Thank you, Mr. President. I also thank the Secretary General and UN colleagues for their remarks. There has been too much suffering over the course of the last month and an unbearable toll on civilians in Gaza and Israel alike. Today I want to touch on the cost of the conflict and what we need to do to bring it to an end.
In Gaza, the figures our UN colleagues cited – the numbers of killed and wounded civilians, damaged homes, and people without food or access to water or sanitation – are devastating. We support UNWRA’s work and were horrified at the strikes that hit UNRWA schools. UN facilities and civilians must be protected. Further, civilian facilities must not be used for military purposes, including storing munitions.
Let us remember how this conflict started. Hamas launched repeated rocket attacks at Israel. Hamas deliberately, willfully targets civilians. No nation can accept such attacks, and Israel has the same right to self-defense as every other nation.
Mr. President, the United States has been constant in our efforts to bring this violence to an end. President Obama has engaged directly and Secretary Kerry has traveled to the region and been working around the clock to achieve a ceasefire. As the parties head to Cairo, this effort has our strong support. U.S. -- the United States has also sent its representatives.
The last month of violence and fear should serve as an impetus for the parties to resolve the crisis as the implications of renewed fighting are too dire. In this context, the current humanitarian ceasefire provides an opportunity to negotiate key issues, including Israel's long-term security and economic opportunity for Gaza. We urge all parties to respect the ceasefire completely, and we hope the Cairo discussions will lead to a sustainable ceasefire agreement that ensures an end to all hostilities.
We need to help the parties reach an accord where the rockets stop, tunnels are permanently dismantled, and Israel is not attacked again in the near or long term. Gaza must also receive the goods necessary to advance its economic development and the international community must work in concert to strengthen the recognized Palestinian Authority.
With serious negotiations starting, this is a pivotal time, and we should support the parties’ efforts to secure a durable ceasefire, and give them space to achieve results. We believe that any process to resolve the crisis in Gaza in a lasting and meaningful way must result in the disarmament of Hamas and all other terrorist groups.
We must also support the on-the-ground efforts of the United Nations and humanitarian organizations. This includes the commendable work of UNRWA and OCHA. Their work in providing shelter and delivering food, water, and essential medical supplies has been vital. Eleven UNRWA staff members were killed in Gaza during the last month, and we extend our heartfelt condolences to their families.
For our part, the United States is committed to supporting the United Nations and other humanitarian actors. We have thus far provided nearly $50 million to address emergency humanitarian needs. We strongly urge other donors to contribute generously to the UN appeal.
Mr. President, this pause in hostilities presents an opportunity that the parties should seize. It is time for the parties to have a genuine dialogue and try to resolve diplomatically some of the entrenched differences that have helped precipitate this conflict. I assure you, the United States will continue to work tirelessly with the parties, regional partners, and the international community toward a sustainable peace.
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