Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question

Mr.President,

We thank Tor Wennesland and Edem Wosornu for the review of the situation in the occupied Palestinian territory.

We thank the delegations of Algeria and Slovenia for convening this meeting on the situation in Gaza Strip, where the operation by the Israel Defense Forces (which has already claimed more than 35,500 lives - a monstrous statistic that has no parallel in recent history) has entered its eighth month.

Although the state of affairs and humanitarian situation in the zone of confrontation is unprecedented in terms of suffering for the civilian population, it is worsening by the day. We are all extremely concerned about West Jerusalem's plans to cleanse the town of Rafah in the south of the Palestinian enclave, where some 1.5 million civilians are concentrated. According to UNRWA Commissioner-General Phillipe Lazzarini, 800,000 Palestinians have been displaced since the beginning of armed action in Rafah, and the Israeli leadership's claim that the population of Rafah has the opportunity to move to a safe humanitarian zone is untrue. There are simply no such zones in Gaza.

People die in the city every day. Reported discovery of seven mass graves in the cities of Gaza and Khan Younis with more than 520 Palestinian bodies have caused widespread publicity. We await the results of the independent investigation that the UN Security Council demanded in a press statement in this regard.

We demand that Israel strictly abide by the provisions of international humanitarian law. We condemn the attacks on UN personnel and humanitarian workers on the ground and support the Secretary-General's call for an international independent investigation into all deaths of those who help Palestinians to survive.

Mr.President,

Gaza lacks stable channels for humanitarian assistance. In the past two weeks, the IDF has blocked three thousand trucks carrying humanitarian aid to the enclave's residents from entering through the Rafah and Kerem Shalom checkpoints. As a result, a significant part of the population of Gaza is on the verge of starvation, according to the assessment of UN specialized agencies, in particular the WFP.

At the same time, Israel launches air strikes against targets in the southern and central Gaza Strip. The siege of the Al-Awda hospital in the Jabaliya refugee camp continues, preventing the wounded and the sick from receiving proper care.

Against the backdrop of hostilities in Gaza, life becomes more unbearable for civilians in the West Bank, as clashes between Israeli security forces and settlers and local residents continue unabated.

Mr.President,

The developments in Gaza confirm that at this stage the prospects for transferring the conflict into a political and diplomatic domain and establishing a ceasefire, which Russia has been advocating since the first day of the escalation, still look elusive. We see that the current Israeli leadership is determined to continue military action although it becomes more obvious that achieving all the declared objectives of the operation will be impossible. Unfortunately, this stubbornness also threatens the lives of the Israeli hostages. Chances for their families to see their loved ones alive reduce each single day. At the same time, numerous rounds of negotiations between Israel and Hamas through mediators on the exchange of Israeli hostages for Palestinian prisoners have not yielded any results.

Under these circumstances, the international community needs to continue to put pressure on both West Jerusalem and its main ally, Washington, where on April 24 another draft bill was signed for more arms transfers across the globe, including the $26.4 billion-worth of military aid to Israel, which is almost 8 times the amount allocated annually by the Americans for that country. This way Israel will get new bombs and missiles to destroy Palestinian civilians. This is how the US actually cares about peace in the Middle East. This move, coupled with the suspension of UNRWA funding, is causing growing resentment and outrage even within the US itself, where anti-Israel demonstrations have swept across the campuses of major universities. The outrage of young people is understandable: Washington's position on UNRWA seems particularly cynical and disconnected from reality, given that the independent review group under the lead of Catherine Colonna not only confirmed UNRWA's compliance with the principle of neutrality and the Agency's key role in providing aid to the Palestinians, but also stated that Israel has never been able to prove its suspicions.

The blind support of the United States for its regional ally has become a destabilizing factor in itself. The UN Security Council has become paralyzed. In this context, the American veto on the draft resolution of the Security Council recommending the General Assembly to admit Palestine as a full UN member was predictable. The US not only blocked an attempt to correct a "historic injustice" against the Palestinians and their fundamental right to self-determination, but also betrayed its true attitude towards the "two-state solution" which underpins all UNSC and UNGA decisions on Palestine and related peace initiatives.

Thank you.

Video of the statement