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Statement on threats of forced displacement from Gaza

Statement by Representative of Slovenia to the UN Security Council Ambassador Samuel Žbogar at the briefing on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question (threats of forced displacement from Gaza) 

Mr President,

I would like to start by thanking the briefers for their statements. Looking at the situation in Gaza and the broader Middle East region, we believe it is high time to reflect on our responsibility as the Council.

Slovenia shares the concerns of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights regarding the several recent statements by members of the Israeli government proposing mass displacement of Palestinians from Gaza, and strongly rejects them.

Any displacement of the Palestinian population from Gaza would constitute a grave breach of international humanitarian law, amounting to a war crime. We condemn such statements, which are only escalating tensions.

Secondly, we are appalled by the current conditions in which internally displaced people of Gaza are living in. 85 % of Gaza’s population is displaced. Military operations, including indiscriminate bombardment, are forcing people to flee over and over again.

As the recent report of the Secretary-General has outlined, Gaza is facing widespread death and destruction. Famine looms rampant. There is an evolving public health catastrophe, with children, pregnant women and older among those most at risk. There is a dire need to scale up humanitarian aid and allow rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian assistance. In this regard, we welcome the appointment of Mrs Sigrid Kaag as a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator for Gaza, and stand ready to support her.

Throughout the conflict, we have repeatedly called for full respect of international humanitarian law and human rights law. I would like to voice our concern over the grave violations we are witnessing in Gaza.  All the reports we are receiving on the humanitarian situation demonstrate that Gaza is uninhabitable. People have been seeking shelter at hospitals and UNRWA facilities, which are overcrowded and without adequate sanitation facilities. And even those have been bombed. Civilians have been sheltering in so-called safe zones which have been bombed as well.

Mr President,

The bottom line is that no place in Gaza is safe. So where will these people return?  We are talking about whole neighbourhoods reduced to rubble. Roads and infrastructure related to water, electricity, sewage – the most basic infrastructure has been damaged. Hospitals,  religious sites, schools, museums, the ancient port of Gaza and more destroyed.

Of course we are aware of Hamas using some civilian infrastructure to continue its attacks on Israel. Of course we are aware of the brutality of the October 7 attack on Israeli civilians. We are deeply concerned by the information about sexual violence by Hamas which needs to be investigated and addressed. And we are calling on Hamas to immediately release all hostages to return to their families.

But that cannot and does not justify destroying disproportionally civilian infrastructure and life in Gaza.

Condemning the statements on displacement is not enough. We need to prevent actions leading to displacement. Displacement does not necessarily be a forced one but could happen because of Palestinians not having anywhere to return to.

This brings me to my last point, Mr President. Before we can enable the UN to deliver enough humanitarian assistance to people of Gaza, before we can start creating conditions for a safe return, we need to demand an immediate ceasefire.

A ceasefire that would stop destruction of Gaza, that would return the hostages and that would help us calm the region.

Thank you.

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