The Security Council has adjourned the meeting and ambassadors have gone back into informal consultations, in a bid to find some consensus that will lead to the passage of a new resolution. We’ll be monitoring the situation throughout the day and resume our live coverage as soon as there are more developments…
Status quo ‘cannot continue’: UAE
Mohamed Issa Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), started off by noting that as the end of 2023 is approaching, it has already been the deadliest year in the Occupied Palestinian Territory’s history.
“This should be a wakeup call that the current status quo cannot be allowed to continue, and this starts with the current situation in Gaza,” he said.
He recalled last week’s visit by many ambassadors, members of the Security Council, to the Rafah border crossing, noting that they witnessed “a humanitarian system at its breaking point.”
“They saw thousands of trucks and warehouses filled with aid from people and governments around the world, the physical expression of their solidarity with the people of Gaza,” he said.
“Meanwhile, just over the border, 2.2 million people remain trapped with nine out of every ten spending entire day without food. Gazans are experiencing unprecedented levels of starvation and thirst, while doctors lack even the most basic of medical supplies to treat the wounded and the growing threat of infection – what we need is access,” he added.
He noted that the resolution, scheduled for a vote today, aims to meet this need by demanding the use of all land, sea and air routes to allow aid to enter.
“Israel must stop blocking the entry of aid, and allow life-saving assistance into the Gaza Strip,” he added, noting the opening of the border crossing at Karam Abu Salem.
“We call on authorities to ensure its full opening, including to commercial cargo, so that aid can enter at scale,” the Ambassador said.
‘Inertia is not a solution’: France
France’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Nathalie Broadhurst, said her country “will never recognize the illegal annexation” of the Palestinian Occupied Territories, nor the legalization of rogue settlements in the West Bank.
She strongly condemned the recent announcement of new settlement building and expulsion of Palestinian families, authorized by the Israeli Government.
Such decisions jeopardize the possibility of a two-State solution, she said. She added that an environment of “total impunity” in the West Bank was driving the spike in violence.
“We cannot accept the abuses that deprive Palestinians of their rights and their land”, she reiterated…We must urgently restore prospects for a political horizon to implement the two-State solution.
She stressed that France stands solidly by the people of Israel and condemned the brutal gender-based violence perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October.
“We call for a new immediate, lasting humanitarian truce, which must lead to a lasting ceasefire”, to obtain the release of all the hostages still held by Hamas, and to provide the population of Gaza with the aid they need.
She said a resumption of the political process is urgent.
“We must work seriously towards building a state for the Palestinians. And the Palestinian Authority has a key role to play in this process, in the West Bank as in Gaza, which should be part of this Palestinian state”, adding that “inertia is not a solution.”
Russia: Civilians bombed in Gaza ‘are among the hostages’ in the conflict
Vassily Nebenzia, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Russia to the UN said that thus far over 19,000 people have lost their lives in Gaza, 70 percent of them women and children, while over two million Gazans have become internally displaced.
“The victims of the indiscriminate Israeli actions are also amongst the Israeli hostages,” he said, noting also the total blockade of the enclave, downed communications with spotty internet access and harsh restrictions on humanitarian aid.
“There is an acute shortage in the Strip of water, fuel, medicines – and the civic order is on the brink of collapse,” he added, noting also that several UN and humanitarian personnel have been killed and facilities destroyed.
He said ccording to media reports, Israel has dropped around 29,000 bombs in Gaza, comparable to the number dropped by the US and UK throughout their entire military operation in Iraq in 2003.
“We have received shocking news from the Latin Patriarch in Jerusalem, on 16 of December during the Holy Family festivities in the Church, which was a refuge for many families, an Israeli sniper killed two Christians…according to witness accounts there were no warnings issued,” he said, noting that seven people were also injured “as they tried to protect their loved ones”.
Another marked shelter, a monastery, was also hit in an Israeli airstrike, he added.
“Such attacks continue at a time when everyone is preparing for the Christmas celebrations,” he said.
Ambassador Nebenzia also spoke of the reports of violence, including killings, in the West Bank.
“In this context, we would like to underscore the fact that the clearing of the West Bank is something that Israel has been doing for a long time, even before 7 October, when there was no link with terror threats or security issues,” he said.
China: Only a ceasefire will prevent further disaster
China’s ambassador and Permanent Representative ZHANG Jun, said civilians in Gaza have no access to water, electricity, and other basics of survival, while aid trucks are waiting in line with supplies stockpiled in Egypt.
Even more worrying is that due to Israel’s indiscriminate bombardment the whole relief network is “on the verge of paralysis”.
On this basis the UAE’s draft resolution has the backing of the majority of Council members. He said no country should hesitate to back the resolution.
“We urge a constructive approach” he said, adding it was an “emergency initiative” in response to the crisis in Gaza.
And on the West Bank, the Council must play its part and uphold fairness and justice as violence and restrictions continue there.
“Only a ceasefire can prevent greater civilian casualties including those of hostages” or prevent the regional conflict from spiralling out of control, he noted.
And only a ceasefire “can prevent the prospects of a political solution from being completely killed”, he said.
UK pledges to ban entry to West Bank settlers responsible for violence against Palestinians
The UK’s Deputy Permanent Representative James Kariuki, said that a “humanitarian catastrophe was unfolding” and the intense suffering of innocent Palestinians showed no signs of abating.
Meanwhile, more than 130 hostages continue to be held inside Gaza, with Israel still reckoning with the “brutal horror” of the Hamas terror attacks, he said.
There must be “a sustainable ceasefire that breaks the cycle of violence. Hamas must stop firing rockets into Israel, all hostages must be released, and aid must flow into Gaza.”
He said this is “the only way to achieve a sustainable peace based on a two-state solution, in which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security.”
He said the UK was focused on three areas: “First, too many civilians have been killed. Israel must be targeted and precise in its efforts to address the threat posed by Hamas.”
Second, he said “we need continue to work on increasing the amount of humanitarian support into Gaza through as many direct routes as possible.”
Third, he said, in response to increasing violence on the West Bank against Palestinians “we are banning those responsible for settler violence from entering the UK to make sure our country cannot be a home for people who commit these intimidating acts.”
He said Israel must do more to hold settlers to account.
“We reiterate our call on Israel to immediately and completely stop all settlement activities in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem and its Lower Aqueduct”, he added.
We are clear – these settlements are illegal under international law, present an obstacle to peace, and threaten the physical viability and delivery of a two-State solution which must become a reality to ensure justice and peace for Palestinians and Israelis.”
‘Deep concern’ for civilians: Mozambique
Domingos Estêvão Fernandes, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of Mozambique urged the international community to continue advocating for a “peaceful and just” resolution to the longstanding conflict in the Middle East.
He also voiced “deep concerns” over the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
“The ongoing conflict between Israeli forces and Palestinian armed groups has exacerbated the situation, leaving thousands of people in desperate need,” he said.
He underscored that “demonstration of goodwill” by both parties to the conflict is “equally important”.
“In this vein, the immediate release of hostages is of paramount importance,” he said, urging Council members to “collectively work” towards a humanitarian pause and de-escalation of the conflict “to safeguard lives and uphold human dignity.”
Settlement activities in West Bank, ‘in flagrant violation’: Brazil
Sérgio França Danese, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of Brazil to the UN, said that as the world watches the human toll of ongoing war in Gaza with “astonishment and powerlessness”, settlement activities have continued and expanded throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, “in flagrant violation of international law and in defiance to the authority of the Security Council.”
“We are deeply concerned by the increase in the displacement of Palestinians from their homes as a result of settlement activates, which only worsened after the 7 October terrorist attacks against Israel as well as by the intensification of settler violence in the West Bank,” he said.
“State violence has been on the rise, not just in Gaza, demolitions, evictions orders and other types of attacks against Palestinians and their households have further expanded in Palestinian land, including East Jerusalem,” he added.
Hamas attacks must be condemned: US
The United States ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative Robert Wood, told the meeting that the attacks by Hamas of October 7 “must be condemned” and the extremist group must not be allowed to control Gaza in the future.
He said Israel must also be allowed to defend its people and the Houthi rebel group’s attacks off the coast of Yemen against international shipping must be countered.
He told the Council all must work towards a two-State solution.
He said the rise of hateful rhetoric matters “and we must do more to prevent this dangerous dehumanization”.
He said deaths and injuries of journalists on the frontline during this Gaza conflict were unacceptable: “In this moment more must be done to protect them”.
Finally, he said his mission had met Israeli’s whose loved ones are still be held captive in Hamas.
He said they would continue to share every hostage’s story, “until they are home”.
“We must hold space for the heartbreak on all sides”, he added.
Major General Patrick Gauchat, head of UNTSO, took the floor to brief Council members.
He started off by noting that since UNTSO does not have a presence in or around Gaza or southern Israel, its personnel “were not in a position to observe” directly the events of 7 October or developments since then.
However, these events “have assuredly impacted our operations and regional dynamics”, he said.
“On the operational level, from 8 October many ceasefire violations have occurred across the Blue Line between Israel and Lebanon and on the Golan between Israel and the Syria,” he added.
On 29 May 1948, the Security Council, in resolution 50 (1948), called for a cessation of hostilities in Palestine and decided that the truce should be supervised by the UN Mediator, with the assistance of a group of military observers.
The first group of military observers, which became known as the United Nations Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), was the first peacekeeping mission established by the United Nations. They remain in the Middle East to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other United Nations peacekeeping operations in the region.
Humanitarian system ‘on the brink’: Wennesland
The first Council meeting on the Israel-Palestine crisis is now underway. the UN’s Special Envoy for the Middle East Peace Process, Tor Wennesland has just been briefing Council members.
He highlighted that as the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza rages on, “2023 ends as one of the deadliest in the history of this conflict, with the situation deteriorating on nearly all fronts.”
He also drew attention to the dire humanitarian situation across the Gaza Strip.
“The delivery of humanitarian aid in the Strip continues to face nearly insurmountable challenges. Amid displacement on an unimaginable scale and active hostilities, the humanitarian response system is on the brink,” he said.
Mr. Wennesland voiced “deep concerns” over escalating tensions in the occupied West Bank, including East Jerusalem, noting “intensified armed exchanges” between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, predominantly in the context of Israeli operations, have led to exceedingly high levels of fatalities and arrests.
“I reiterate that security forces must exercise maximum restraint and use lethal fore only when it is strictly unavoidable to protect life,” he stressed.
He expressed alarm at the lethal attacks carried out by Israeli settlers against Palestinians and by Palestinians against Israelis in the occupied West Bank and Israel.
“All perpetrators of violence must be held accountable and swiftly brought to justice,” he said.
The UN Special Coordinator said he was appalled at the numerous instances of officials glorifying violence and encouraging the killing of civilians.
“Such rhetoric is abhorrent and must be clearly rejected by leaders on all sides. Leaders have an obligation to clearly and explicitly condemn acts of terror and violence directed against civilians,” he said.
In response to continuing attacks by Houthi rebels off the Red Sea coast on international shipping which the rebel group says is in response to the Israeli offensive in Gaza, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) Secretary-General Kitack Lim has just issued a further statement:
“I condemn attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea area and I reiterate the strong commitment of IMO to protect seafarers, ships, and cargoes, which is of the utmost importance to ensure the safety and security of global supply chains. Attacks against international shipping in the Red Sea area are not acceptable. Ships must be allowed to trade worldwide unhindered, in accordance with international maritime law.
The rerouting of commercial shipping by several globally operating companies is a direct response to the current threat. These measures are aimed at protecting seafarers from harm and minimizing the potential economic impact on world trade, which is highly dependent on shipping.”
The IMO Secretariat is closely monitoring developments and communicating with relevant stakeholders, including the shipping industry, IMO Member States, and United Nations partners.
On Monday night, the United States said it was assembling an international protection force to help protect the vital trade route.
The meeting is expected to start late morning on Tuesday, following Security Council meetings on the situation in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), and another meeting on the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO), originally established in 1948.
Since then, UNTSO military observers – based in Jerusalem – have remained in the Middle East to monitor ceasefires, supervise armistice agreements, prevent isolated incidents from escalating and assist other UN peacekeeping operations in the region.
Hopes for a new resolution
At the Security Council meeting on Gaza, Members are expected to vote on a draft resolution tabled by the United Arab Emirates, which expresses “deep concern at the dire and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation” in the enclave and its “grave impact” on civilians there, calling for “full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access into and throughout the entire Gaza Strip”.
The meeting, earlier scheduled for Monday afternoon (New York time) was postponed, ostensibly to give Council members more time to negotiate and find common ground.
Some of the changes following discussions include calling for “urgent steps towards a suspension of hostilities” – a crucial word change from Monday’s draft calling for a “cessation of hostilities”.
The draft resolution also takes note of the reopening of the Karem Abu Salem or Kerem Shalom crossing from Israel to speed up delivery of aid, emphasizing the need to “expand the delivery and distribution”.
It also “demands” the “immediate and unconditional release” of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical needs.
The meeting comes on the heels of a resolution adopted with an overwhelming majority of 153 Member States in favour and 10 against, with 23 abstentions at the General Assembly, which met last Tuesday in an emergency special session.
In it, the Assembly “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and well as “ensuring humanitarian access”.
The General Assembly resolution was worded similarly as a draft resolution that was vetoed by the United States at the Security Council on 8 December.
The key points in common, include an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; demanding that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably regarding protection of civilians; and a demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.