UN Security Council vote on Gaza aid delayed again over US talks

By John Mercury December 22, 2023

A UN Security Council vote on a resolution to increase much-needed aid deliveries to Gaza has been delayed as talks continue to avoid a third US veto over a halt in the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The 15-member council was initially going to vote on the resolution drafted by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) on Monday, but it has now been pushed back to Wednesday amid talks aimed at getting Joe Biden’s administration to abstain or vote in favour of the resolution.

It has been repeatedly delayed as the US and UAE are struggling to agree on language calling for a cessation of hostilities and a proposal to have the UN monitor aid into the besieged enclave.

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“We’re still working through the modalities of the resolution,” US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday afternoon when the vote was still set to go ahead later that day.

He added: “It’s important for us that the rest of the world understand what’s at stake here and what Hamas did on 7 October and how Israel has a right to defend itself against those threats.”

Pressure is growing on the US to support a ceasefire, after international condemnation of civilian casualties in Gaza.

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The draft resolution would demand Israel and Hamas allow land, sea and air deliveries of aid throughout Gaza and ask the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres to establish a mechanism to monitor humanitarian assistance.

The US and Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas. The US has previously vetoed similar motions on the Security Council.

Washington has instead supported pauses in the fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by the militant group.

The draft resolution on Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities”, but this was watered down in the draft circulated on Tuesday which now “calls for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

Read more:
Which countries are calling for a ceasefire?

Palestinians gather to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Rafa
Image:
Palestinians gather to receive food cooked by a charity kitchen in Rafa

‘Major shift’ in US approach

Despite concerns about another US veto, there has been a “major shift” in Washington’s approach and it is “keen to get much more aid into Gaza”, according to Nomi Bar-Yaacov, associate fellow at Chatham House.

She told Sky News Mr Biden’s administration is “working hard to ensure wording can be agreed so that they don’t veto the resolution,” adding: “This is a major shift in the US approach and a very significant one.”

She added: “The challenge for a humanitarian monitoring mechanism is to ensure that any aid trucks coming into Gaza do not contain materials that could serve Hamas’s military operation. There are also issues of dual use like the fuel and the key there is to ensure that it gets only to civilians, to hospital generators, and to generate potable water, as well as any other humanitarian use.”

Ziad Issa, head of humanitarian policy at ActionAid UK, told Sky News: “It is promising to see concerted efforts to draft a UN Security Council resolution that may pass, but we are concerned that the final text will not go far enough.

“A ‘suspension of hostilities’ would be a start but what the traumatised people of Gaza urgently need is a permanent ceasefire, now. There is little sense in providing aid to people one day, only to start bombing them again the next.”

Aid deliveries ‘well below daily average’

Limited humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries have crossed into Gaza via the Rafah crossing from Egypt, under Israeli monitoring, but UN officials and aid workers have argued relief levels fail to satisfy the most basic needs of Gazans.

Some 102 aid trucks and four tankers of fuel entered Gaza via Rafah and 79 trucks entered via the newly-opened and Israel-controlled Kerem Shalom crossing on Sunday, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Tuesday.

“This is well below the daily average of 500 truckloads (including fuel and private sector goods) that entered every working day prior to 7 October,” it said in a statement.

Hamas fighters ride on top of a humanitarian aid truck in Rafah. Pic: AP
Image:
Hamas fighters ride on top of a humanitarian aid truck in Rafah. Pic: AP

The 193-member UN General Assembly demanded a humanitarian ceasefire earlier this month, with 153 states voting in favour, but days later the move was vetoed by the United States at the Security Council.

A seven-day pause in fighting saw Hamas release some Israeli hostages while some Palestinians were freed from Israeli jails, as well as an increase in aid to Gaza – but that ended on 1 December.

It comes as Hamas’s political leader, Ismail Haniyeh, arrived in Egypt’s capital Cairo for talks amid negotiations over the ceasefire and the release of more hostages held by the militant group.

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