Statement by Permanent Representative of the Republic of Singapore, Ambassador Burhan Gafoor at the 10th Emergency Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly, 15 December 2023, New York

16 December 2023

Mr President,

1 Singapore welcomes the resumption of the 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly to discuss the situation in Gaza. 

2 We share the concerns expressed by the Secretary-General in his letter dated 6 December 2023 which he sent to the Security Council, and in which he described that “current conditions are making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted”. We also agree with his assessment that the “international community has a responsibility to use all its influence to prevent further escalation and end this crisis”.   

Mr President, 

3 I take this opportunity to express Singapore’s strong support for the leadership of Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and his tireless efforts to address the unfolding humanitarian tragedy in Gaza.  We also commend the critical role played by many dedicated and courageous United Nations officials and agencies in providing humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza, in particular the role played by the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA).  We express our deepest condolences to the families of the 135 UNRWA staff who have lost their lives.   

4 The Singapore Government and the Singapore Red Cross have worked closely with the Egyptian Government and the Egyptian Red Crescent to provide humanitarian supplies to Gaza.  We will continue to work closely with our friends and partners to support these humanitarian relief efforts.

Mr President

5 We are meeting today because the humanitarian situation in Gaza has deteriorated significantly with over 18,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza and up to 1.9 million people reportedly displaced, which represents about 85 percent of the population in Gaza.  The Commissioner General of UNRWA sent a letter to the President of the General Assembly on 7 December 2023 warning of an “irreversible disaster”. He also said that the humanitarian situation in Gaza “is now untenable”, with people “desperate, hungry and terrified”.  We were therefore disappointed that the Security Council was not able to adopt the draft humanitarian resolution put forward by the United Arab Emirates last week, which Singapore had co-sponsored. 

Mr President, 

6 Singapore also co-sponsored the ESS resolution entitled “Protection of Civilians and Upholding Legal and Humanitarian Obligations” that the General Assembly adopted with an overwhelming majority of 153 votes in favour on 12 December.  

7 Singapore supports the call made in this resolution for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; this is essential for the urgent and unhindered provision of humanitarian aid to civilians throughout Gaza. I wish to reiterate Singapore’s grave concern at the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza which has led to the loss of many thousands of innocent civilian lives.  

8 Singapore also supports the call made in the resolution for all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians. We recognise that Israel has the right to defend its citizens and territory. But in exercising this right, Israel must comply fully with international humanitarian law. This means responding in a proportionate manner, this means avoiding the indiscriminate killing of civilians, and this means avoiding the collective punishment or permanent mass displacement of civilians.

9 Singapore strongly supports the call made in the resolution for the immediate release of all remaining hostages.  The taking of hostages is prohibited by international law. Hamas and other parties involved must ensure the safety and security of the hostages and facilitate their immediate release. 

Mr President,

10 It is a fact that the heinous terrorist attack carried out by Hamas in Israel on 7 October  led to the killing of over 1,200 Israelis, the majority of whom were innocent civilians. We regret that the resolution adopted on 12 December does not condemn or even make reference to the actions of Hamas. Singapore wishes to place on record our view that terrorist attacks carried out by any party cannot be condoned or justified by any rationale. 


11 Singapore continues to hold the view that the only viable path to a durable, just, and comprehensive solution to this crisis is a negotiated two-state solution, consistent with relevant UN Security Council resolutions.  We support the right of Israelis and Palestinians to live within secure borders. Both Palestinians and Israelis deserve to live in peace, security, and dignity. We call on leaders from both sides to show leadership, exercise restraint and take the difficult but necessary steps towards a two-state solution. 

12 Thank you. 

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