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UN Security Council fails to ease suffering in Gaza

Asia
 Members of the Security Council vote on a resolution regarding the situation in Israel and Gaza at a council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, at the United Nations, Oct. 18, 2023, in New York.[VOA}

As the death toll and suffering mounts for Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, the U.N. Security Council remained blocked Wednesday from trying to bring any relief to them, while the Israeli and Palestinian envoys traded accusations.

"The pace of death, of suffering, of destruction, of breaches of international law cannot be exaggerated," U.N. humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths told an emergency Security Council meeting from Egypt, where he is trying to negotiate aid access into Gaza.

He said a humanitarian cease-fire would go a long way "to easing the epic human suffering." His remarks echoed a call earlier Wednesday from U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who appealed for an "immediate humanitarian cease-fire" to facilitate the release of all hostages and to allow for unrestricted access to humanitarian aid to people in Gaza. The U.N. chief is due in Cairo on Thursday for more talks.

U.S. President Joe Biden said Wednesday in Tel Aviv that Israel has agreed to allow humanitarian assistance to begin flowing into Gaza from Egypt, with the caveat that it would be subject to inspections and that it should go to civilians and not Hamas.

Gaza has been under a complete siege by Israel since Hamas militants carried out a brutal and deadly terror attack inside Israel on October 7, killing 1,400 Israelis and abducting nearly 200 more to the Gaza Strip, which they control.

Israel declared war on Hamas, and at least 3,000 Palestinians have been killed since the Israeli military began striking Gaza 11 days ago. More than a million Palestinians who are without fuel, food, or clean water have been ordered to evacuate to the southern part of the Gaza Strip for their safety.

Aid agencies have about 3,000 tons of supplies ready to go across the Rafah border crossing between Egypt and southern Gaza as soon as it is safe to do so, but the United Nations did not have details on the deal struck by the U.S. and Israel, and no aid had moved on Wednesday.

Let diplomacy play out

As Biden spoke in Israel, the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block a humanitarian resolution put forward by Brazil. Twelve of the council's 15 members supported the text, which condemned the violence and called for the immediate release of all hostages and humanitarian pauses to allow the unhindered provision of relief to civilians in Gaza.

"We are on the ground, doing the hard work of diplomacy," U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. "And while we recognize Brazil's desire to move this text forward, we believe we need to let that diplomacy play out, especially when Secretary-General Guterres, President Biden, Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken, and regional actors are engaged in intensive dialogue on the very issues we are deliberating on today."

The council also discussed the deadly blast at the Al-Ahli Hospital in northern Gaza on Tuesday that saw hundreds of Palestinians killed and injured.

The Palestinians blame Israel's military, while Israel says it was a rocket misfired by Palestinian militants. The United Nations has called for a "fact-based" investigation to clarify the circumstances and responsibility for the explosion.

"Last night, President Biden directed his national security team to continue gathering information about what exactly happened," Thomas-Greenfield said. "While we continue to collect information, our current assessment, based on analysis of overhead imagery, intercepts and open-source information, is that Israel is not responsible for the explosion at the hospital in Gaza yesterday."

Israel's foreign minister said on the social media platform X ahead of the session that his envoy would present "concrete evidence" at the Security Council that militants carried out the attack. But Ambassador Gilad Erdan did not offer anything more than accusations at the meeting.

"Al-Ahli Hospital was hit by - and only by - a Palestinian Islamic Jihad rocket. What happened yesterday, including the tragic ... loss of life of civilians, was the sole fault of Hamas," Erdan told the council. "Israel has lots of footage and even an audio recording from Palestinian Islamic Jihad terrorists to prove this beyond a fraction of a doubt."

He sharply criticized the council for failing to condemn Hamas' terror attack and demanded the immediate return of Israeli hostages, saying the council is only "fixated" on humanitarian corridors for Gaza.

Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour demanded international support for a cease-fire.

"A political disaster is underway, and yet the Security Council of the United Nations is unable to say the only thing that truly matters: Stop the bloodshed," he said.

He warned that it is impossible to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and regional spillover of the conflict while Israel bombs and kills Palestinian civilians. He said the events of the last 10 days could shape what happens in the region for the next 10 years.

"Killing more Palestinians will never, never make Israel more secure," Mansour said. "Seventy-five years of experience should have been proof enough for those who want to learn."

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