By EDITH M. LEDERER (Associated Press)
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees told an emergency U.N. meeting Monday: “Immediately humanitarian ceasefire has become a matter of life and death for millions,” and accuses Israel of “collective punishment” of Palestinians and the forced relocation of civilians.
Philippe Lazzarini warned that a further breakdown of civil order following the break-in of the organization’s warehouses by Palestinians in search of food and other supplies “will make it extremely difficult, if not impossible, for the largest UN agency in Gaza to continue its work.” .”
Briefings to the Security Council by Lazzarini, the head of the U.N. children’s agency UNICEF and a senior U.N. humanitarian official, painted a grim picture of the situation Humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip 23 days after Hamas’ surprise attacks in Israel on October 7 and its ongoing military retaliation aimed at “destroying” the group that controls Gaza. Hamas has been designated a terrorist organization by the United States, Canada and the European Union.
According to the latest figures from According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, more than 8,300 people were killed – 66% of them women and children – and tens of thousands injured, the UN humanitarian office said.
According to UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell, over 3,400 children were killed and more than 6,300 injured. “This means that more than 420 children are killed or injured in Gaza every day – a number that should shock each of us to the core,” she said.
Lazzarini said: “This exceeds the number of children killed annually in conflict zones around the world since 2019.” And he emphasized: “This cannot be ‘collateral damage’.”
Many speakers at the council meeting denounced it Hamas surprise attacks on Israel on October 7th in which over 1,400 people were killed, and called for the release of around 230 hostages that the terrorists had brought to Gaza. But virtually every speaker also emphasized that Israel has an obligation under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and their livelihoods, including hospitals, schools and other infrastructure – and Israel was criticized for blocking access to Gaza from food, water, fuel and medication cut off and communication interrupted for a few days.
Lazzarini said: “The handful Convoys” allowed into the Gaza Strip through Egypt’s Rafah crossing in recent days “is nothing compared to the needs of over 2 million people trapped in Gaza.”
“The existing system that allows aid to be delivered to Gaza is doomed to fail,” he said, “unless there is the political will to make the flow of aid meaningful and meet the unprecedented humanitarian needs.”
The commissioner general of the UN agency UNRWA said there was no safe place anywhere in the Gaza Strip and warned that basic services were collapsing, medicines, food, water and fuel were running out and the streets were “overflowing with sewage, which…” will very soon lead to a massive health risk.”
UNICEF monitors water and sanitation issues for the UN, and Russell warned that “the lack of clean water and safe sanitation is on the verge of becoming a catastrophe.”
US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield called on the divided Security Council – which has rejected four resolutions that would have responded to the October 7 Hamas attacks and the ongoing war – to come together, saying: “The humanitarian crisis in Gaza is getting worse .” Day.”
Stressing the need to protect all innocent civilians, she said the Council must “demand the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, address the immense humanitarian needs of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, reaffirm Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism.” , and remind all actors that international humanitarian law must be respected.” She reiterated President Joe Biden’s calls for humanitarian pauses to free hostages and allow aid to arrive, as well as safe passage for civilians.
“That means Hamas cannot use Palestinians as human shields – an act of unimaginable cruelty and a violation of the laws of war,” the US ambassador said, “and that means Israel must take every possible precaution to avoid harm “To avoid civilians.”
In a sign of growing U.S. concern over the escalating Palestinian death toll, Thomas-Greenfield told the council Biden reiterated this to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday that “while Israel has the right and responsibility to protect its citizens from terrorism, it must do so in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
“The fact that Hamas operates within and under cover of civilian areas places an additional burden on Israel, but does not diminish its responsibility to distinguish between terrorists and innocent civilians,” she stressed.
Following the rejection of the four resolutions in the 15-member Security Council – one rejected by the US, one by Russia and China and two because they did not receive at least nine “yes” votes – the Arab nations turned to the UN General Assembly last Friday, where there is no veto.
The 193-member world body adopted a resolution calling for humanitarian ceasefires leading to a cessation of hostilities by 120 votes to 14 and 45 abstentions. Now the ten elected members of the 15-member Security Council are trying again to negotiate a resolution that will not be rejected. While council decisions are legally binding, assembly decisions are not legally binding, although they are an important barometer of world opinion.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan sharply criticized the council’s failure to condemn Hamas’ attacks, asking members: “Why are the humanitarian needs of Gazans the only issue, the only problem you are focused on?”
Erdan remembered his grandfather, who survived the Nazi death camps but whose wife and seven children died in the Auschwitz gas chamber, and told the council he would wear a yellow star – just as Hitler wore his grandfather and other Jews during World War II World War II – “until…” They condemn the atrocities of Hamas and demand the immediate release of our hostages.”
The ambassador then taped a large six-pointed yellow Star of David with the words “Never again” on his suit jacket, as did other Israeli diplomats sitting behind him, and said: “We go with the yellow star as a symbol of pride, as a reminder.” that we swore to fight back to defend ourselves. Never again is now.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, also called on the Security Council to follow the General Assembly, end its paralysis and “put an end to this bloodshed, which is an affront to humanity, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and a clear end.” “and an imminent threat to regional and international peace and security.”
“Save those who can still be saved and bury the deceased in a dignified manner,” Mansour said.