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File photo - a UN Security Council meeting on 22 March Alamy Stock Photo
UN Resolution

Higgins says failure to implement Gaza ceasefire 'would be unforgiveable' after UN vote

The resolution demands an “immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan that leads to a “lasting” truce.

LAST UPDATE | 25 Mar

IRELAND PRESIDENT MICHAEL D Higgins has welcomed the UN Security Council demanding a ceasefire for the first time since the conflict began last October between Israel and Hamas.

He said he hoped for the “speedy implementation” of the resolution, passed earlier today, adding that it will “surely be welcomed by all” watching on.

Higgins echoed comments by the UN Secretary-General António Guterres who said failure to implement the resolution “would be unforgiveable”.

An immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages must now follow.

Higgins added that the “most important initiative to be taken in Gaza that will save life” is the issue of access of prepared volumes of food and medicines that are “blocked, not being allowed to cross by land to the people who desperately need them”.

The urgent availability of food to those in such deep circumstances of hunger must remain foremost in all our thoughts.

US abstention

The United States, Israel’s ally, which has vetoed previous bids, abstained from today’s vote.

The resolution, which demands an “immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan that leads to a “lasting” truce, went through, with all other 14 Security Council members voting yes.

Meanwhile, the White House has said it was “perplexed” and “disappointed” by the cancelation of an Israeli delegation’s planned visit to discuss US concerns over a possible offensive in southern Gaza.

The resolution, Israel’s Defence Minister Benny Gantz says, “has no operational significance” for his state and called for his delegation to travel to the US so that they may have “direct dialogue” with President Joe Biden.

Last Friday, the Security Council voted on a draft submitted by the United States to recognise “the imperative” of an “immediate and sustained ceasefire”.

China and Russia vetoed the resolution, however, criticising it for stopping short of explicitly demanding Israel halt its campaign.

Following the vote, France urged work on a permanent ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

“This crisis is not over. Our council will have to remain mobilized and immediately get back to work. After Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, it will have to establish a permanent ceasefire,” said France’s UN representative, Nicolas de Riviere.

The United States said that a ceasefire can “only” be implemented once Hamas begins releasing hostages it still holds.

“A ceasefire can begin immediately with the release of the first hostage,” Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said. “This is the only path to securing a ceasefire.”

Gantz also said Israel “has a moral obligation to continue fighting until the abductees are returned and the threat of Hamas is removed”.

UNRWA

Elsewhere, the UN agency for Palestinian refugees have said that Israel had definitively barred it from making aid deliveries in northern Gaza, where the threat of famine is highest.

UNRWA director of communications Juliette Touma told AFP the decision had been relayed in a meeting with Israeli military officials yesterday. It followed two denials in writing for convoy deliveries to the north last week.

No reason for the decision was given, Touma said.

UNRWA has not been able to deliver food to the north since 29 January, Touma said.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the agency, said on X: ”Despite the tragedy unfolding under our watch, the Israeli Authorities informed the UN that they will no longer approve any @UNRWA food convoys to the north.

“This is outrageous & makes it intentional to obstruct lifesaving assistance during a man made famine.”

Touma said that the “latest decision is another nail in the coffin” for efforts to get desperately needed aid to Gazans reeling from conflict.

Israel has fired back, saying today that UNRWA “has long forsaken its role in facilitating aid to northern Gaza”.

“While we’ve been working with aid orgs and other UN agencies to facilitate large amounts of aid to the north,” it said. 

COGAT, the Israeli defence ministry body responsible for Palestinian civilian affairs, said Israel “goes to great lengths to facilitate aid to northern Gaza, including by opening a new crossing in northern Gaza”.

Gaza faces dire humanitarian conditions as a result of Israel’s offensive against Hamas that began nearly six months ago, triggered by Hamas’s unprecedented attack on southern Israel on 7 October.

Last week, a UN-backed food security assessment warned that famine was projected to hit the north of Gaza by May unless there was urgent intervention.

‘Lifeline of hope’

UN chief Antonio Guterres has defended UNRWA as a “lifeline of hope and dignity” and called for a surge of aid into Gaza.

During a visit to Jordan’s Wihdat refugee camp in the capital Amman, Guterres said it would be “cruel and incomprehensible” to halt UNRWA’s vital services to Palestinian refugees across the region.

Guterres called the decision to block UNRWA convoys “totally unacceptable” and said “it is absolutely essential to have massive supply of humanitarian aid now, this means opening more entry points”.

The agency employs some 30,000 people across the Palestinian territories, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria, providing healthcare, education and other basic services.

“We must strive to keep the one-of-a-kind services that UNRWA provides flowing because that keeps hope flowing,” Guterres said during his visit to the camp.

“In a darkening world, UNRWA is the one ray of light for millions of people. I see that hope here. Now more than ever, we must not take away that hope.”

He also sought to “honour the 171 women and men of UNRWA who have been killed in Gaza – the largest number of deaths of UN staff in our history”.

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin today called the blocking of aid into northern Gaza “totally unacceptable”. 

He said Guterres is “crystal clear” and that “blocked aid is a moral outrage’”. 

“The use of starvation as a weapon of war is a blatant violation of international humanitarian law,” Martin said. 

Martin Griffiths, head of the UN humanitarian coordination office, said on X yesterday that UNRWA “is the beating heart of the humanitarian response in Gaza”.

“The decision to block its food convoys to the north only pushes thousands closer to famine. It must be revoked,” he said. 

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, head of the World Health Organization, said on X that blocking UNRWA aid deliveries was “in fact denying starving people the ability to survive”.

Israel has accused UNRWA staff members of participating in the 7 October attack and called the agency “a front for Hamas”.

Touma said Israeli authorities yesterday also rejected a UN request to send a team to Al-Shifa hospital in northern Gaza, where fighting has flared for almost a week, “to evacuate people who are injured”.

The 7 October attack resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli figures.

The health ministry in Gaza has today said that at least 32,333 people have been killed in the territory during more than five months of conflict.

Includes reporting by  © AFP 2024

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