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Smoke rises to the sky after an explosion in Gaza Strip as seen from Southern Israel. Alamy Stock Photo

UN Security Council passes resolution for acceleration of aid into Gaza after days of negotiations

It comes after the UN warned that the entire population of Gaza faces “an imminent risk of famine”.

LAST UPDATE | 22 Dec 2023

FIGHTING CONTINUED BETWEEN Israel and Hamas in Gaza today as the UN Security Council approved a much-delayed resolution to boost aid to the besieged Palestinian territory where civilians are struggling to find food.

The Gaza health ministry said more than 410 people had been killed in Israeli bombardment over 48 hours, including 16 in a strike on the Gaza City district of Jabalia today.

Four members of one family, including a girl, died in another strike on a civilian vehicle in Rafah in southern Gaza, the ministry said.

An AFP video showed the impact had splayed the vehicle’s roof, leaving the wreckage blackened and blood-stained.

“The Jeep was hit. Five minutes later people gathered and a second attack took place,” witness Hamada Abu Taha said.

Today, following diplomatic wrangling, the Security Council finally adopted a resolution that “demands” all sides in the conflict allow the “safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale”.

The UN resolution urged the creation of “conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” but did not call for an immediate end to fighting.

Israel ally the United States, which earlier this month blocked a vote calling for a ceasefire, abstained along with Russia, and the watered-down text passed with 13 votes in favour.

representatives-of-member-countries-take-vote-during-the-security-council-meeting-at-united-nations-headquarters-friday-dec-22-2023-after-many-delays-the-u-n-security-council-adopted-a-watered Representatives of member countries vote during the Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters today. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

It came after the UN’s World Food Programme warned that Gaza’s population is at a “high risk of famine”.

The current conflict has raged since 7 October, when Hamas gunmen crossed Gaza’s militarised border and killed around 1,140 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli figures.

Hamas militants also abducted about 250 people, 129 of whom remain in Gaza, according to Israeli authorities.

Vowing to destroy Hamas, Israel launched a relentless bombardment and ground invasion of Gaza, where 20,057 people have been killed, according to the latest Palestinian toll.

Most of the dead are women and children, Palestinian officials say.

‘Massive obstacles’

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, called the council’s resolution “a step in the right direction”, but said it “must be accompanied by massive pressure for an immediate ceasefire”.

But in a statement, Hamas described it as “an insufficient measure that does not respond to the catastrophic situation created by the Zionist (Israeli) war machine”.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said after the vote that “the way Israel is conducting this offensive is creating massive obstacles to the distribution of humanitarian aid inside Gaza”.

In a statement, ActionAid Ireland CEO Karol Balfe said that while it was a relief to see the US abstain rather than veto the resolution, it was “disappointing to see a watered-down concession that neither offers an end to hostilities nor an urgent scale-up of aid”. 

The promise of lifesaving aid is welcome but without a ceasefire, it cannot be delivered safely and at scale.

“People in Gaza need the bombs to stop and for the war to end now but instead the resolution kicks attempts to reach a ceasefire into the long grass,” Balfe said.

She said there is little sense in providing aid to people one day, only to start bombing them again the next.

“We urge the UN Security Council to take seriously its mandate to maintain peace and promote human rights, by demanding a permanent ceasefire – the only way to prevent further senseless loss of life and enable enough life-saving humanitarian aid to reach those who need it.”

The fighting has displaced 1.9 million Gazans according to UN figures, out of a population of 2.4 million, and put out of action most of the 36 hospitals in the territory. Nine remain partly functioning, the World Health Organization (WHO) says.

an-egyptian-truck-driver-carrying-humanitarian-aid-for-the-gaza-strip-unties-his-cargo-for-inspection-at-the-kerem-shalom-crossing-in-southern-israel-friday-dec-22-2023-ap-photomaya-alleruzzo An Egyptian truck driver carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip unties his cargo for inspection at the Kerem Shalom Crossing in southern Israel. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

The UN agency’s head, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, said on social media that “hunger is present, and famine is looming in Gaza.”

“Four out of five households in northern Gaza, and half of the displaced households in the south, are going entire days and nights without eating. This is heartbreaking.”

Urban warfare

With swathes of Gaza reduced to rubble, the displaced have been forced into crowded shelters or tents, and are struggling to find food, fuel, water and medical supplies.

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

Last week Israel approved aid delivery via Kerem Shalom crossing, and the army says on average 80 trucks enter Gaza through it daily.

Journalists in a media tour of the facility today, organised by the Israeli military, could see a miles-long queue of aid trucks held up for hours as they awaited inspection by soldiers.

Egyptian driver Said Abdel Hamid seemed unfazed by the wait, saying he was “proud to bring help to my Palestinian brothers” as he removed the tarpaulin sheet covering his flour cargo for examination.

In north Gaza, parts of Gaza City including Shujaiya have seen street-by-street combat – even building-by-building – between Israeli soldiers and Hamas fighters.

Screenshot 2023-12-22 07.01.53 Palestinians look at the destruction of the Al-Gatshan family building after an Israeli strike in Nuseirat refugee camp Adel Hana / AP/PA Images Adel Hana / AP/PA Images / AP/PA Images

According to the military, the deaths of two more soldiers in Gaza brought to 139 the number killed since it began its ground assault on 27 October.

Israel said another of its troops was killed today by rocket fire from Lebanon, where the Iran-backed Hezbollah and other groups have carried out near-daily cross-border assaults in support of Hamas.

Hezbollah said two of its fighters were killed today.

Beyond regular exchanges of fire across the Lebanon border, the war has also sparked fears of wider conflict with missiles from Iran-backed Yemeni rebels – claiming to act in solidarity with Gazans – disrupting Red Sea shipping.

The United States accused Tehran of being involved in the attacks. “We know that Iran was deeply involved in planning the operations against commercial vessels in the Red Sea,” National Security Council spokeswoman Adrienne Watson said.

‘Not a life’

The area around the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza has been a focus of Israeli military operations which “intensified” over the past week, a military spokesperson said.

An evacuation order issued today by the army told residents to evacuate the Bureij refugee camp in central Gaza and move further south to Deir al-Balah city.

Many Gazans have fled as far south as they can but say they cannot find safety.

Donkey carts creaked with their belongings as Palestinians leaving the Bureij refugee camp passed through the streets.

“This is not a life: no water, no food, nothing,” said Walaa al-Medini, who had been injured in a strike on her home in Gaza City and uses a wheelchair.

“My daughter died in my lap, and I was rescued from under the rubble after three hours,” she said. “Our house, along with everything around us, was destroyed.”

UN special rapporteur Paula Gaviria Betancur said that “Israel’s military operation in Gaza aims to deport the majority of the civilian population en masse” – claims Israel has denied before.

A one-week truce that ended on 1 December saw 105 hostages released from Gaza captivity, including 80 Israelis in exchange for 240 Palestinian prisoners.

A US-Israeli man believed to have been taken captive by Hamas militants on 7 October was killed on the day of the attack, his kibbutz community said today.

Gad Haggai, 73, was a flautist. His 70-year-old wife remains a captive.

© AFP 2023