Gaza crisis: Foreign Minister Brende condemns huge loss of civilian lives

‘The death toll in Gaza has now reached almost 650. More than 150 of those killed are children. In my view, the military attacks on Gaza are disproportionate, and in our statement to the UN Security Council yesterday, Norway condemned the huge and completely unacceptable loss of civilian lives,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.

‘The death toll in Gaza has now reached almost 650. More than 150 of those killed are children. In my view, the military attacks on Gaza are disproportionate, and in our statement to the UN Security Council yesterday, Norway condemned the huge and completely unacceptable loss of civilian lives,’ said Minister of Foreign Affairs Børge Brende.  

‘I have also condemned the rocket attacks against Israeli civilians, and emphasised Israel’s right to self-defence. Nevertheless, the situation among the Palestinians is heart-rending, and the suffering in Gaza is out of all proportion,’ said Mr Brende. 

In the statement yesterday, Norway underlined that both Israel and all the combatant Palestinian groups have an obligation to respect the strict requirements under international humanitarian law to protect civilians. Israel bears a particular responsibility, as it is the stronger party and is operating in the extremely densely populated areas of Gaza. (Read the Norwegian statement).

On his visit to the Middle East, Mr Brende spent time in Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt. He met several of the most important leaders in the Middle East, and discussed the possibility of achieving a swift ceasefire. He ended his visit to the region in Cairo on Tuesday, where he met Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shukri, among others. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State John Kerry and a Palestinian delegation of negotiators were also in Cairo.

‘There is an urgent need for a ceasefire, but unfortunately this is proving extremely difficult to achieve. The fact that the international community is supporting the Egyptian efforts is a step in the right direction. Norway also supports these efforts. However, the hostilities are continuing. These must be brought to an end immediately’, said Mr Brende.  

In its statement to the Security Council, Norway outlined the way ahead, and called for the international community to give its full backing to the Egyptian initiative to bring about an immediate ceasefire. Norway also called on the international community to help improve the appalling humanitarian situation in Gaza, and pointed out the importance of lifting the blockade. Thousands of people are in need of medical treatment and hundreds of thousands need urgent humanitarian assistance. Infrastructure and homes that have been destroyed must be rebuilt. President Abbas must regain  control over Gaza and improve security there, as has been achieved in the West Bank.

‘Norway has an important responsibility as Chair of the international donor group for the Palestinians, the Ad-Hoc Liaison Committee. We are therefore offering to hold an international donors conference in Oslo as soon as a ceasefire is announced,’ said Mr Brende.

‘We are now witnessing the consequences of not having a political process aiming at a two-state solution. The Security Council now needs to help bring the parties together again for negotiations in accordance with UN resolutions and their previous commitments and agreements,’ said Mr Brende.