UN Security Council votes to increase Gaza aid, but not for ceasefire

Bags of flour are loaded on trucks at an UNRWA facility in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, on 22 November.

Mohammed Talatene DPA

The UN Security Council voted in favor of a resolution calling for increased humanitarian aid for Palestinians in Gaza on Friday.

The vote came as Israel widened its offensive into central Gaza and issued new forced evacuation orders affecting residents of al-Bureij refugee camp, calling on them to move to Deir al-Balah.

The Security Council resolution introduced by the United Arab Emirates calls for “full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access into and throughout the entire Gaza Strip.” It also calls on parties to the conflict to “create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

The resolution as passed will not likely have much benefit to Palestinians who are starving, displaced and under fire in Gaza, critics say.

More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s attacks on Gaza since 7 October and thousands more are reported missing, many of them presumed dead under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

By not calling for even a cessation of hostilities, let alone a ceasefire, some diplomats said the resolution is viewed as a green light for Israel to continue its devastating military campaign in Gaza.

Experts say that campaign “now sits among the deadliest and most destructive in recent history,” as the AP news agency reported.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres, in a press statement made after the Security Council vote, excoriated the continuation of the status quo in Gaza, saying “there is no effective protection of civilians.”

He criticized Israel for “creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza.”

Guterres said that “an effective aid operation in Gaza requires security; staff who can work in safety; logistical capacity; and the resumption of commercial activity.”

He noted that 136 UN employees had been killed in Gaza since 7 October and that the Kerem Shalom commercial crossing was bombed “while aid trucks were in the area” on Thursday.

The New York Times reported that four people who work at the crossing were killed in the strike and that the Israeli military claimed it had “struck armed terrorists near the area of the crossing and that the incident was under review.”

Guterres said that “a humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare.”

Thirteen states voted in favor of the proposal after days of negotiations to reach a draft that wouldn’t be vetoed by the US, which abstained.

Russia also abstained, with Vasily Nebenzya, Moscow’s permanent representative to the UN, describing the vote as “a tragic moment for the council, not a moment of triumph for multilateral diplomacy.”

The text of the resolution that passed was stripped of language in earlier drafts that called for the “urgent suspension of hostilities.”

Washington was opposed to any language resembling a call for a ceasefire. Israel and the US insist that a ceasefire would only benefit Hamas.

The US had vetoed two earlier resolutions calling for a ceasefire, singularly obstructing an end to what independent UN experts and international law scholars describe as a genocide unfolding in Gaza.

The UN General Assembly has overwhelmingly passed resolutions calling for a ceasefire, showing global support for ending the war.

Unlike Security Council resolutions, those approved by the General Assembly are not legally binding on member states, though lack of enforcement has plagued previous Security Council resolutions censuring Israel’s violations of Palestinian rights.

“Profound dereliction of duty”

The US had rejected an earlier draft of the Security Council resolution passed on Friday that would have put the UN in charge of inspecting aid deliveries to Gaza, sidelining Israel.

Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war in Gaza, multiple human rights and humanitarian organizations, as well as independent UN experts, have said.

Sally Abi Khalil, a director with Oxfam, said that “the failure to call for a ceasefire … is a profound dereliction of duty from an organization established to uphold the UN Charter to maintain peace and protect lives.”

An anonymous US State Department official told HuffPost that “we are failing the Palestinians yet again” with the Security Council resolution that effectively reinforces the status quo to appease Israel.

Russia’s Nebenzya accused Washington of “gross unprincipled blackmail and open scorn … for the suffering of Palestinians and the hopes of the global community.”

Russia said that it abstained instead of vetoing the resolution because it was supported by several Arab states. But Nebenzya underlined Moscow’s “categorical” disagreement of its watered-down contents.

The Biden administration claims to support more aid getting into Gaza. But aid groups say that a ceasefire is necessary to make that happen, with a senior official from the UN agency for Palestinian refugees stating that “you can’t deliver aid under a sky full of airstrikes.”

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, welcomed the Security Council as “a step in the right direction.”

He said that it must be rapidly implemented and “be accompanied by massive pressure for an immediate ceasefire.”

“There is no way to stop the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide underway but an immediate ceasefire,” Mansour added.

“Israel wants to convince us that we need to choose between life and our country, by making life in our country impossible,” the Palestinian diplomat said.

Richard Gowan, a longtime observer of the UN, said that Guterres “should seize on what the [Security Council] has given him firmly,” as it allows him to appoint a Gaza “humanitarian coordinator with name recognition and energy.”

“It may be the UN’s best chance to influence” the situation, Gowan said.

Nabil Abi Saab, the UN correspondent for the Saudi broadcaster Alaraby TV, said that former Dutch foreign minister Sigrid Kaag “is the leading candidate” for the new Gaza humanitarian coordinator position.

Kaag initiated the defunding of Palestine’s Union of Agricultural Work Committees by the Dutch government last year.

The move followed a smear campaign by Israeli government proxies and a “terror group” designation by Israel.

The Dutch government ended its support of the UAWC, which supports Palestinian farmers in the West Bank and Gaza, on the basis of the group’s staff and board members’ political affiliation in their personal capacities.

UAWC said at the time that the Dutch government was “not just abandoning” the organization “but Palestinian civil society at large.”

No meaningful impact

Craig Mokhiber, a former senior UN official, was critical of the Security Council resolution on The Electronic Intifada livestream on Friday.

“The original text here was supposed to include a suspension of hostilities, it was supposed to include condemnation of violations of humanitarian law, it was supposed to have a UN aid monitor included in it,” Mokhiber said.

The “hollowed out” resolution that was passed “is not going to have any meaningful impact” and that the UN special coordinator role that it created would be a politically controlled mechanism that doesn’t take principled positions based on international law.

A UN aid monitor, as originally proposed, would have actually facilitated more humanitarian aid to Gaza, he said.

Mokhiber said that this was another fig leaf that allows the US “to avoid domestic and global condemnation for its complicity in the genocide in Gaza.”

“It’s a resolution that was drafted behind closed doors essentially overnight between the US and the UAE in direct consultation with the Israelis.”

Mokhiber said that “one has to ask how you have meaningful humanitarian assistance as the bombs are dropping and the snipers are shooting and the genocide is continuing.”

“It’s less than zero in my view,” he added.

UN agencies “aiding Israel’s war objectives”

Palestinian human rights and humanitarian organizations warned the UN secretary-general on Thursday that the world body’s aid agencies in Gaza were “aiding Israel’s war objectives in breach of international law.”

The groups said that UN agencies were showing deference to “Israel’s unlawful restriction of humanitarian relief” while Palestinians in the territory are increasingly unable to access food and safe drinking water.

The Palestinian groups said that UN humanitarian agencies, including UNICEF, UNRWA and WHO, had failed to uphold the principles of international humanitarian law through their “extensive coordination with Israel regarding the delivery and distribution of aid.”

The groups accused the UN of ensuring Israel’s success in emptying northern Gaza of its Palestinian inhabitants by complying with Israel’s forced evacuation orders affecting thousands of people.

Independent UN expert Francesca Albanese said in mid-October that Israel’s forced evacuation order sought “to justify what would amount to ethnic cleansing” similar to the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Palestinians in 1948.

In addition to facilitating Israel’s “international crime of forced displacement,” the Palestinian groups said that the UN also provided incentive to people to move south “in the hopes of accessing much-needed aid that they cannot find elsewhere.”

The Palestinian groups added that with the UN agencies “failing to enforce their right of access and initiative, Israel has decided the terms and content of any humanitarian relief entering Gaza.”

They added that “these are decisions in which Israel should have no role, let alone the power to dictate with almost no opposition.”


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.