New Zealand is calling for a pause in fighting between Israel and Hamas to create safe areas for civilians and allow humanitarian aid into Gaza.
It comes as local authorities report over 5700 civilians have been killed in Gaza amid intensifying Israeli airstrikes in response to Hamas attacks, which themselves have reportedly killed about 1400 people.
The majority of the Israeli deaths occurred on October 7 when Hamas, the ruling party in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, launched unprecedented attacks in Israel targeting civilians and taking over 200 people hostage.
Those attacks drew global condemnation and support for Israel to defend itself, however since then Israel has drawn criticism over its response including blockading Gaza, stopping essentials like food and water and fuel entering the area, and bombing civilian areas.
“New Zealand is calling on all parties involved to act in accordance with international law, and also demonstrate basic humanity,” Prime Minister Chris Hipkins said today, following a New Zealand statement to the United Nations Security Council in New York.
“We call on all parties to the conflict to commit to a humanitarian pause and for Israel and Egypt to use a cessation of hostilities to rapidly facilitate unimpeded humanitarian assistance to civilians living in Gaza.”
The statement comes after the United States this week blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution that called for a pause in fighting to create humanitarian corridors, but has since said it would support a “humanitarian pause” that allowed Israel to continue to conduct military operations.
The term “humanitarian pause” is different to a general ceasefire and is specifically linked to the delivery of aid.
Hipkins said provision of humanitarian aid - such as food, water, fuel, and shelter - to civilians in Gaza was an obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention that “must be upheld immediately”.
He said the volume of aid must be increased dramatically to support the more than two million people living there and safe humanitarian corridors established.
Hipkins also commented on the actions of Hamas.
“We are appalled by Hamas’ brutality, their targeting of civilians, and the taking of hostages, which are in clear violations of international law. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”
Hipkins, who is in a caretaker Prime Minister role, made the statement in consultation with National Party leader and Prime Minister-designate Christopher Luxon.
Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said New Zealand supported the right of Israel to defend itself, but it must abide by international law, exercise restraint, and prioritise the protection of civilians.
Mahuta reiterated New Zealand’s support for a two-state solution.
“Ultimately there is no military solution that will bring about a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.
“We call on all parties and the international community to take urgent action to restart the Middle East Peace Process as the best way to ensure enduring peace and security for all those who live in Israel and Palestine.”
New Zealand’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations Carolyn Schwalger made the statement in New York during a debate organised by Brazil.
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