Statement by Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the UN Security Council meeting on Gaza.

Ambassador Barbara Woodward at the Security Council meeting

Thank you, President, and thank you Special Coordinator Wennesland for your briefing today. 

Mr Lockyear I join others in offering condolences to the families and friends of those who’ve lost their lives, and also I salute the courage of those who’ve decided to stay. Your briefing to us was harrowing and your message was unequivocal and clear and I thank you for that. 

Colleagues, we all know that Palestinian civilians are facing a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. We want the fighting to stop now.

But simply calling for a ceasefire now doesn’t make it happen and won’t make it sustainable.  That is why we are calling for an immediate suspension in fighting to get aid in and hostages out, and then progress towards a sustainable, permanent ceasefire, without a return to destruction, fighting and death. 

That means: the release of all hostages; the formation of a new Palestinian Government for the West Bank and Gaza, accompanied by an international support package; removing Hamas’s capability to launch attacks against Israel; Hamas no longer being in charge of Gaza; and, a political horizon which provides a credible and irreversible pathway towards a two-state solution. 

Current negotiations are critical to secure the release of the hostages held in Gaza as well as progress towards our shared objective of a sustainable ceasefire. The UK government continues to work intensively with partners across the region to support this and we call on all actors to do the same.

President, we are gravely concerned by the prospect of an Israeli offensive on Rafah which would have disastrous consequences for the civilians sheltering there with nowhere else to go. 

Over half of Gaza’s population are sheltering in the area, and the Rafah crossing is vital to ensure aid can reach the people who so desperately need it. 

That is why the immediate priority must be a suspension in the fighting, which is the best route to secure the safe release of hostages and significantly step up the aid reaching Gaza.

We are also gravely concerned that the UN World Food Programme has had to pause deliveries of food aid to northern Gaza. We continue to stress the need for Israel to support the UN to distribute aid effectively across the whole of Gaza, including in the north as the Special Coordinator referred to. And for Israel to open more crossing points into Gaza. Nitzana and Kerem Shalom must be open for longer.

Israel must also ensure effective deconfliction in Gaza, and take all possible measures to ensure the safety of medical personnel and facilities.

As we approach Ramadan, we urge all parties to call for calm and not inflame tensions around the holy sites. We call on everyone to respect their sanctity and security. 

Now more than ever we need to generate momentum towards a permanent peace. The UK will continue to work intensively in support of a two-state solution which guarantees justice, peace and security for the people of two states – Israel and Palestine.

I thank you.

Published 22 February 2024