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Statement at the Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly

Statement by H.E. Jörundur Valtýsson,
Permanent Representative of Iceland to the United Nations
Tenth Emergency Special Session of the UN General Assembly
44th Meeting, 2 November 2023
Debate on Item 5: Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalen and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory

Mr. President,

This Emergency Special Session is convened as another humanitarian catastrophe is unfolding in Gaza. We regret the impasse in the Security Council and call on Council Members to redouble their efforts to address the situation.

Similarly, we are disappointed by the missed opportunity to build a broader consensus in this forum last Friday. This would have been possible had the draft included an explicit condemnation of the terrorist attack by Hamas on October 7th and the clear call for immediate and unconditional release of the over 200 hostages, including almost 30 children, being held in captivity by Hamas. With this inclusion, Iceland fully supports the resolution’s strong humanitarian call, including a call for an immediate durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.

Mr. President,

We deplore the immense suffering of innocent civilians and the thousands, including thousands of women and children, that have been killed to date. We are alarmed by the impact of mass evacuations of civilians in Gaza. The grave situation, the unacceptable civilian death toll and suffering calls for an immediate humanitarian pause and humanitarian corridors to facilitate the safe delivery of humanitarian aid throughout Gaza.

Calls for safe and unimpeded humanitarian access, lifting of restrictions of necessities, including fuel, and the protection of civilians must be heeded. We are gravely concerned about reports of apparent serious violations of international humanitarian law, including the significant civilian death toll as a result of Israeli strikes that hit the Jabaliya refugee camp.

We call for an investigation of all possible violations of international humanitarian law and underline the responsibility of all those involved to strictly abide by the rules of war. Civilians and civilian objects, medical personnel and humanitarian workers and assets must be protected and never targeted.

Iceland greatly appreciates the UN Secretary-General’s tireless efforts to ensure the urgent delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance to the civilian population of Gaza. We echo his calls for humanitarian aid to the civilian population of Gaza so desperately in need of food, water, shelter, and medical care. Fuel and electricity are urgently needed. More aid is needed in Gaza, and it is needed now.

We commend all humanitarian personnel working night and day to facilitate the urgent delivery of humanitarian assistance. We deplore that in the past month, 70 UNRWA staff members in Gaza have been killed because of this conflict.

Iceland has responded to UN emergency appeals with contributions to UNRWA, our long-standing humanitarian partner and the lead UN agency mandated with supporting Palestine refugees. Today, we are doubling our contributions to the emergency appeal, bringing the total to 140 million Icelandic Krona. We urge other donors to step up their support to UNRWA’s critical front-line delivery of aid to the people of Gaza.

Mr. President,

Iceland has condemned in the strongest possible terms the brutal and indiscriminate terrorist attacks by Hamas. There can be no justification for terrorism. All hostages should be released immediately and unconditionally.

We have also stressed that while Israel has an inherent right to defend itself, it must do so within the bounds of international law. International law provides states with rights and obligations. Both are sacred.

We must prevent further escalation, for the sake of Israelis, Palestinians, and the wider region. The continuous cycle of violence is fueling the flames of hate and racism. We are seeing too many incidents of Antisemitism, Islamophobia and Anti-Arab sentiments across the world.

Mr. President,

The decades-long cycle of violence in Israel and Palestine will not stop while Hamas continues to use its position in Gaza to wage terror on innocent civilians and spread radicalism. And it will not stop while Israel’s unlawful settlements continue in the West Bank and Gaza remains under blockade.

The international parameters for a long-term, sustainable solution to the conflict are clear: A two-state solution, based on international law, with Israel and Palestine living side by side in peace and security, and mutual recognition.

This is what we in the international community should strive for.

Thank you.


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