Israel-Hamas war: UAE warns of growing tension in region

Wars have laws, the protection of civilians being foremost among them, says UAE minister

by

Sahim Salim

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Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation. — Reuters File
Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation. — Reuters File

Published: Tue 24 Oct 2023, 11:19 PM

Last updated: Wed 25 Oct 2023, 12:52 PM

The UAE has reiterated its call for an immediate ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war, warning that the conflict could spread in the region. The “continuous escalation” of Israel’s bombing of the Gaza strip confirms that every delay in ending the war means “more casualties and destruction”, a UAE minister said on Tuesday.

Addressing the United Nations (UN) Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Reem Al Hashimy, Minister of State for International Cooperation, said armed extremist groups operating in the region will “make every effort to exploit this conflict to achieve their destructive agendas”.


She referred to growing tensions in the region “including in southern Lebanon, the occupied Syrian Golan, and the Red Sea.”

“An unchecked slide into regional war risks ominous outcomes that will not only put regional security at stake, but they could extend beyond to affect stability around the world.”


She stressed that international efforts must focus on de-escalation and “restoring calm as soon as possible”.

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Protecting civilians

Wars have laws, the protection of civilians being foremost among them, the Emirati minister said.

Citing UN data, she said so far, more than 5,000 Palestinians, including 2,000 children, have been killed. “More than 60 per cent of the population has been displaced in search of shelter, and no place is safe. In addition, 43 per cent of the housing units in Gaza have been destroyed.”

Israel must not target civilians and civilian objects, including hospitals, schools, and UN facilities. “In this regard, we condemn the killing of many journalists, humanitarian workers, and medical personnel, and stress the need to protect them in accordance with international humanitarian law.”

Release hostages

She called attacks launched by Hamas on October 7 “barbaric and heinous” and demanded that the group release hostages “immediately and unconditionally”.

“At the same time, let me emphasise that Hamas’ crimes against civilians can never justify Israel’s policy of collective punishment towards the Gaza strip. Israel must respect its obligations under international humanitarian law and ensure the protection of civilians,” she said.

She reiterated the UAE’s rejection of Israel’s orders to evacuate more than one million people from northern to southern Gaza. “We also warn against any attempts to forcibly displace the Palestinian people from their land, as this can subject them to a new catastrophe or ‘Nakba’.”

Aid delivery

Al Hashimy called for the delivery of humanitarian aid to the Gaza strip in a “safe, urgent, sustainable, and unhindered manner”. She said the long-standing and “unjust blockade” must end.

“This is critical to alleviate the catastrophic humanitarian crisis exacerbated by the shutting down of access to electricity, water, and food. The shortage in medical supplies and deterioration of the health sector place patients and premature babies in imminent danger. Fuel must also be allowed, as it is essential for operating hospitals and water facilities, among other necessities,” she said.

The opening of the Egypt-Gaza Al Rafah crossing helped transport aid shipments from around the world to the strip in the past four days, she said. However, the total number of trucks allowed to cross the border is too little to meet the needs of the Gazans.

The UN estimates that about 100 trucks per day are required to help 2.3 million Palestinians on the strip – more than half of whom are now homeless. The number of trucks that have crossed to Gaza represents only 4 per cent of the volume of commodities that entered it before the outbreak of this crisis, said Al Hashimy.

Two-state solution

As the world races to stop the war, it must not lose sight of the situation that has existed in the Palestinian Territory “occupied for almost six decades, as well as the escalations we have witnessed recently”.

The Gaza strip has been under siege for more than 17 years, she pointed out, with its people suffering from hunger, poverty, and unemployment. “Since last year, the West Bank has witnessed a sharp increase in the number of deaths and settler attacks against Palestinian civilians. This includes the announcements of building thousands of new settlement units, continuous property demolitions, the displacement of thousands, the threat of annexation plans, and ongoing attacks on Palestinian cities and villages.

“This year, Jerusalem has also witnessed an increase in storming the Al Aqsa Mosque by extremists and members of the Israeli government, with the protection of Israeli security forces.”

Peace and stability can come from stopping all illegal practices, and resuming a serious and credible negotiation process. “The legal and historical status quo of Jerusalem and its holy sites must be preserved, and the role of … Jordan as the custodian of the holy sites and endowments in the city must also be respected.”

The UAE affirms the importance of finding a just, lasting, and comprehensive solution to this conflict to allow both peoples to live in lasting peace and security, she added.

She called for reviving the two-state solution, “which is needed more than ever, to achieve the legitimate aspirations of the Palestinian people”.

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