Thank you, President, and thank you to the Secretary-General, the Deputy Special Coordinator, and the Special Envoy for their briefings. I welcome the Israeli and Palestinian Foreign Ministers to the chamber.
The past 17 days have shocked all of us around this table who value the dignity of human life. It is a reminder of the solemn responsibility we carry to uphold peace and security across the world. Israel is a nation in mourning. It is also a nation still under attack. The violence did not end on 7 October.
Terrorist rockets are still raining down on civilian towns and cities in Israel. Around 200 of her citizens are still being held hostage in Gaza. Some of those are fellow British citizens. Some of those families were in this room only a few moments ago. Israel has the right to defend itself. And the duty to protect all those on its territory, of whatever religion they may be, from terrorism.
We recognise that Palestinians are suffering too. Thousands have been killed in this conflict. Over 1 million have been displaced. We know that Hamas are using innocent Palestinian children, civilians, and others as human shields. They have embedded themselves in civilian communities. Hamas care more for the opinion of their paymasters in Tehran than they do for the opinion of their fellow citizens. We know they fire rockets that often fall short, killing and injuring innocent Palestinians. Those people are victims of Hamas too. It is a terrorist organisation that is not just a threat to Israel and the Palestinians but to many others in the region.
President, the UK stands resolutely with Israel in defending itself against terror. We are clear that it must act in line with international humanitarian law and take every possible step to avoid harming civilians. We have given that message to Israel as a friend and ally and we restate that position in this Council. We must urgently get more humanitarian support into Gaza. Sustained and unimpeded humanitarian access must be allowed so civilians can receive lifesaving support as quickly and as effectively as possible. We welcome the news that the Rafah crossing opened to aid trucks in recent days. This was an important first step and testament to the power of diplomacy. However, it is not enough.
As the Secretary-General has said, humanitarian access needs to be sustainable and at a scale. A constant stream of aid – water, fuel, medicine and food – is desperately needed. The UK is doing its part and has committed $37 million of extra support to help civilians in Gaza.
President, we must prevent this conflict sparking conflict beyond Gaza and engulfing the wider region in war. The attacks by Hizballah terrorists on Israel’s northern border, rising tensions in the West Bank, and missiles and drones launched from Yemen all warn of the conflagration that is possible. It is in the interest of Israeli and Palestinian civilians, and all states in the region, that this conflict does not spread further.
That is why my Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary have been in the region, engaging closely with our friends and partners to avoid escalation. Now is the time for dogged diplomacy that recognises the hard realities and delivers help now. Lastly, President, the UK’s longstanding position on the Middle East Peace Process remains clear: we support 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. Hope and humanity must win out.
I thank you.