UN Security Council to vote on Gaza aid access, as famine fears increase

UN Security Council to vote on Gaza aid access, as famine fears increase
Backed by its ally the United States, Israel has opposed the term "ceasefire". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday there would be no ceasef
5 min read
22 December, 2023
Palestinians in Gaza are in dire need of increased humanitarian aid, as conditions worsen in the territory [Getty/file photo]

The United Nations Security Council was expected to vote Friday on a resolution to boost much-needed humanitarian aid to Gaza, as the world body warned that Israel's military campaign was pushing the Palestinian territory towards famine.

Separate diplomatic efforts were also under way for a fresh pause in the worst-ever Gaza war, which has killed over 20,000 as of Friday.

With conditions deteriorating in the territory, the UN Security Council has been locked in negotiations on a resolution that would boost aid deliveries.

The latest draft seen by AFP, set to face a vote Friday, calls for "urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities."

However, it does not call for an immediate end to fighting.

Backed by its ally the United States, Israel has opposed the term "ceasefire". Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday there would be no ceasefire in Gaza until the "elimination" of Hamas.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, told reporters that Washington would support the resolution if it "is put forward as is".

On October 7, Israel began a relentless bombardment of targets in Gaza, alongside a ground invasion, which the territory's Hamas government on Wednesday said has killed at least 20,057, mostly women and children.

Tel Aviv has also imposed a total siege of the territory, curbing access to food, fuel and water to Gaza's 2.3 million residents.

The entire population of Gaza faces "an imminent risk of famine", according to a UN-backed global hunger monitoring system on Thursday, with more than half a million people facing "catastrophic conditions".

"We have been warning for weeks that, with such deprivation and destruction, each day that goes by will only bring more hunger, disease and despair to the people of Gaza," UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths posted on X, formerly Twitter.

'Enough is enough'

The UN estimates 1.9 million Gazans are now displaced, out of a population of 2.4 million.

With their homes destroyed, they are living in crowded shelters and struggling to find food, fuel, water and medical supplies. Diseases are spreading, and communications have been repeatedly cut.

Displaced Gazans are pleading for a ceasefire.

"My message is to put an end to this humiliation," said Fuad Ibrahim Wadi, who found refuge at a greenhouse in Rafah.

"This war does nothing but destroy. Enough is enough."

After weeks of pressure, Israel approved the temporary reopening of the Kerem Shalom crossing on Friday to enable aid deliveries directly to Gaza, rather than through the Rafah crossing from Egypt.

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On Thursday, an Israeli strike hit the Palestinian side of Kerem Shalom, the crossings authority and the health ministry in Gaza said.

Israeli officials did not immediately respond to requests from AFP for comment.

The UN secretary-general's spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, was "unable to receive (aid) trucks" via Kerem Shalom following the "drone strike" and that the World Food Programme had suspended operations at the crossing.

Dujarric's comments came after Israeli President Isaac Herzog claimed Israel could enable as many as "400 trucks a day" of aid and blamed the UN for failing to bring more.

According to the UN, the number of aid trucks entering Gaza is well below the daily pre-war average.

Diplomats visiting the region have called for more assistance to reach the territory.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron, speaking in Egypt, said: "Everything that can be done must be done to get aid into Gaza."

And French President Emmanuel Macron was in Jordan on Thursday to discuss with King Abdullah II "joint work on humanitarian and medical aid" for Gaza's civilians, according to the French presidency.

Increasing pressure 

A strike on a house in Rafah on Friday killed five people, the Gaza  health ministry said.

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The United Nations human rights office in Ramallah said it had received reports that Israeli troops had "summarily killed" at least 11 Palestinian civilians in Gaza City's Rimal neighbourhood this week.

An Israeli official, speaking on condition of anonymity, rejected the allegations as "yet another example of the partisan and prejudiced approach against Israel" by the UN body.

Israel has been under increasing pressure from allies, including the United States, which provides it with billions of dollars in military aid, to protect civilians.

Yet Israel's bombing has killed mostly civilians since the start of the military campaign over two months ago.

The UN rights office said "details and circumstances" of the killings in Rimal are still being verified but it "raises alarm about the possible commission of a war crime".

The men were killed in front of their family members, it said.

Far apart

Qatar, backed by Egypt and the United States, last month helped broker a week-long truce that saw 105 hostages released, including 80 Israelis, in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

Hopes that Israel and Hamas could be inching towards another truce and deal to free the remaining 129 hostages rose this week as the head of the Palestinian group visited Egypt and talks took place in Europe.

However, the stated positions of Israel and Hamas remain far apart.

The military wing of Hamas said Thursday that Israel's objective to eliminate it was "doomed to fail" and that further hostage releases depend on a "cessation of hostilities".

The war has sparked fears of wider conflict.

There have been regular exchanges of fire over the Lebanon border, and missiles from Iran-backed Yemeni rebels have disrupted Red Sea shipping.

Israeli strikes killed a woman in a south Lebanon village on Thursday, Lebanese media and rescuers said.

Israeli strikes have killed over 100 people in Lebanon, mostly Hezbollah affiliates and at least 20 civilians.