UN envoys say 'enough' on trip to Gaza border

UN envoys say 'enough' on trip to Gaza border
During their visit to the Rafah crossing in Egypt's Sinai, UN Security Council envoys described the suffering in the Gaza Strip as unimaginable.
5 min read
11 December, 2023
UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said hunger was prevailing in Gaza, amid Israel's siege and bombardment [Getty]

UN. Security Council envoys spoke of unimaginable suffering and urged an end to the war in the Gaza Strip on Monday as they headed across Egypt's Sinai to the Rafah crossing, the besieged Palestinian enclave's only entry point for aid.

China's representative to the United Nations Zhang Jun, asked by reporters if he had a message to nations which opposed a ceasefire in Gaza, said simply: "Enough is enough."

A majority of United Nations member states support an immediate and lasting ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls Gaza, as dire conditions worsen for its 2.3 million residents.

The United States, which backs Israel, last week vetoed a proposed Security Council demand for an immediate ceasefire as Israeli tanks and troops press an invasion that has displaced most of Gaza's population and killed more than 18,000 people.

A dozen U.N. Security Council envoys attended the trip organised by the United Arab Emirates to visit Rafah, just days after Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that thousands of people in the besieged Palestinian enclave were "simply starving".

After flying to the town of Al-Arish they were briefed by U.N. Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA on conditions in Gaza before heading towards Rafah 30 miles (48 km)away.

"The reality is even worse than what words can speak," Ecuador's U.N. representative Jose De La Gasca told reporters after the UNRWA briefing.

"We need to see ... we will witness what is happening and what can we do in order to address the situation," he said.

UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini described an "implosion of civil order" where Gazans who have not eaten for days were looting aid distribution centres and stopping trucks on roads as they tried to secure supplies for their families.

"There is not enough assistance," Lazzarini said. "Hunger is prevailing in Gaza. More and more people haven't eaten for one day, two days, three days ... most of the people are just sleeping on the concrete."

Israel has bombarded Gaza from the air, imposed a siege and launched a ground offensive since October 7, when Hamas attacked southern Israel and killed around 1,200 people and took more than 200 others hostage.

More than 18,000 people have been killed by Israeli attacks in Gaza, with over 49,600 injured.

The vast majority of the Palestinian enclave's 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes.

The United Arab Emirates arranged Monday's trip to Rafah - where limited humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries have crossed into Gaza - as the 15-member council negotiates a UAE-drafted resolution that demands the warring parties "allow the use of all land, sea and air routes to and throughout" Gaza for aid.

It would also establish a U.N.-run aid monitoring mechanism in Gaza Strip. It was not immediately clear when the draft resolution could be put to a vote.

UAE U.N. Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh said the aim of the visit was "to learn first-hand what is needed in terms of a humanitarian operations scale-up that meet the needs of the Palestinian people in Gaza." She noted it was not an official Security Council visit.

The U.S. is not sending a representative on the trip, which follows a U.S. veto last week of a proposed U.N. Security Council demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war.

France and Gabon are also not sending representatives on the trip to Rafah. The French U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

"I urged the Security Council to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and I reiterated my appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire. Regrettably, the Security Council failed to do it," Guterres posted on social media on Sunday.

"But that does not make it less necessary. I promise: I will not give up," wrote Guterres, who made the rare move to formally warn the Security Council on Wednesday of the global threat to peace and security posed by the conflict.

Guterres told the Security Council on Friday: "Half the people of the north and more than one third of displaced people in the south are simply starving."

The U.N. General Assembly will meet on Gaza on Tuesday at the request of Arab and Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) states. The 193-member body is likely to vote on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, diplomats said.

In October the assembly adopted a resolution - 121 votes in favor, 14 against and 44 abstentions - calling for "an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities."

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that 100 trucks carrying humanitarian supplies entered Gaza from Egypt on Sunday, the same number as the previous day.

It noted that was "well below" the daily average of 500 truckloads, including fuel, that entered every working day prior to October 7.

The U.N. has been pushing for the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing, controlled by Israel. Israel has agreed to allow it to be used for inspections, but not to enter Gaza. Trucks would be inspected there before entering Gaza from Rafah, about 3km (2 miles) away.