Many more will die from attacks, disease and famine if we do not stop the humanitarian catastrophe: UK statement at the UN Security Council

by British Ambassador Barbara Woodward, at the UN Security Council meeting on Gaza on 29 Dec 2023.


President, let me start with the humanitarian crisis. The 21 Dec IPC [Infection Prevention and Control] report records that more people are in ‘phase five’ famine in Gaza than in the rest of the world combined. Yesterday, I spoke to the Save the Children Country Director for the OPTs [Occupied Palestinian Territories]. He told me that four in 10 of those killed in Gaza so far are children. That is close to 8,500 children dead. For those injured and surviving, nearly two thirds of homes and schools are damaged or destroyed. Many more will die from attacks, from disease, from famine if we do not act to stop this humanitarian catastrophe.

And so, with the adoption of resolution 2720, this Council sent an important signal of our commitment to support the UN to deliver desperately needed aid. And we very much welcome the appointment of Sigrid Kaag as UN Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for Gaza. Our own appointment of a UK Representative for Humanitarian Affairs in the OPTs underscores our commitment to address the humanitarian crisis. 

Second, on security, President, we remain resolute in our commitment to Israel’s security and the need to address the threat from Hamas. But too many civilians have been killed. Israel must comply with International Humanitarian Law and differentiate clearly between terrorists and civilians.

The situation in the Occupied West Bank underlines the urgent need to make progress towards peace. The UK is clear that Israel must stop settler violence immediately and hold the perpetrators accountable. We also continue to call on Israel to adhere to their commitments and cease all settlement activities in the OPTs. Approving further settlement serves only to raise tensions in the West Bank. 

Both Israel and the Palestinian Authority should demonstrate, through their policies, a genuine commitment to the two-state solution. It is vital we all work together to deliver peace, dignity and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike. And in this respect I very much welcome Dr [Marwan] Muasher’s(1) thoughtful briefing earlier.  

Third, President, on the wider risk in the region, we are acutely aware of the conflict’s potential to spill over to the wider region. We are engaging at the most senior levels to caution against further escalation along the Blue Line. A full-blown conflict between Israel and Hizballah would be catastrophic for Lebanon and the region.

We also condemn illegal and unjustified attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea by Houthi militants. These attacks are harming the global economy, threatening regional security and risking innocent lives.

In conclusion, President, in resolution 2720 we underscored the need for conditions that would allow for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. These include the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas and an end to the threat posed to Israel by rocket attacks and other forms of terrorism. Sustainable peace and security for both the Israeli and Palestinian people requires that we then redouble our efforts to deliver a new political horizon towards the delivery of two states: a secure and stable Israel, with a viable and independent Palestine – living side by side in peace and security.

  • Marwan Muasher, a former Jordanian Foreign Minister, now with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, addressed the Security Council prior to this session, as did the Israeli human rights lawyer Itay Ephstain, who is a special adviser to the Norwegian Refugee Council.


This entry was posted in Misc. Bookmark the permalink.