Statement by Ambassador James Kariuki at the UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East

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29 May 2024

First, the United Kingdom is appalled by the deeply distressing scenes emerging from Rafah following Israeli airstrikes over the weekend. As the Foreign Secretary has said, we call on Israel to launch a swift, comprehensive and transparent investigation.

The UK’s position is very clear. We do not support a major military operation in Rafah without an acceptable plan to protect the hundreds of thousands of civilians who remain there. We have seen no such plan. Hundreds of thousands have already been displaced from Rafah, many for the second time, and to locations without suitable provision of shelter, food, water and access to medical treatment.

We strongly condemn Hamas’s actions to put civilians at severe risk by using them as shields. We call on Israel to take care to limit operations to military targets and to minimise harm to civilians and civilian objects in line with international humanitarian law.

Second, there is an urgent need to get more aid to the people of Gaza who are in such desperate need. Israel has made a number of commitments in recent weeks to increase the supply of aid, including a commitment to flood Gaza with aid. This included increasing the daily number of trucks of aid entering Gaza to 500, opening Ashdod Port to humanitarian aid, and additional crossing points for aid in North Gaza.

While we welcome progress towards these commitments, including the delivery from Ashdod Port into Gaza of flour by WFP, overall progress has been too slow and quantities of aid being delivered remain well below these levels. We welcome the agreement between Egypt and Israel to allow UN agencies to deliver aid, but operations in Rafah have increased the need for aid at a time when flows have been reduced by the closure of the Rafah crossing point, and reduced deliveries of aid through Kerem Shalom. The humanitarian situation is now catastrophic.

We call on Israel urgently to fulfil these commitments, to allow aid in quantity through all crossing points, including Rafah, and also to ensure an environment within Gaza that allows aid to reach those who so desperately need it. This includes an effective deconfliction system to allow humanitarian workers to distribute it safely, and supporting the minimum operating requirements of the UN and its agencies.

Finally, President, all of this could stop now if Hamas laid down their arms. They are causing this suffering to the Palestinian people. We call on Hamas to immediately release all of the hostages that have now been held for over seven months. We urgently need to see a deal which stops the fighting, allows for unhindered access for life saving aid into Gaza and gets the hostages out.

We must then work with our international partners to turn that pause into a sustainable, permanent ceasefire.

I thank you.

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