14 January 2009

Stop the Killing Now

by Ban Ki-moon

As I embark on an 8-stop tour of the Middle East, including Palestine and Israel, my message is simple, direct and to the point: the fighting must stop. To both sides, I say: Just stop, now. Too many people have died. There has been too much civilian suffering. Too many people, Palestinians and Israelis, live in daily fear of their lives. And in Gaza, the very foundation of society is being destroyed: people’s homes, civic infrastructure, public health facilities and schools.

The Security Council has adopted resolution 1860 demanding an immediate and enduring ceasefire. In the name of humanity and international law, this resolution must be observed. I expect the parties now meeting in Cairo to do what is required. They must agree to the elements of an immediate ceasefire. At a minimum, that means the withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza and a halt to rocket attacks by Hamas militants. It is time to stop. It is time to stop the killing and the destruction.

In my talks with leaders in the region, my goal will be to step up the pace of our joint diplomatic efforts and ensure that urgent humanitarian assistance reaches those in need. It is one thing to speak to world leaders, as I have done daily in seeking to resolve this crisis. And it is another thing to be present oneself.

It is my duty as Secretary-General to uphold the UN Charter and its principles. We have 10,000 staff on the ground in the occupied Palestinian territory and in Israel. I want my visit to be a tangible expression of support for their work under the most difficult and dangerous circumstances. I salute their bravery and their dedication to the UN’s mission.

Most of all, I want to demonstrate my deep concern and empathy for the innocents caught in these terrible circumstances, both in the Palestine and in Israel. More than 900 Palestinians have died. About 4,000 more have been injured. They have no place to hide, no place to run.

I begin my trip in Cairo and move on to Jordan, Israel, Palestine, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria. My trip will conclude in Kuwait. The Arab League summit offers us an opportunity to take stock of our progress and chart the next steps ahead.

At each stop, I will repeat my call for an immediate and durable ceasefire and insist that Security Council Resolution 1860 be respected fully. To repeat, this means an immediate end to military operations in Gaza — an end to Israel’s offensive and a halt to the rocket attacks by Hamas. The international community must come together to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza. By the same token, border crossings into Gaza must be re-opened in full. Innocent civilians, whether in the Occupied Territory or southern Israel, cannot live in a state of fear or under a de facto state of siege. Let normal life resume. That is the only path to lasting peace.

via Al Quds Al Arabi (London)