UN votes for Gaza truce as Israel intensifies strikes

Palestinians mourn over the bodies of their loved ones who were killed in an Israeli airstrike in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza, 27 October.

Omar Ashtawy APA images

The United Nations General Assembly on Friday overwhelmingly passed a resolution calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce” in Gaza.

The resolution, which is non-binding but reflects a more global view than the Security Council, calls for a ceasefire that would permit “continuous, sufficient and unhindered” provision of essential supplies and services to the blockaded territory.

Jordan proposed the resolution that passed with 120 countries voting in favor, 14 against and 45 countries abstaining. A handful of countries and American colonies in the Pacific joined the United States and Israel in opposing the resolution. The vast majority of EU countries, including Germany, abstained.

The vote came just hours after Israel announced that it was expanding its military operations in Gaza and as it escalated its bombardment of the territory and knocked out its communications systems.

The UN Security Council has so far failed to vote in favor of a ceasefire or even a humanitarian pause to deliver urgently needed aid.

Israel, which had thrown a tantrum after the UN Secretary-General António Guterres pointed to the “suffocating occupation” during a meeting of the Security Council on Tuesday, rejected the UN resolution on Friday.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the world body, said that “this is a dark day for the UN and for mankind.” He added that “the UN no longer holds even one ounce of legitimacy or relevance.”

Hamas welcomed the General Assembly resolution and called on all relevant parties to implement it immediately so that life essentials including fuel would reach the civilian population in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Izzat al-Rishq, a member of Hamas’ politburo, stated Friday night that Israel’s “escalation of its horrific massacres and genocidal war under the cover of darkness” amounted to “a true expression of its abject failure” to undermine the capabilities of the resistance.

Al-Rishq affirmed that the Qassam Brigades, the military wing of Hamas, and all Palestinian resistance forces “are fully prepared to confront the aggression with full force and thwart the incursions.”

“Netanyahu and his defeated army will not be able to gain any military achievement,” al-Rishq added.

He said that “the enemy army’s escalation of its terrorism, massacres and war of extermination against civilians and their homes is only evidence of bankruptcy, not evidence of strength.”

The Qassam Brigades said late Friday night that its fighters were confronting Israeli ground incursions east of Beit Hanoun and Jabaliya in northern Gaza, and Bureij in the center of the territory.

Earlier, the group said Israeli naval commandos attempted to land on the beach near Rafah, at Gaza’s southern end, around dawn Friday. Qassam said its fighters engaged the Israelis and forced the attackers to call in air support.

The Israelis “fled towards the sea, leaving behind a quantity of ammunition,” according to the Palestinian resistance group.

Palestinian groups in Gaza continued to fire rockets toward Israel on Friday, with a residential building in Tel Aviv taking a direct hit. The Israeli outlet Ynet reported that “rockets also fell in the city of Holon, just south of Tel Aviv and in Ashkelon, in the south.”

UN secretary-general’s warning

While the UN General Assembly held the second day of an emergency session leading up to Friday’s vote, Guterres reiterated his call for a ceasefire on Friday. He warned that “the humanitarian system in Gaza is facing a total collapse with unimaginable consequences for more than 2 million civilians.”

He said that “the supplies that have trickled in do not include fuel for United Nations operations – fuel which is also essential to power hospitals, water desalination plants, food production and aid distribution.”

Israel has banned the entry of fuel to Gaza as part of its total siege on the territory. Fewer than 100 trucks carrying aid have entered Gaza in recent days.

The UK charity Oxfam warned earlier this week that Israel is using starvation as a weapon of war against Palestinian civilians.

Guterres alluded to Israeli inspections delaying the entry of aid, saying that “the verification system for the movement of goods through the Rafah crossing must be adjusted to allow many more trucks to enter Gaza without delay.”

“Without a fundamental change, the people of Gaza will face an unprecedented avalanche of human suffering,” Guterres said.

As of Friday evening local time, more than 7,300 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed since Israel began its military campaign in the territory following a deadly attack led by Hamas on 7 October.

The true death toll is all but certainly much higher, with around 1,700 people, including at least 940 children, reported missing and likely under the rubble of destroyed buildings.

More than half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people are internally displaced within Gaza and nearly half of the housing stock in the territory has been destroyed, rendered uninhabitable, or moderately to lightly damaged since 7 October.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNRWA, the UN agency for Palestine refugees, said on Friday that in addition to those killed by “bombs and strikes,” many more will soon die as a result of Israel’s siege on Gaza.

With the erosion of basic services and lack of food and safe water, and while Gaza’s streets “have started overflowing with sewage,” Lazzarini warned of “a massive health hazard as the risks of diseases are looming.”

Meanwhile, UNRWA, the largest humanitarian agency in Gaza, “will not be able to continue our humanitarian operations if we do not get fuel supply,” Lazzarini said.

“The siege means that food, water and fuel – basic commodities – are being used to collectively punish more than 2 million people, among them, a majority of children and women,” he added.

Lazzarini said that the “crumbs” of aid that had entered Gaza via Rafah on the border with Egypt over the past week were a distraction and that “the current system in place is geared to fail.”

The head of UNRWA said that more than 50 of the agency’s staff in Gaza have been killed since 7 October, including a father of six children who “died while on his way to pick up bread from a bakery.”

Hamas calls for uprising in West Bank

Hamas called on Palestinians in the West Bank to rise up and “confront the Zionist enemy at all points in support of Gaza and its resistance.”

On Friday, The New York Times reported that Saudi officials have repeatedly warned their American counterparts “that an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza could be catastrophic for the Middle East.”

Earlier in the day, media reported that diplomatic sources said that “significant progress” had been made in negotiations for a prisoner exchange between Israel and Hamas.

The US has reportedly pressed Israel to delay a ground invasion until it has secured the release of its nationals being held captive in Gaza.

On Friday, White House national security spokesperson John Kirby declined to comment on the intensified bombardment in Gaza under the cover of darkness and cut off from communication.

Kirby said the Israelis “have to make the decisions that they’re going to make on the battlefield,” The New York Times reported.

Ali Abunimah contributed reporting.


Maureen Clare Murphy

Maureen Clare Murphy's picture

Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.