Nebenzya Describes 'Biblical-Scale' Catastrophe Unfolding in Gaza

31 October 2023

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, described the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as a catastrophe of biblical proportions during a Security Council meeting.


"It is time to use accurate terminology: we are witnessing a humanitarian catastrophe of biblical proportions in the occupied Palestinian territory, encompassing both the West Bank and the Gaza Strip," he stated.


"According to the incoming reports, the death toll in the enclave has surpassed 8,000 individuals, half of them - women and children," the Russian representative pointed out. He continued, "Over 2,000 more people remain buried under the rubble, with more than 21,000 sustaining injuries, and 1.6 million citizens have been displaced internally. In addition, there have been substantial casualties among UN staff operating in the conflict zone."


"These harrowing statistics continue to mount with each passing hour. We extend our gratitude to all the humanitarian workers on the ground, who are tirelessly operating under extremely challenging conditions characterized by a catastrophic shortage of essential, including medical, supplies, and significant threats to their lives," Nebenzya added.


Humanitarian aid deliveries


Nebenzya also highlighted that Israel persistently hinders the already limited flow of humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip.


"Amid ongoing hostilities, the humanitarian response remains extremely limited. Since October 21, only 94 trucks have managed to pass through the Rafah crossing, the sole point of entry from Egypt. Disturbing reports suggest that even these modest deliveries are being hindered by Israel. Consequently, there is a severe scarcity of essential resources in the region: water, fuel, food, medication. People are living in fear and desperation," he stated during a meeting of the UN Security Council on the Middle East.


The diplomat emphasized that the complete disconnection of cell phone service and the internet in the Palestinian enclave effectively isolates it from the rest of the world. "With this blockade, we are left in the dark about the current situation. Such an information blackout not only spreads panic among civilians but also severely hampers the operations of medical and rescue services, inevitably resulting in further civilian casualties. In light of these circumstances, the coordination of a humanitarian convoy's passage through the Rafah checkpoint on October 28 could not be secured. We strongly condemn these actions, especially at a time when, following the communication blackout, the most intense airstrikes since the beginning of the escalation were carried out in the enclave," he stated.


"On October 28, against the backdrop of the international community's clear position expressed in the UN General Assembly resolution passed the previous day, the Israeli military and political leadership made the decision to launch a ground military operation in the Gaza Strip. After a series of intense airstrikes, the Israeli army initiated the entry into the enclave from multiple directions. The Israeli authorities may refer to their actions as an expansion of the operation or the establishment of a bridgehead, but the critical issue here is that, despite the unequivocal global response, West Jerusalem has embarked on the practical implementation of its plans to cleanse the enclave," Nebenzya emphasized.

Urgency for de-escalation


The Russian ambassador to the UN further emphasized that the era of half-measures in the Middle East has come to an end, and humanitarian ceasefires will not sufficiently address the situation.


"The time of half-measures and superficial appeals has come to an end. Humanitarian pauses will not suffice. Delivering humanitarian aid amid active hostilities on the ground is unfeasible. I trust that everyone present here comprehends this reality," the diplomat emphasized.


"The foremost objectives for the global community at this moment are to halt the bloodshed, mitigate harm to civilians, and shift the situation towards a political and diplomatic resolution," Nebenzya stated.


The diplomat underscored the significance of uniting collective efforts to reinitiate a comprehensive negotiation process between Israelis and Palestinians.


"In the current circumstances, the Russian Federation is exerting substantial efforts to de-escalate the situation on the ground with the aim of resolving the crisis as swiftly as possible... There is a pressing demand for a ceasefire and the establishment of humanitarian corridors to deliver immediate aid to those in need," Nebenzya added.


US position


Furthermore, Nebenzya contends that the UN Security Council has been effectively immobilized due to Washington's stance on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. He alleges that the US, together with Israel, seeks to address the Palestinian issue by means of eradicating the Gaza Strip's population.


"Due to the US stance, the Security Council finds itself in a state of near-paralysis, unable to pass a resolution urgently calling for a ceasefire," - he remarked. - "We've proposed such initiatives twice, but Washington and West Jerusalem harbor entirely different intentions – aiming to eliminate the population of Gaza or expel them from the Strip, and absorb the remaining Palestinian populace within Israel, as their approach to resolving the Palestinian issue."


The diplomat also pointed out that Israel "boldly disregards the consensus of the overwhelming majority of UN member states, including many Western nations, regarding the necessity to halt the violence."


This month, the US in the Security Council voted three times against draft resolutions on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, twice rejecting the Russian proposals and vetoing the Brazilian version. The US defended its vetoes by noting the absence of a clause addressing Israel's right to self-defense. Washington offered its own draft to the UN Security Council, but it lacked a provision for an immediate ceasefire.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

Photo: Zuma\TASS

Based on materials from TASS