UNSC meets Friday to vote on Gaza ceasefire resolution as situation turns ‘apocalyptic’

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 08 (APP): The United Nations Security Council is set to meet Friday to discuss a ceasefire in war-torn Gaza after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter to ask the 15-member body to “use all of its influence” to prevent “a humanitarian catastrophe” in the besieged enclave.

Shortly after the UN chief issued the letter, UAE and Russia announced Thursday that they were calling for an emergency Security Council meeting Friday at 10 a.m. local time (8 pm PST).

The UAE later circulated a draft resolution to the other members of the Security Council that cites Guterres’ letter and demands “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

“This is a moral and humanitarian imperative and we urge all countries to support the call of the Secretary-General,” the UAE mission to the UN posted on X.

The draft resolution calls for all parties to the conflict to comply with their obligations under international law.

Diplomats give only a slim chance to the adoption of a resolution as the United States, which has veto power in the Council, has already indicated that it does not support a ceasefire in Gaza, with the pledge that it will continue urging Israel to avoid civilian casualties and to allow more aid into the ravaged enclave.

Meanwhile, a ministerial Arab delegation, headed by Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al-Saud, is scheduled to meet in Washington Thursday the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, and other Biden administration officials to seek support for the ceasefire resolution.

On his part, the UN secretary-general has made calls to six Arab foreign ministers and also Blinken, the top US diplomat.

Meanwhile, a combined group of ambassadors representing OIC and Arab groups Thursday came out in full support of the UN chief, saying Israel’s deadly attacks on Gaza must stop. At a press stakeout, they denounced Israel for its attacks against the UN chief, and voiced full confidence in his leadership.

Pakistan was represented in the group by the acting permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Mohammad Usman Iqbal Jadoon.

The OIC/Arab group’s support to the ceasefire move came amid harsh criticism from the Israeli diplomats.

On the other hand, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan criticized Guterres, calling his letter “a new moral low.” He also accused the secretary-general of only using Article 99 to put pressure on Israel.

According to latest UN reports, the situation in the Gaza is becoming “apocalyptic” with hostilities making meaningful humanitarian efforts “nearly impossible”.

In a joint statement, 27 aid organizations including UN agencies and their partners issued a call for an immediate stop to the fighting, stressing that conditions in Gaza are “amongst the worst we have witnessed”.

In another development on Thursday, Israeli troops reportedly entered the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis, where hundreds of thousands of displaced people have been sheltering.

Intense Israeli bombardments across the Strip and rocket firing by Palestinian armed groups into Israel have continued over the past two days, UN humanitarian affairs coordination office OCHA said, and more than 100 people were reportedly killed on Wednesday in the bombardment of “multiple residential buildings” in Jabalia refugee camp in northern Gaza.

“Almost no one in Gaza has enough food. In some areas, nine out of 10 people went a full day and night with nothing to eat,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) representative in the occupied Palestinian territory, Samer AbdelJaber, wrote on social platform X, while UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) spokesperson James Elder, who recently returned from Gaza, summed up conditions in the enclave as: “No water. No sanitation. No food. Just bombs.”

“We do not have a humanitarian operation in southern Gaza that can be called by that name anymore,” UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths told journalists in Geneva. He said that the humanitarian plan to protect civilians in the enclave is “in tatters” and no place is safe anymore as a result of the intense pace of the Israeli military assault in the south of the Strip.

He dubbed the current state of affairs “humanitarian opportunism” with aid deliveries which have become “erratic, undependable and frankly… not sustainable”.

Griffiths stressed that the aid agencies on which the people of Gaza have relied on “for many decades” will remain by their side, but that the “only serious policy response” to the crisis is to silence the guns.

He also highlighted some “promising signs” in ongoing negotiations in the COGAT committee, which “meets daily and nightly” and brings together key stakeholders including the UN, Israel, Egypt and the United States, on aid access to Gaza through the Kerem Shalom border crossing from Israel.

“If we get that it would be the first miracle we’ve seen in some weeks and a huge boost to the logistical base of the humanitarian operation,” he said. So far Rafah in the south of the Strip has been the only border crossing open for aid deliveries since those resumed on 21 October.

UN health agency WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus expressed support for Guterres’ letter, stressing that “Gaza’s health system is on its knees”.

“We need peace for health,” he insisted.

As of Wednesday, WHO had documented 212 attacks on healthcare in the Strip affecting 56 facilities and 59 ambulances. Only 14 out of Gaza’s 36 hospitals are at least partially operational.

The latest facility to stop functioning, the Kamal Adwan Hospital in Jabalia, saw the evacuation of most patients and staff by the Gaza health authorities on Wednesday due to intense fighting and a lack of essentials.

“This will deprive thousands of people of essential lifesaving care,” WHO’s Tedros warned.

In a statement on Thursday, a UN-appointed independent expert condemned Israel’s “unrelenting war” on the health system in Gaza. “We have descended into depths from which we must quickly emerge,” said Tlaleng Mofokeng, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health.

Meanwhile, stranded trucks, telecommunications blackouts and the inability of staff to report to the Rafah border crossing due to the hostilities have been limiting the UN’s ability to receive incoming aid, OCHA said.

For the fourth consecutive day on Wednesday Rafah was the only governorate in Gaza where aid distributions took place, as according to OCHA the intensity of the fighting “largely stopped” operations in the neighbouring Khan Younis governorate. There has been no access from the south to areas north of Wadi Gaza since the pause in fighting came to an end on 1 December.

On Wednesday 80 aid trucks and 69,000 litres of fuel entered through Rafah into Gaza – “well below the daily average of 170 trucks and 110,000 litres of fuel that had entered during the humanitarian pause”, OCHA stressed.

The fighting in Khan Younis has pushed tens of thousands of people to flee to Rafah in the past few days, OCHA said. On Wednesday five schools run by UN Agency for Palestine Refugees UNRWA and serving as shelters in the eastern Khan Younis governorate were evacuated following orders from the Israeli military.

Additionally, an area accounting for about a quarter of Khan Younis city was designated by the Israeli military for immediate evacuation.

In Rafah, shelters are over capacity and new arrivals have been settling in the streets and in empty spaces across the city. UNRWA is supporting the displaced with tents while WFP is distributing hot meals, in the midst of what the UN agency has dubbed a “catastrophic hunger crisis” across the Strip.

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