No Ceasefire Gaza Threatens Humanitarian Aid, Raises the Palestinian Question — Global Issues

The humanitarian crisis continues in Gaza as negotiators continue talks in Qatar. Credit: UNRWA/Twitter
  • by Naureen Hossain (united nations)
  • Inter Press Service

Palestine’s representative to the UN has declared that a new resolution may be in the works, which will also include “practical measures” to ensure a humanitarian ceasefire and to withhold any support for Israel in the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Riyad H. Mansour, the Permanent Observer to the State of Palestine, spoke to reporters last Thursday (February 22, 2024). In addition to calling for a ceasefire in Gaza, the measures would include urging countries to stop sending weapons and ammunition to Israel and implementing sanctions on them.

“The occupying authority that is defying everyone, defying international law, defying the ICJ (International Court of Justice) by refusing to implement the provisional measures that the ICJ asked… that country that behaves in that manner should face consequences in the international community, including in the General Assembly,” he said.

Mansour also stated that they would be pushing for Palestine to be admitted as a member of the United Nations, beginning with gaining support from member states before the General Assembly before bringing it to the Security Council.

“The rights of the people of Palestine must be determined by the people,” he said. “It’s only us—the Palestinian people—who will determine our right to self-determination, including our independence. We will not negotiate that principle, and we will not ask for permission from anyone to do so.”

The decision to advocate for these measures was the result of an ambassadorial-level meeting between Mansour and the members of the Arab League, which was convened in the wake of the United States’ decision to veto the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza on February 20.

Algeria, a non-permanent member of the Council at the moment, presented the resolution for discussion on February 20. The resolution received 13 votes in favor, with only the United States’ veto and the United Kingdom abstaining. The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thompson-Green, told reporters that the United States has presented its own draft resolution, an alternative that would be “forward-leaning.” This resolution, she claimed, would include a call for a temporary ceasefire “as soon as practicable,” that would allow for the safe release of all hostages held by Hamas, and for humanitarian aid to reach Gaza.

Despite the international community’s outcry of support for a humanitarian ceasefire, this has been repeatedly undermined. Declining support for UNRWA created challenges. The allegations leveled at the organization have resulted in two separate investigations into the matter. Yet, over 17 countries, many of whom are classified as high-income countries, have suspended their funding for the organization, leaving it more vulnerable at a time when its operations are overextended. As the first major donor to pull its support, the United States set the example.

This has risked further jeopardizing UNRWA’s operations, which have been funded through to the end of February, but leave their future even more uncertain.

“UNRWA remains and is the backbone of the humanitarian work that is being done in Gaza at great cost to UNRWA staff themselves,” said Stéphane Dujarric, spokesperson for the Secretary-General.

Meanwhile, other humanitarian agencies operating in the region continue to struggle to work in unsafe conditions. The same day that the ceasefire resolution was vetoed, the World Food Programme (WFP) announced that they had been forced to halt their deliveries into North Gaza, citing security reasons. They described witnessing “unprecedented levels of desperation” and warned that the risk of famine and disease in Gaza has been confirmed, wherein the scarcity of food and safe water has already compromised the nutrition and immunity of civilians.

Speaking at the Security Council, Christopher Lockyear, Secretary-General of Doctors Without Borders, urged for a ceasefire, detailing how staff have also been caught up in the attacks, including those who have lost their lives, or been forced to evacuate nine different health facilities since October 7. He warned that the humanitarian response in Gaza was “haphazard, opportunistic,” and “entirely inadequate.”

“Calls for more humanitarian assistance have echoed across this chamber,” he said. “Yet in Gaza we have less and less each day—less space, less medicine, less food, less water, less safety.”

He also condemned the Council for delaying and preventing efforts to adopt a ceasefire resolution while civilians and aid workers continue to live in such dangerous conditions. “The consequences of casting international humanitarian law to the wind will reverberate well beyond Gaza. It will be an enduring burden on our collective conscience. This is not just political inaction—it has become political complicity.”

Meanwhile, people in Gaza live in such dire conditions. Now, nearly 30,000 Palestinians have been reported dead, the majority of whom have been women and children. As of February 23, only seven hospitals in Gaza remain operational to accommodate those who remain. The city of Rafah, which is supposedly a safe zone, now hosts more than 1 million civilians, even as hostilities rage on. With the looming warning that the Israeli military will mobilize forces into Rafah by March 12, the first day of Ramadan, if the hostages are not released, the international community now has a deadline.

The negotiations to secure a pause in the war are continuing in Qatar, following last week’s Paris talks, which a delegation from Israel attended.

There had been an understanding of the “basic contours” of a hostage deal for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told CNN on Sunday.

IPS UN Bureau Report

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© Inter Press Service (2024) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service

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