only “international law and peace” were worthy of unconditional support by countries, adding that “more injustice and more killing, will not make Israel safer.”
“No amount of weapons, no alliance, will bring it security – only peace will, peace with Palestine and its people,” he said, stating: “the fate of the Palestinian people cannot continue to be dispossession, displacement, denial of rights and death. Our freedom is the condition of share peace and security.”
Mr. al-Maliki stressed that avoiding an even greater humanitarian catastrophe and regional spillover, “it must be clear that this can only be achieved by putting an immediate end to the Israeli war launched against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip. Stop the bloodshed.”
'Humanity can prevail'
Briefing the Council, Lynn Hastings, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, said agreement on the resumption of aid deliveries through the Rafah, Egypt, crossing and the release of a small number of hostages over the past few days “shows that through diplomacy and negotiation, humanity can prevail, and we can find humanitarian solutions, even in the depths of conflict”.
The world is looking to the Member States around this Council to play its part - Lynn Hastings
Urging all countries with influence to exert it and ensure respect for international humanitarian law, she said civilians must have the essentials to survive. As such, the passage of rapid and unimpeded humanitarian relief must be facilitated, and water and electricity connections resumed, she added.
She said that 20 more trucks are due to move over the Rafah crossing today "although they are currently delayed." She said the UN was determined "to do our part to ensure these deliveries continue."
She paid tribute to the 35 UN Palestine relief agency (UNRWA) colleagues who have tragically been killed during the Israeli bombardment.
Parties on all sides "must take constant care, to spare civilians", with water and electricity connections resumed, in accordance with the rules of war.
10.38: “If we are to prevent any further descent into this humanitarian catastrophe, dialogue must continue – to ensure essential supplies can get into Gaza at the scale needed, to spare civilians and the infrastructure they depend on, to release hostages, and to avoid any further escalation and spillover,” she said. “The world is looking to the Member States around this Council to play its part in leading the way.”
'The stakes are astronomically high': Wennesland
Addressing the current risk of conflict expanding to the wider region, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland, said he and the UN Secretary-General have been pursuing “any and every opportunity” to address the situation on the ground and to prevent further civilian death and misery.
10.28: “It is critical, that we, as a united international community, employ all our collective efforts to end the bloodletting and prevent the further expansion of hostilities, including in the region,” he said. “The stakes are astronomically high, and I appeal for all relevant actors to act responsibly.”
Any miscalculation could have “immeasurable consequences”, he warned, adding that these devasting events were not divorced from the broader context in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Israel, and the region.
For a generation, hope has been lost, he underlined.
“Only a political solution will move us forward,” he said. “The steps we take to address this crisis must be implemented in a way that ultimately advances a negotiated peace that fulfils the legitimate national aspirations of Palestinians and Israelis – the long-held vision of two-States, in line with UN resolutions, international law, and previous agreements.”
What's at stake
It marks the fourth time the 15 ambassadors of the UN’s premier peace and security body will convene since the intense cycle of violence began.
You can follow all the proceedings live on X broadcast by our colleagues at UN Web TV - click on the tweet here on the page or click on the video embedded in the main photo area of this story.
So far, there has no agreement on any action, to alleviate the suffering of civilians caught up in the spiralling conflict between Hamas militants, who control the enclave of over two million Palestinians.
The Council failed to adopt two previous draft resolutions addressing the escalation. The first from Russia calling for an immediate ceasefire, failed to get enough votes, while a Brazilian draft was vetoed by the United States. Although it called for humanitarian pauses for aid access, the US determined objected to the fact it did not mention Israel’s right to self defence.
The UN chief António Guterres is due to brief today along with the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland.
UN Humanitarian Coordinator for the Occupied Palestinian Territory Lynn Hastings is also down to brief. She's also been given the brief of deputy special coordinator.
Foreign ministers from several countries are also due to take part.
So far, 92 different countries have signed up to speak.
Today is also United Nations Day, marking 78 years since the UN Charter entered into force. In his statement the UN chief said that "at this critical hour, I appeal to all to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even further."
10.02: The Council chamber is abuzz with diplomats exchanging views and awaiting the start of the meeting, which will be chaired by Brazil, which holds the presidency for the month of October.
10.07: The 9451st meeting of the UN Security Council is called to order...