ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Thursday urged the United Nations General Assembly to deploy an international protection force to safeguard Palestinians against Israeli aggression and take urgent steps to ensure a cessation of hostilities in the area.
Since the crisis began on May 10, Palestinian health officials say 228 people have been killed in Israeli aerial bombardments that have worsened Gaza’s already dire humanitarian situation. Israeli authorities put the death toll to date at 12 in Israel.
“We should deploy an international protection force that was called for in the General Assembly resolution ES10/20 and as demanded by the Islamic Summit Conference on 18 May 2018,” Qureshi said while addressing a special UNGA session in New York.
The foreign minister reached New York on Wednesday evening on a Palestine peace mission to attend a UNGA emergency meeting called by the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) and the Arab League.
Qureshi called upon the General Assembly to take concrete steps to protect the people of Palestine and hold Israel accountable for its "war crimes."
“If the Security Council cannot agree to send the protection force, a coalition of the willing can be formed to provide at least civilian observers to monitor a cessation of hostilities and supervise the provision of humanitarian help to Palestinians,” he said.
“Israel’s crimes against humanity should not escape accountability,” he added. “There should be no impunity for violation of international law.”
So far, over 50,000 Palestinians have been rendered homeless in the Gaza Strip where they already have limited access to water, food and health services.
The foreign minister urged the international community to mobilize all possible humanitarian assistance for the Palestinian population in Gaza and other parts of the occupied Palestinian territories.
“Israel must open all access points to Gaza to ensure timely and urgent delivery of international assistance,” he said. “The voice of the Palestinian people cannot and will not be silenced.”
“It is appalling that the Security Council has been unable to exercise its primary responsibility for the maintenance of international peace and security,” Qureshi said, adding that the Council had even failed to demand a cessation of hostilities.
“Those preventing the Council from doing so bear a heavy responsibility,” he added.
Qureshi said the international community must not fail the Palestinian people at such a critical juncture.
“Our first priority must be to halt the Israeli aggression,” he noted. “Let’s be clear: There is no military equivalence between the beleaguered and occupied Palestinian people … and the Israeli war machine, one of the most powerful in the world.”
“This is a war between a military occupier and an occupied people,” Qureshi said.
The minister said there was a need to implement the UNGA and Security Council resolutions for a “viable, independent and contiguous Palestinian state with Al Quds Al Sharif as its capital.”
Earlier, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel and Palestinians to call an immediate ceasefire and pledged to launch a full humanitarian appeal for funding.
“The past ten days have witnessed a dangerous and horrific surge in deadly violence in the occupied Palestinian territory, particularly Gaza, and in Israel,” Guterres told the special UNGA session. “I am deeply shocked by the continued air and artillery bombardment by the Israeli defense forces in Gaza.”