Following are UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ remarks to the opening of the 2024 session of the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, in New York today:
Mr. Chair, Ambassador Cheikh Niang, congratulations on your election to the Bureau.
The Committee’s mandate and advocacy are crucial amidst the unresolved Question of Palestine and the enormous violence and suffering, particularly since the horrific 7 October attack by Hamas in Israel and Israel’s ensuing military operations in Gaza.
The death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss and grief in Gaza over the past 120 days are a scar on our shared humanity and conscience. And I once again condemn the horrifying attacks by Hamas and other groups that claimed the lives of over 1,200 Israelis and others — and call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
There is no justification for the intentional killing, injuring, torture or kidnapping of civilians, using sexual violence against them, or launching rockets towards civilian targets. But at the same time, nothing can justify the collective punishment of the people in Gaza.
The ongoing conflict and relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza have resulted in killings of civilians and destruction at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years. I am horrified by incessant military strikes that have killed and maimed civilians and protected personnel, and that have damaged or destroyed civilian infrastructure.
Over 26,750 Palestinians have reportedly been killed in Gaza alone — more than two thirds women and children. Over 70 per cent of civilian infrastructure — including homes, hospitals, schools, water and sanitation facilities in Gaza — have been destroyed or severely damaged. 1.7 million people have been displaced, and not knowing if they will have homes to return to.