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OHCHR High Commissioner Volker Türk Briefing on Middle East Trip
Remarks by Ambassador Michèle Taylor
November 16, 2023

Ambassador Taylor Remarks at OHCHR High Commissioner Volker Türk Briefing on Middle East Trip

As Delivered by Ambassador Michèle Taylor

Thank you, High Commissioner Türk, for holding this briefing. We, too, are horrified by the loss of life, including U.S. citizens, Israelis, and other nationals slain during what can only be described as the pure evil of the October 7th attack by Hamas. There is no justification for terrorism. We also mourn the Palestinians killed or ensnared by the violence resulting from these attacks, as well as over 100 UN staff who have died.

In my encounters with the families of victims and through detailed briefings on the situation in Israel and Gaza, the depth of suffering and the human cost of this conflict have been made starkly clear to me. All parties affected, Israelis and Palestinians, should be able to live in safety and with dignity. The United States is committed to laying the groundwork for lasting peace and security in the region, in line with President Biden’s ongoing discussions with Israeli leaders, emphasizing the protection of civilians as a cornerstone of the law of war.

We reiterate that all parties have obligations under international humanitarian law regarding the protection of civilians and we urge every possible step to protect those who cannot evacuate. The United States remains seriously concerned about the effect of this fighting on Gaza’s most vulnerable populations including those seeking life-saving medical care in Gaza’s hospitals and persons with disabilities who cannot evacuate active military areas due to inaccessibility. We condemn the use of these hospitals by Hamas for purposes of terrorism. The mission of these hospitals and their medical personnel is essential and as senior U.S. officials have said in recent days, we do not want to see fighting in or around these medical centers or the critical factor of their misuse for purposes of terrorism

The United States continues to advocate for full humanitarian access, and we are working with Egypt, Israel, the UN and others, to scale up this effort. We must work together to do everything possible to save lives. We commend the work of humanitarian agencies in Gaza, particularly UNRWA, whose assistance is a lifeline for millions of Palestinians. As with other humanitarian agencies, we are committed to partnering with UNRWA to help provide the most effective and efficient assistance possible. Of the President’s recent commitment of $100 million for Palestinians, $51 million is for UNRWA’s flash appeal for Gaza and the West Bank.

Secretary Blinken spent last week in the Middle East emphasizing the need to address the urgent situation in Gaza, and our Special Envoy for Middle East Humanitarian Issues remains in the region coordinating these efforts on behalf of the President. At the direction of the President, we continue to advance a number of critical objectives: minimizing harm to Palestinian civilians and maximizing the humanitarian assistance that reaches them; working to prevent the spread of the conflict; focusing on getting hostages home as well as getting American citizens and other foreign nationals out of Gaza; and working to set sustainable, durable conditions for genuinely lasting peace and security for Israelis and Palestinians alike while remaining resolute in supporting Israel’s right to defend itself.

Regarding the distressing use of hostages, could you please elaborate on any efforts by your office or developments that might contribute to resolving this critical and sensitive matter?

I thank you.