These are extremely challenging times for Palestinians, Israelis, and the entire Middle East.
Norway has strongly condemned Hamas’ heinous terrorist attacks, killing more than 1000 Israeli civilians and taking more than 200 hostages. All hostages in Gaza must be released immediately and unconditionally. Israel has the right to self-defense, but such measures must be necessary and proportionate. All military operations must be in line with international humanitarian law. This includes taking all feasible measures to prevent civilian casualties and reduce damage.
The news we are receiving about the humanitarian conditions inside Gaza is horrifying. This cannot go on. Water, electricity, food, medicine have practically been cut off. We welcome that the first trucks with humanitarian aid have entered Gaza. But far more is needed. Humanitarian access must be dramatically improved and sustained. Norway has joined the call for a humanitarian pause in the fighting to facilitate this.
Most urgently, water and electricity supply must be turned back on, and fuel allowed in.
International humanitarian law applies to all parties of the conflict. To quote the Secretary General: “Even war has rules”. The taking of hostages, as well as any use of civilians as human shields, is absolutely prohibited. The denial of access to food, water and healthcare for the civilian population cannot be used as a war strategy.
As chair of the AHLC donor group for Palestine, we are continuously assessing how we can bring the donor community together to discuss the significant needs faced by the Palestinians, both inside and outside of Gaza. Since the start of this crisis, we have increased our support to Palestine with an additional 130 million Norwegian kroner, including to UNRWA for its indispensable work.
Norway encourages all donors to continue and increase their support. This is not the time to cease the support to the Palestinian Authority, and the Palestinian people.
Norway is deeply concerned about a spread of the conflict. The consequences of a further escalation of violence in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem, as well as in the broader Middle east region would be devastating.
When we move out of the rubble of this terrible crisis, we need to go back to the table to establish a political horizon for solving the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.
Despite the challenges, a sovereign, independent and contiguous Palestinian state, living side by side with Israel, with borders based on the 1967 lines, remains the best and most sustainable path to a peace that would benefit both peoples. We must look beyond this war and beyond the logic of weapons.
In the long run, a negotiated two-state solution would provide a framework for a wealth of new opportunities for increased cooperation, security, stability, and integration in the Middle East.
We are at a critical and dangerous juncture. The civilian population is paying an intolerable price for this conflict. We must do everything we can to avoid further escalation of human suffering.
Today is the UN-day. Allow me therefore - in closing - to pay my respects to the UNRWA-personnel who have lost their lives in Gaza and to express our gratitude to the many UN-personnel who continue to carry out their important work in the most difficult and dangerous of circumstances.