Statement by SRSG VAC Dr. Najat Maalla M’jid and SRSG CAAC Virginia Gamba about the situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory
New York, 18 October 2023 - The outbreak of hostilities in Israel and Gaza is devastating. Our thoughts are with all who suffered the unbearable consequences of war and in particular children who, as always, are paying the heavy price of armed conflict.
We urgently demand that Hamas immediately and unconditionally release all children and their caregivers that have been abducted and are currently held hostage. Children cannot be held hostage nor used as human shields.
We call on Israel and all relevant parties to provide urgent humanitarian access to civilians, including children in Gaza. As the Secretary-General has said, crucial life-saving supplies – including fuel, food, and water – must be allowed into Gaza. We need rapid and unimpeded humanitarian access now.
We also emphasize to parties to conflict that wars have rules and that they must abide by their obligations under International Humanitarian Law and International Human Rights Law. We call on all parties to exercise restraint and respect the principles of distinction and proportionality to protect civilians, including children. All children must be protected at all times. We are seriously concerned about the toll of children killed and maimed, which continues to rise, including Gaza. We remind that schools and hospitals should never be targeted, and we are seriously concerned about the number of attacks against these facilities. Children pay the highest price.
We remind all parties that, in armed conflict, children must be protected from all grave violations against them, including recruitment and use, killing and maiming, sexual violence, abduction, attacks on schools and hospitals, and the denial of humanitarian access.
We call on all parties to seek an immediate cessation of hostilities and a peaceful resolution of the conflict. Furthermore, we echo the call from the Secretary-General on all parties – and those who have an influence over them – to avoid any further escalation and spillover in the region. Let us ensure that all children in the region can live a life free from fear, with their protection and rights being the primary consideration.