António GuterresSecretary General on the Middle East on October 24, 2023

Mr. President,

With your permission, I will make a brief introduction and then ask my colleagues to brief the Security Council on the situation on the ground.


The situation in the Middle East is getting worse by the hour.

The war in Gaza is raging and there is a danger that it will spread to the entire region. Divisions divide societies. Tensions threaten to boil over. At a crucial moment like this, it is important to be clear about the principles – starting with the basic principle of respecting and protecting the civilian population.

I unequivocally condemned the horrific and unprecedented terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel on October 7. Nothing can justify the deliberate killing, injuring and kidnapping of civilians – or the firing of missiles at civilian targets. All hostages must be treated humanely and released immediately and unconditionally. I note with respect the presence of their family members among us.


It is important to recognize that the Hamas attacks did not take place in a vacuum. The Palestinian people were subjected to 56 years of oppressive occupation. They have witnessed how their land has been constantly swallowed up by settlements and ravaged by violence. Their economy came to a standstill; their people were displaced and their homes destroyed. Their hopes of a political solution to their plight have dwindled.

But the grievances of the Palestinian people cannot justify the horrific attacks by Hamas. And these horrific attacks cannot justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.


Even war has rules.

We must demand that all parties comply with and respect their obligations under international humanitarian law. When conducting military operations, always take care to spare civilians. and respect and protect hospitals and respect the inviolability of UN facilities, which today house more than 600,000 Palestinians.

The relentless bombardment of Gaza by Israeli forces, the number of civilian casualties and the massive destruction of neighborhoods continue to increase and are deeply worrying.

I mourn and honor the dozens of UN colleagues working for UNRWA – sadly at least 35 or more – who have been killed in the bombardment of Gaza over the past two weeks. I owe their families my condemnation of these and many other similar murders.

The protection of the civilian population is of the utmost importance in any armed conflict. Protecting the civilian population can never mean using them as human shields. Protecting the civilian population does not mean ordering more than a million people to evacuate to the south, where there is no shelter, food, water, medicine or fuel, and then continuing to bomb the south itself.

I am deeply concerned about the clear violations of international humanitarian law that we are witnessing in Gaza. Let me be clear: No party to an armed conflict is above international humanitarian law.


Fortunately, humanitarian aid is finally reaching Gaza. But it is a drop of help in an ocean of need. In addition, our UN fuel supplies in Gaza will run out in a few days. That would be another disaster. Without fuel, no aid can be provided, hospitals have no electricity and drinking water cannot be purified or even pumped. The people in Gaza need continuous aid on a scale that meets their enormous needs. This assistance must be provided without restrictions.

I salute our UN colleagues and humanitarian partners in Gaza who are working in dangerous conditions and risking their lives to deliver aid to those in need. They are an inspiration.

To alleviate epic suffering, make the delivery of aid easier and safer, and facilitate the release of hostages, I reiterate my call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.


Even in this moment of great and imminent danger, we must not lose sight of the only realistic basis for genuine peace and stability: a two-state solution. Israelis must see their legitimate needs for security realized and Palestinians must see their legitimate aspirations for an independent state realized in accordance with United Nations resolutions, international law and previous agreements.

Finally, we must be clear about the principle of respecting human dignity. Polarization and dehumanization are fueled by a tsunami of disinformation. We must stand up to the forces of anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim bigotry and all forms of hatred.

Mr. President, Excellencies,

Today is United Nations Day and marks the 78th anniversary of the entry into force of the UN Charter. This charter reflects our shared commitment to promoting peace, sustainable development and human rights. On this UN Day, at this critical hour, I appeal to everyone to pull back from the brink before the violence claims even more lives and spreads even further.

Thank you very much.

You can find the speech HERE

(Translated by