UN Security Council approves Gaza aid resolution

UAE-drafted resolution passes after days of diplomatic negotiations

The UAE's ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh, right, and US ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield embrace following the vote. Reuters
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The UN Security Council adopted on Friday a resolution aimed at scaling up aid to the Gaza Strip and setting the conditions for a reduction in violence, as the world body warned Israel's assault on the Palestinian enclave is pushing it towards famine.

After four postponements this week, the UAE-crafted resolution received 13 votes in favour and two abstentions from the US and Russia.

The purpose of this text is very simple. It responds with action to the dire humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people bearing the brunt of this conflict," UAE ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh said ahead of the vote.

“We have extensively negotiated and tried to find language that meets everyone's concerns,” she added, warning that unless drastic action is taken by the UN Security Council, "there will be famine in Gaza".

The US representative, ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, explained that after “many days, and many, many long nights of negotiating to get this right”, the council was able to offer “a glimmer of hope amongst a sea of unimaginable suffering”.

“It’s unbearable to see a Palestinian child shivering in fear after their home was destroyed … My heart is filled with pain … we must work together to alleviate this tremendous suffering once and for all,” stressed Ms Thomas-Greenfield.

The UN Security Council was initially set to vote on the resolution on Monday but as it became clear the US would veto the initial proposal, diplomats spent days working on a version that would satisfy Washington, Israel's top ally that had previously vetoed calls for a ceasefire.

The adopted text calls for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

“By signing off on this, the council would essentially be giving the Israeli armed forces complete freedom of movement for further clearing of the Gaza Strip,” Russia's UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya told the council before the vote.

Russia proposed the draft be amended to revert to the initial text calling for “an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

The amendment was vetoed by the US. It received 10 votes in favour, while four members abstained.

Originally, the paragraph demanded a cessation of hostilities, but this was subsequently watered down to suspension of hostilities.

Now, in its final version, it specifies the need for “urgent steps” to be taken towards achieving a “sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield denied the initial resolution had been watered down, saying it was “very strong” and “fully supported by the Arab Group”.

Washington has regularly backed Israel's right to defend itself, but has grown increasingly critical over the suffering of Gaza's 2.3 million people amid a soaring death toll and a humanitarian crisis in the enclave.

In its latest update on casualties, Gaza's Health Ministry said 20,057 Palestinians had been killed and 53,320 wounded in Israeli strikes since the conflict started.

Washington was also concerned about a paragraph in the resolution that demanded Israel and Hamas allow aid access to the Gaza Strip via land, sea, and air routes.

The text would have also set up a UN monitoring mechanism in the territory to deliver humanitarian aid “without prejudice to any inspection conducted outside of the Gaza Strip by states providing such consignments or facilitating passage for such consignments within their territory”.

In this week’s negotiations, the US had argued against original wording that would give the UN “exclusive control” over a humanitarian delivery mechanism that would last a year, calling it inflexible and saying it could end up hindering the delivery of emergency supplies.

The revised text now calls for the appointment of a senior humanitarian and reconstruction co-ordinator with “responsibility for facilitating, co-ordinating, monitoring and verifying in Gaza, as appropriate, the humanitarian nature of all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through states which are not party to the conflict”.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres warned many people were measuring the effectiveness of the humanitarian operation in Gaza based on the number of lorries from the Egyptian Red Crescent, the UN and its partners that are allowed to bring aid across the border – but that this was a mistake.

“The real problem is the way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza,” he said.

More than 20,000 Palestinians have died in Gaza during Israel’s war against Hamas, health officials in the enclave have said.

The deaths amount to nearly 1 per cent of the territory’s prewar population.

According to the World Food Programme, “widespread famine looms” and more than half a million people in Gaza – a quarter of the population – are starving.

“Four out of five of the hungriest people anywhere in the world are in Gaza,” noted Mr Guterres at a press briefing in New York.

Updated: January 09, 2024, 11:11 PM