Statement by Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt on the situation in Israel and Palestine

I am deeply alarmed by the dramatic escalation in Israel and Gaza. The high number of people killed and injured is shocking. It is heartbreaking that hundreds of children have lost their lives in recent days, said Minister of Foreign Affairs Anniken Huitfeldt.

I strongly condemn the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas in Israel. The death and destruction wrought by the terrorists is appalling. All hostages must be released immediately.

These are extremely challenging times for Palestinians and Israelis. I would like to convey my heartfelt sympathy to all the victims and their families. 

The scale of destruction in Gaza is enormous. A large number of civilians have been killed. Given a full blockade by Israel, closed border crossings and continued Israeli attacks, I fear that the civilian population in Gaza will face even greater hardship in the days to come. 

There is an urgent need to stop the violence and de-escalate the situation. International humanitarian law must be respected. All civilians must be protected. All actions that could contribute to a further escalation of the situation must be avoided. I call on all sides to use diplomatic rather than military means. 

Israel has the right to defend itself against armed attacks. That said, all self defence measures must be necessary and proportionate, as required by international law. The establishment of a full blockade, including on access to electricity, water, food, and other goods that are indispensable for the survival of the civilian population in Gaza, is unacceptable. Israel has an obligation to allow for the entry of humanitarian aid and to ensure access to humanitarian assistance for the civilian population in Gaza. 

As chair of the AHLC, the international donor group for Palestine, Norway encourages the international community to continue its financial assistance to the Palestinian people. This includes support to the Palestinian Authority channelled through the World Bank, assistance via international organisations such as the UN system, and support to humanitarian organisations and Palestinian civil society. Humanitarian assistance to the people of Gaza should be a key priority.

The situation will only deteriorate further if the international community suspends or reduces its assistance at this critical juncture. Functioning Palestinian institutions and the delivery of basic services are crucial to avoid further destabilisation and preserve the objective of the two-state solution. 

I support any efforts aimed at preventing a further deterioration of the situation. There is no military solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The only way to achieve peace, is to restart a political process between the Israelis and the Palestinians.