New Zealand calls for humanitarian pause to allow aid, supplies into Gaza

Jane Patterson

Jane Patterson

Wellington, October 25, 2023

People amidst destroyed properties on the streets of Khan Yunis, in Southern Gaza Strip (AFP Photo by Mohammed Zaaonoun)

New Zealand has added its voice to international calls for a “humanitarian pause” in Gaza to allow life-saving supplies to civilians and create “designated safe areas that are strictly off limits as targets.” 

The statement was made after consultation with incoming Prime Minister and National Party Leader Chris Luxon and delivered to the United Nations Security Council by New Zealand’s Permanent Representative Carolyn Schwalger.

“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.

Red Crescent workers sort aid before distribution to Palestinians (NurPhoto by Majdi Fathi via AFP and RNZ)

Ensuring essential supplies

“The provision of essential support to innocent civilians living in Gaza such as food, water, fuel, and shelter as well as the facilitation of humanitarian aid is an obligation under the Fourth Geneva Convention that must be upheld immediately. 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,” he said.

New Zealand wants to see a significant increase in the volume of aid arriving in Gaza “to ensure the basics of life can be maintained to the millions living in Gaza who have nowhere to go.”

“Humanitarian corridors must be established in order for sufficient aid to regularly flow into Gaza, and safe areas must be put in place that are free from military targeting to provide a refuge for innocent civilians who have nowhere to go.”

Hipkins reiterated New Zealand’s condemnation of the “brutality” of Hamas; “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,” he said.

Foreign Minister Nanaia Mahuta said that it was “intolerable to see civilians continue to suffer disproportionately as innocent victims of this conflict.”

The Right to defence

“New Zealand supports the right of Israel to defend itself against Hamas’s terrorist attacks, but the way it does so matters. It must abide by international law, exercise restraint, and prioritise the protection of civilians. Ultimately there is no military solution that will bring about a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians,” she said.

“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,” she said.

Luxon told RNZ on Wednesday (October 25) morning that the government still in place was “taking the lead of New Zealand’s response to the situation.”

He said that it was “doing a good job of keeping (National) closely involved and informed and also consulted during that transition period.”

The bottom line, Luxon said, was that New Zealand “condemns Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel and … support Israel’s rights to defend itself.”

“We do want to see both sides acting in full compliance with international law and their obligations.”

Another priority, he said, was “the protection of civilians and humanitarian assistance and making sure those corridors are opened up to be able to get relief to people but … our position’s pretty clear and united.”

The New Zealand government is contributing $5 million to address urgent humanitarian needs in Israel, Gaza and the West Bank.

Deputy Permanent Representative at New Zealand Mission to the United Nations Carolyn Schwalger (File Photo Supplied to RNZ)

The Two States Solution

New Zealand remains committed to a two-state solution.

Deputy Permanent Representative at New Zealand Mission to the United Nations Carolyn Schwalger delivered a statement to the UN Security Council.

She said: “By day’s end, more civilians will have tragically and needlessly lost their lives, some of them infants and children. It is intolerable to see civilians continue to suffer disproportionately as innocent victims of this conflict. New Zealand condemns absolutely Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel. We are appalled by their brutality, their targeting of civilians, and the taking of hostages, which are clear violations of international law. We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. We support Israel’s right to defend itself, in full compliance with international law, including in respect of actions taken in Gaza. Ultimately though, there is no military solution that will bring about a just and lasting peace for Israelis and Palestinians.”

Protection to Aid Organisations

Schwalger reiterated that New Zealand was calling for a humanitarian pause so aid organisations could provide assistance and protection to those in Gaza.

“The protection of civilians and delivery of humanitarian assistance is the most urgent priority. Healthcare facilities must never be used for military purposes or the object of attack.”

She said that New Zealand called for “the establishment of designated safe areas that are strictly off limits as targets, or for military use, and also call for humanitarian corridors to ensure the vital assistance reaches where it is most needed.”

“For our part, New Zealand is supporting humanitarian appeals for populations in Gaza, the West Bank and Israel. We stand ready to increase our support in the coming weeks. Finally, New Zealand remains committed to a two-state solution, which envisions an independent State of Palestine living in peace and security alongside the State of Israel. A new political horizon is essential. We call on the international community to take urgent action to advance the Middle East Peace Process. Without it, the armed conflict may eventually cease, but there will be no winners: we will never be free of the violence, the loss of innocent lives, the hatred, the antisemitism, and the Islamophobia that has erupted in Israel, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, and around the world since 7 October.”

Jane Patterson is the Political Editor at Radio New Zealand based in Wellington. The above Report and pictures have been published under a special agreement with www.rnz.co.nz

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