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About the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People
Department of Public Information (DPI)
12 February 2009
Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York
SECRETARY-GENERAL, TELLS OPENING PALESTINIAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE OF PLANS
TO INVESTIGATE CONDUCT OF BELLIGERENTS IN GAZA CONFLICT
Following is the text of UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s remarks at the opening of the 2009 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in New York today, 11 February:
I congratulate you and your colleagues in the Bureau on your unanimous re-election to the leadership of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People. I would also like to express my appreciation for the Committee members’ unfaltering commitment to the very important mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly.
This year began with the rapid escalation and conflict in Gaza, which has caused tremendous suffering and hardship. We all know the tragic results. At least 1,300 Palestinians lost their lives and some 5,300 were injured. Fourteen Israelis were killed and more than 530 were injured.
The heavy bombardment and fighting in the densely populated areas of Gaza reduced homes, schools, hospitals and marketplaces to rubble. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, including children, have suffered deep psychological trauma. Many Gazans are now dislocated, having lost family members and homes. Some 90 per cent of Gaza’s population now require food aid.
The civilian populations in both Gaza and southern Israel bore the brunt of the fighting, destruction and suffering. People who had already endured much hardship for many years have been subjected to even greater misery. They now face an uncertain future with anxiety and despair.
Despite the unilateral ceasefires announced by both sides, the situation remains fragile, and there has been further violence. Efforts are under way, under Egyptian leadership, to transform the unilateral ceasefires into a durable and fully respected ceasefire, as called for in Security Council resolution 1860 (2009).
As you know, I visited the Gaza Strip on 20 January to demonstrate my solidarity with the people of Gaza. I also wanted to inspect the extent of destruction and visit personally with the men and women of UNRWA, UN agencies and other aid organizations. They worked heroically and steadfastly under perilous conditions, and I commend their resilience and devotion.
What I saw left me shocked, but more determined than ever not only to address Gaza’s humanitarian and reconstruction needs, but also to achieve the end of the occupation that began in 1967, the establishment of a Palestinian State, to coexist alongside Israel in peace and security, and a comprehensive, just and lasting peace between Israel and all its Arab neighbours.
During and after my visit to Gaza, I made clear that attacks such as the repeated shelling and destruction of United Nations facilities were unacceptable. I protested such attacks in the strongest possible terms and demanded a thorough investigation into every single one of them. I expect to receive a full explanation of each incident, and that those responsible will be held accountable for their actions. I am initiating a United Nations Board of Inquiry into the casualties and damage at UNRWA [United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East] and UNSCO [Office of the United Nations Special Coordinator for the Middle East] facilities in the Gaza Strip. I have also raised with the Security Council the issue of an inquiry into the broader question of the conduct of the parties to this conflict during the hostilities.
The United Nations has launched a flash appeal for humanitarian assistance. Home to some 1.5 million Palestinians, more than half of whom are children, Gaza needs to be brought back to a level of normality. There must be unimpeded provision and distribution of humanitarian assistance, as called for by Security Council resolution 1860 (2009). Children should be able to go back to school without fear. Homes and buildings need to be repaired or rebuilt so that displaced families can return.
The international community will discuss the challenges of humanitarian assistance, early recovery and reconstruction at a meeting in Cairo early next month, which will feed into the work of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee. The United Nations is working very closely with Prime Minister Salam Fayyad, as well as key partners, Egypt and other Arab countries, the European Commission, the World Bank, Norway as Chair of the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee, Turkey and the members of the Quartet.
Another critical challenge is the re-opening of all Gaza crossings in order to allow full access for humanitarian goods, and eventually commercial traffic, based on the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access.
In addition, Palestinians need to achieve reconciliation under the leadership of President [Mahmoud] Abbas, within the framework of the legitimate Palestinian Authority. The peace process must be revitalized and negotiations should resume leading to a lasting settlement of the conflict, based on relevant Security Council resolutions, the Road Map, and the Arab Peace Initiative.
I renew my pledge to do all I can to ensure that this goal is achieved. The international community must also do its part. This is now more urgent than ever.
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