Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzi at UNSC Meeting on Humanitarian Situation in Gaza

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July 2, 2024

Before I read my statement, I just wanted to say that I took note of the disclaimer by the UK representative at the beginning of her statement. Also for the record: we would like to note that it is not for the UK to teach and lecture Members of the Security Council, including permanent ones, on upholding international law. International law, which the UK and other Western partners have long parted for the sake of the rules-based international order. It is the country that ignited and fueled the conflict that was about to be stopped in April 22. And it was exactly your Prime Minister who prevented concluding a treaty between Russia and Ukraine that could allow for the conflict to stop and save numerous lives of unfortunate Ukrainians.

We would like to thank Ms. Sigrid Kaag, Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza, for her briefing on the situation in the enclave and her efforts to ensure humanitarian access to the territory in accordance with UNSC Resolution 2720.

Today’s report makes it abundantly clear that the IDF nearly nine-month military operation in the Gaza Strip supported by Washington renders to null all the efforts to sustainably and adequately provide the necessary assistance to the people of Gaza. The situation “on the ground” is not just deteriorating, it is bringing the Gazans to the brink of starvation, and this is not a figure of speech, but a sad reality.

In particular, the estimates of the UN World Food Program demonstrate this reality, showing that 96% of Gazans, i.e. two million people, are in need of food aid. Almost half a million people are already suffering from famine, experiencing Phase 5 of the Integrated food insecurity phase classification scale.

The ongoing military operation and Israeli raids claimed over 38,000 lives, mostly of women and children. The injured accounts for over 87,000 people. Tens of thousands are reported missing. Civilian infrastructure has been nearly destroyed, including hospitals, schools and housing. Rafah sees the most dire situation. Over 1.5 million refugees had gathered there by the beginning of the Israeli operation (flatly opposed by the members of the Security Council), but once again, those people were forced to flee “wherever they could”. Nothing can justify such actions by the occupying Power.

In conditions of total insecurity, it is extremely difficult to talk about the effectiveness of humanitarian organizations. The deconfliction mechanism and humanitarian notification system promoted by UNOCHA do not work. This is a fact. On May 13, a member of the UN Department of Safety and Security was killed, and another employee was injured when a UN vehicle was attacked. The Israeli side reported that an investigation was under way. We know nothing about results of this investigation. The UN representatives might want to shed light on this issue and give us an answer.

A total of 274 humanitarian workers have been killed since the beginning of the crisis, 197 of them were members of the UN staff, the majority (193) belonged to UNRWA. There were also recorded the deaths of 500 health workers.

As much as Ms. S. Kaag tries to sound cautious about her engagement with the parties to the conflict and in general about the special humanitarian mechanism for Gaza established under UNSC Resolution 2720, the reality is that humanitarian access is simply not ensured. The main aid delivery channels are operating at limited capacity, and are open only for short periods of time, and when allowed by the Israeli authorities. But even when they are open, their capacity do not adequately cover the needs of the civilians. F. Lazzarini, UNRWA Commissioner General, stated that even after the IDF announced tactical pauses in fighting along the relief routes, “nothing has changed on the ground.”

We are also deeply concerned about the latest reports by the Gaza Health Ministry stating that the fuel provisions will suffice to keep the hospitals running no longer than for 48 hours. We must realize that there are numerous lives of patients in dire straits behind such news.

Ms. S. Kaag is certainly not the one to blame for it. It was plain from the very outset that safe and constant access to those in need is impossible to ensure in conditions of intense fighting. We have repeatedly stated that and called for a ceasefire.

We would like to make it clear. We commend the efforts of humanitarian organizations and the heroism of humanitarian aid workers, who continue to assist Palestinians, risking their own lives. We believe that any aid provided, even in small amounts, is extremely important and can save lives or, at the very least, alleviate suffering. We need to continue working with the Palestinian and Israeli sides to find ways to deliver humanitarian aid.

Meanwhile, Ms. S. Kaag and her team, UNOCHA and humanitarian organizations should soberly assess the situation “on the ground” and appropriately set priorities regarding the efforts of humanitarian aid workers. For instance, it is high time they recognized that the maritime corridor between Cyprus and the Gaza Strip, along with the temporary pier built by the USA off the coast of the enclave have not lived up to their expectations.

Thus, since the pier opened on May 17, it has already been destroyed several times due to bad weather conditions. The amount of aid delivered through it is insignificant. This is far from clear whether there are plans to rebuild the pier after its last breakdown. Its construction and operation cost hundreds of millions of dollars. In our view, instead of building the pier, Washington could have demanded that Israel ease its blockade of Gaza and allow the delivery of truly large amounts of aid. We believe that relying on this maritime route and positioning it as the main artery for assisting the Palestinians is merely wishful thinking.

For our part, we will continue to provide the Palestinians with as much humanitarian assistance as we can. Since the beginning of the crisis, more than 500 tons of humanitarian aid have been delivered by Russian EMERCOM aircraft to the Egyptian border town of Al-Arish for subsequent shipment to the besieged Palestinian enclave through the Egyptian Red Crescent Society. The latest humanitarian action was carried out on June 19. In addition to government agencies, numerous Russian non-governmental and public organizations as well as private individuals have been actively involved in the collection of humanitarian aid for the Palestinians in need. Owing to their efforts, hundreds of tons of medicines, warm clothes, tents, foodstuffs and essentials have been collected throughout Russia to be sent to the conflict zone for subsequent distribution among the Gazans.

Dear colleagues, we are convinced that in the context of the never-ending escalation in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict zone, the UN Security Council members must continue to exert pressure on both Israel and its American ally in order to ensure an immediate, unconditional and permanent ceasefire regime. Only thus can we put the conflict resolution process into a political and diplomatic track, primarily through creating conditions for launching direct dialogue between Palestinians and Israelis on the entire range of final status issues. This process should result in the implementation of the internationally recognized two-state solution providing for Israel coexisting in peace and security with Palestine within the 1967 borders.

Thank you for your attention.


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