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Department of Public Information (DPI)
15 January 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
DEPUTY SECRETARY-GENERAL SAYS CIVILIAN SUFFERING IN GAZA 'MUST END NOW',
AS GENERAL ASSEMBLY CONVENES EMERGENCY SPECIAL SESSION
Following is Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro’s statement to the emergency session of the General Assembly, 15 January:
You are meeting today as the crisis in and around Gaza has entered its twentieth day.
Despite urgent efforts at the United Nations and elsewhere, the situation on the ground remains extremely dire for the civilian populations. The continued violence and suffering is unacceptable.
As you all know, the Secretary-General is currently in the region to underscore the urgent need for an immediate, durable and fully respected ceasefire and the implementation of Security Council resolution 1860. He held talks this week in Egypt and Jordan, and is in Israel today. He will also meet with Palestinian leaders and then travel on to Turkey, Lebanon, Syria and Kuwait.
In all his talks, the Secretary-General’s message has been unequivocally clear: all violence must cease, and the bloodshed and suffering among the civilian populations must be halted. The fighting must come to an end, and it must do so now.
The rockets must stop. Israel’s offensive must end. Security Council resolution 1860, now a week old, must be respected.
Over a thousand Palestinians are now reported dead, a large number of them women and children, with more than 4,700 injured. Three Israeli civilians have died, and dozens been injured. As he has said time and again during the past few days; the fighting must stop. Now.
Overnight and today, the violence has intensified. Families trying to flee the fighting had nowhere to go. Over 40,000 people are now taking refuge in UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] shelters and people seeking sanctuary are being turned away. Hospitals have been hit. This is unacceptable and must stop.
In the Secretary-General’s talks with leaders in the region, he has also demanded that urgent humanitarian assistance be provided and distributed, without restriction, to those in need. Food, fuel, medical treatment and other urgently required humanitarian assistance must reach the civilian population of Gaza without delay.
There is no question that the civilian population of Gaza faces an acute and deepening humanitarian crisis. Entire families have perished in the violence, including women and children, United Nations staff, and medical workers.
We are all truly proud of the United Nations staff braving difficult and dangerous circumstances to help those in need.
Today, a United Nations compound in Gaza was shelled again. The Secretary-General has conveyed his strong protest and outrage to Israel’s Prime Minister, Defence Minister and Foreign Minister, and he has demanded a full explanation of the attack.
Israeli leaders called the incident a grave mistake and apologized for the incident. They also assured him that extra attention would be paid to United Nations facilities and staff and that this would not be repeated.
It is imperative that the UN not be prevented from its ability to help people who are in dire need of assistance.
The United Nations calls for an immediate ceasefire, and for humanitarian access to provide crucial services.
There is a basic obligation to protect civilians and respect the sanctity of human life.
It is incumbent on the United Nations not only to help alleviate the suffering, as our staff on the ground are so ably trying to do under dangerous conditions, but also to act decisively to help resolve the crisis and prevent its recurrence.
Only an end to violence and a political way forward can deliver enduring security and peace.
The Secretary-General believes from his talks in the region so far that the elements are in place for this violence to end now.
It is clear that a return to the status quo ante cannot be an option. If a ceasefire is to be sustainable, we need arrangements to ensure a halt to the smuggling of weapons into Gaza, the reopening of the crossings, and the reuniting of Gaza with the West Bank under its legitimate leadership. Beyond humanitarian assistance, the international community must engage in an early reconstruction effort. We call on all Member States to contribute to this endeavour.
We need to reiterate: the time has come for the violence to stop and for us to change fundamentally the dynamics in Gaza. It is the intention of the Secretary-General to send a humanitarian and reconstruction assessment mission to Gaza as soon as a ceasefire is put in place.
We must return to the road to peace, to end the occupation that began in 1967, attain the establishment of a Palestinian state which coexists alongside Israel in peace and security, and to achieve the goal of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace in the Middle East, based on Security Council resolutions.
There is no more time to lose. The civilian suffering must end now.
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