Session on the Gaza Conflict
- Peace and Security
UNITED NATIONS GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Statement by HE Mr Gary Quinlan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Australia to the United Nations
The current 72 hour humanitarian pause in Gaza is very welcome, but it is not enough. Now is also a time for reflection and for re-energising efforts to find a permanent solution to this conflict. What has happened in Gaza is a great tragedy, and after a month of violence the conflict remains unresolved.
Hamas has played a key causal role in the violence. They have directed constant rocket fire into Israel and conducted other attacks. Hamas has also failed to embrace a series of previous opportunities to end the conflict, most recently through their almost immediate violation of a humanitarian ceasefire negotiated for 1 August. This was a flagrant violation of an agreement reached with UN and US mediation and demonstrated a callous disregard for the welfare of the people of Gaza.
The Australian Government supports Israel's right to defend itself from the attacks of Hamas and other militants. No country should have to tolerate arbitrary and indiscriminate attacks upon its civilian population by rocket fire and infiltration through tunnels. However, in exercising its right to self-defence, Israel must take all necessary steps to prevent civilian casualties. There have been a number of shocking incidents, including the indefensible shelling of UN schools which were sheltering civilians. Australia supports calls for a full investigation into these incidents. Both sides must respect international humanitarian law.
The human cost of the conflict has been enormous. We are deeply troubled by the suffering endured by the Palestinian population in Gaza, where many hundreds of innocent people have been killed, including women and children. Many Israeli soldiers have been killed, along with several Israeli civilians. Large numbers of people have been displaced from their homes, while many buildings and essential services have been damaged and disrupted.
The violence must now stop permanently. We hope the opportunity of the 72 hour humanitarian ceasefire will be seized, with all efforts directed towards securing an enduring ceasefire agreement that puts an end to the killing and suffering. Communities must be able to live in peace and security. Australia urges all the parties involved in talks in Cairo to engage constructively and reach a permanent ceasefire agreement. And we echo Secretary Kerry's call for Israel and the Palestinians to take the opportunity provided by this ceasefire to re-focus on a return to the negotiating table, and broader efforts to secure a lasting and just two-state solution.
The Australian Government also wishes to commend the efforts of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) and others in providing emergency humanitarian assistance to those affected by the conflict. It has been an outstanding effort in very difficult circumstances. We deeply regret the deaths of eleven UNRWA personnel during the violence. To help respond to growing humanitarian needs, Australia's Foreign Minister announced on 28 July that Australia would provide $5 million for urgent humanitarian assistance to Gaza. We encourage the international community to give generously to UN and other appeals to meet the urgent humanitarian needs in Gaza.