Gaza truce offers hope but bombing must stop, says UAE ambassador to the UN

Lana Nusseibeh says attacks in Gaza must stop immediately

Permanent Representative of the UAE to the UN Lana Nusseibeh speaks during a UN Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on Wednesday. Getty / AFP
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The number of women and children killed by Israel's "relentless bombardment" of the Gaza Strip is a strong indicator that international humanitarian law is being breached, the UAE's Permanent Representative to the UN, ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, said on Wednesday.

The diplomat said the UAE welcomed the announcement of a deal to release 50 women and children held hostage by Hamas in Gaza, and Palestinian women and children detained in Israel, as well as some additional aid to enter Gaza.

More than 14,000 people are reported to have been killed since Israel began striking Gaza in response to the October 7 Hamas attacks on southern Israel, in which about 1,200 people were killed, down from an initial estimate of 1,400.

"The very high number of women and, particularly, children killed by this relentless bombardment is a strong indicator that international humanitarian law is being violated," Ms Nusseibeh told the UN Security Council.

"Its fundamental principles of distinction and proportionality are not being respected. This must stop immediately. There can be no justification for attacks that imperil large groups of civilians, especially women and children."

Palestine’s UN envoy Riyad Mansour said "every 10 minutes without bombardments, a Palestinian child is saved".

"Hundreds of Palestinian children will not be killed thanks to this truce. We owe it to them and to all the civilians in the Gaza Strip to put a definitive end to this criminal assault on the Palestinian people," he told the Security Council.

Ms Nusseibeh expressed hope that the four-day truce could be extended to allow life-saving humanitarian relief into Gaza for stricken Palestinians.

"We thank the tireless mediation efforts of Qatar, Egypt and the United States as a welcome note of hope, in what has been described as the darkest of days for the Palestinian people," she said.

The lives of remaining hostages “hang in the balance in the coming days, and these numbers and faces have names.”

She urged the Security Council to be creative and “break out” of its paralysis, reiterating the need for sustained humanitarian access throughout the entire Gaza Strip that “must not be linked to hostage negotiations”.

“We must not act without the courage and the resilience that those innocents have shown us and taught us these past weeks. And we should all feel angry if we fail them again today,” she said.

Ms Nusseibeh also warned of the "rising tide of hatred" that “threatens to unleash forces that destabilise all of us. And that is why our efforts must scale up to defeat this rising tide of hatred”.

The head of the UN children's agency, meanwhile, called the Gaza Strip “the most dangerous place in the world to be a child”.

More than 5,300 children have reportedly been killed in Gaza since Hamas's attack on Israel, accounting for 40 per cent of the deaths, Unicef's executive director Catherine Russell told the 15-member Security Council.

“This is unprecedented,” she said. “I am haunted by what I saw and heard.”

Ms Russell said an additional 1,200 children are believed to remain under the rubble of bombed-out buildings or are otherwise unaccounted for.

Updated: November 23, 2023, 6:37 AM