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Humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza - dream or a reality?

November 16, 2023 at 4:05 pm

Palestinians wait in front of a destroyed building, belonging to Abu Jazar family, following the Israeli attacks in Rafah, Gaza on November 15, 2023 [Abed Rahim Khatib – Anadolu Agency]

The United Nations Security Council recently adopted a resolution, proposed by Malta on 15 November, 2023, urgently urging the implementation of prolonged humanitarian pauses and the establishment of corridors spanning the entirety of the Gaza Strip. The primary objective of the agenda plan is to facilitate the unimpeded delivery of aid and the prompt evacuation of individuals requiring medical assistance. This decisive action comes in response to four previous unsuccessful attempts to address the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas.

Ambassador Vanessa Frazier, the proponent of the resolution, emphasised the necessity of establishing corridors across the Gaza Strip for a significant duration. The overarching goal of the plan is to provide a secure environment for the local populace, with a particular focus on the protection of children. The resolution underscores the critical importance of safeguarding civilian lives and ensuring access to essential resources and medical services during the Israel-Hamas conflict. Moreover, the resolution calls for the unconditional release of individuals held captive in the Gaza region. This measure garnered the support of 12 affirmative votes, with no opposition and three abstentions from Russia, the United States and the United Kingdom.

The adoption of this resolution carries the weight of binding international law, although historical instances reveal that Israel has not consistently adhered to various Security Council resolutions with similar legal mandates. Noteworthy is the fact that the United States, a significant diplomatic player, refrained from exercising its veto power, allowing the resolution to pass. This decision is anticipated to intensify the pressure on Israel, as it signifies a departure from the customary exercise of the US veto privilege in such matters.

[Al Jazeera]

[Al Jazeera]

During the previous month, a series of four resolutions faced unsuccessful outcomes in the Security Council, over a span of two weeks. On two occasions, Russia fell short of securing the requisite minimum votes, while a Brazilian-drafted resolution was vetoed by the United States. Additionally, a resolution presented by the United States was met with vetoes from both Russia and China. The veto power held by the United States, Russia, China, France and the United Kingdom, as permanent members of the Security Council, played a pivotal role in these deliberations. The resolution proposed by Brazil, which advocated for humanitarian pauses, faced a US veto due to its perceived failure to acknowledge “Israel’s right of self-defence”. Subsequently, a resolution authored by the United States, emphasising Israel’s “right to self-defence”, but omitting any mention of humanitarian pauses, encountered vetoes from both Russia and China. Two subsequent resolutions, drafted by Russia, managed to avoid vetoes but fell short of garnering the requisite nine votes necessary for approval by the Council.

The resolution comes during the presidency of China, led by Ambassador Zhang Jun. China maintained that the Council should have adopted a more robust resolution earlier and that the ‘key rests on the implementation of the resolution and its provisions to the letter’. He further recalled the bleak situation in Gaza and urged Israel to end hostilities against civilian facilities, including hospitals, and to restore basic supplies, such as water and fuel, as soon as possible.

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The resolution explicitly included fuel as one of the essential items that must be permitted to be delivered without obstruction. Furthermore, it mandated that the United Nations Secretary-General provide a comprehensive report on the implementation of the resolution during the subsequent meeting of the Security Council addressing matters pertaining to the Middle East. In response to the resolution, Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, dismissed its significance, characterising it as “disconnected from reality”. Erdan reiterated Israel’s stance, asserting that its actions in Gaza were per international law—a contention contested by several experts well-versed in the intricacies of the subject.

In response, Riyad H. Mansour, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, expressed his conviction that the Security Council should have already declared a ceasefire and recognised the futility of a military resolution. Addressing the Security Council, Mr. Mansour emphasised that the Council ought to have heeded the universal plea issued by the United Nations and every humanitarian organisation for a humanitarian ceasefire. He underscored the profound and enduring consequences of the ongoing events, cautioning against underestimating their long-term effects. Characterising the situation as a monumental failure of humanity, he stressed the immediate imperative of saving lives, putting an end to the bloodshed, preventing forced displacement, facilitating humanitarian aid, ensuring unhindered humanitarian access and safeguarding civilians and essential infrastructure.

Drawing attention to Israel’s disclosed plans through official statements, leaked memos, Mr. Mansour urged an acknowledgement of the government’s intentions, emphasising its purported agenda of perpetuating the dispossession, displacement and denial of rights to the Palestinian people to fulfil what he referred to as the continuation of the Nakba. Recognising and confronting these intentions, he argued, is the essential first step in thwarting such plans. Mr. Mansour concluded by vehemently advocating for an end to the ongoing turmoil, asserting that the time has come for peace.

Over the past 40 days, Israel’s military operations in Gaza, encompassing airstrikes and ground manoeuvres, have resulted in the reported loss of more than 11,000 Palestinian lives, with over 4,500 of them being children. The imposition of Israel’s blockade on this densely populated Palestinian Territory has exacerbated an already dire humanitarian situation, causing severe shortages in essential resources such as food, fuel, water and electricity, affecting the lives of approximately 2.2 million Palestinians. The multifaceted impact of these events has not only resulted in a significant loss of life, but has also given rise to a complex humanitarian crisis in Gaza, characterised by restricted access to necessities, amplifying the challenges faced by the affected population.

The ongoing conflict signifies the beginning of a chapter poised to exert a lasting impact on the lives of millions, not only within the confines of the Middle East but also extending its repercussions across a broader geographical spectrum for the foreseeable future.

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The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.