Dec 22, 2023 - World

UN Security Council calls for aid boost to Gaza as conditions rapidly deteriorate

Palestinians flock to a truck carrying drinkable water

Palestinians receive drinking water in Rafah, Gaza, on Dec. 11. Photo: Anadolu via Getty Images

The UN Security Council on Friday approved a resolution calling for "urgent steps" to be taken to immediately allow "safe and unhindered humanitarian access" to Gaza and to create "conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities."

The big picture: The binding resolution passed after several delays by the U.S. over the language in previous drafts. The resolution was since softened, including by dropping language that called for the "urgent suspension of hostilities." Thirteen members voted in favor, while the U.S. and Russia abstained.

  • The final resolution calls "for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses" and asks the UN secretary-general to appoint a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator with "responsibility for facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying" humanitarian aid going to Gaza through states not party to the conflict.
  • It also asks that the coordinator "expeditiously establish a UN mechanism for accelerating the provision of humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza." It demands that "the parties to the conflict cooperate with the coordinator to fulfill their mandate without delay or obstruction."
  • A previous draft called for establishing a UN monitoring mechanism that would have had "exclusive" control over the inspection and facilitation of aid trucks entering Gaza. Both the U.S. and Israel had rejected the clause. Israel currently inspects and controls all aid allowed to enter Gaza.

Between the lines: The negotiations over the resolution language were taking place at a very high level with White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Secretary of State Tony Blinken personally involved, U.S. and Israeli officials said.

  • The U.S. didn't want to veto the resolution, the officials said, but laid out clear "red lines" for the text like not having any call for a ceasefire.
  • U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield on Thursday rejected claims the resolution was watered down from previous drafts.

Russia on Friday proposed an amendment reintroducing the language that called for a suspension of hostilities. Ten members voted in favor of the amendment, but the U.S. ultimately blocked it by voting against it.

  • Israel's Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan after the vote on the resolution thanked the U.S. for "standing firmly on Israel's side throughout the negotiations on the resolution and maintaining defined red lines. The resolution maintains Israel's security authority to monitor and inspect aid entering Gaza."
  • Erdan, however, said it was a "disgrace" that the Security Council had not condemned the Oct. 7 attack.

The big picture: Israel is facing growing calls for a ceasefire in Gaza, as its ground offensive and bombardment continue to cause conditions in the enclave to rapidly deteriorate.

  • More than 20,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began, the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza reported this week.
  • Gaza's entire population — more than 2.2 million people — is facing crisis or worse levels of hunger, a UN-backed report said on Thursday.
  • The enclave's health system has largely collapsed, with only nine of 36 health facilities in Gaza partially operational, according to the World Health Organization.
  • Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas and secure the release of all the hostages taken to Gaza during the Oct. 7 attack.

Aid groups welcomed Friday's resolution, but expressed disappointment that it stopped short of calling for an immediate and lasting ceasefire.

  • "Nothing short of a ceasefire and an end to the siege will prevent this catastrophic and preventable loss of life," Kate Phillips-Barrasso, Mercy Corps vice president of global policy and advocacy, said in a statement.
  • The International Rescue Committee echoed that sentiment, saying from "a humanitarian point of view, the failure of the UNSC to demand an immediate and sustained ceasefire is unjustifiable."

Go deeper: Lives in Gaza "hang by thread" as hospital and humanitarian systems collapse

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional reactions to the vote.

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