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‘Deep concern’ from UN Security Council about deaths amid aid delivery

The compromise statement noted IDF presence during the incident but didn’t assign blame directly or call for a ceasefire.

A U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Dec. 21, 2021. Photo by Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.
A U.N. Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East, Dec. 21, 2021. Photo by Manuel Elías/U.N. Photo.

The U.N. Security Council adopted a press statement on Saturday evening, expressing “deep concern” about “reports stating that over 100 individuals lost their lives with several hundred others sustaining injuries, including people with gunshot wounds.”

The statement centered on a Thursday incident, during which dozens of people were killed and many injured during an attempt to deliver humanitarian aid in Gaza. Many blamed Israel. The Israel Defense Forces said that it opened fire after issuing a warning when Gazans approached a nearby military checkpoint. Israeli officials said soldiers aimed for the lower body of those who continued to approach the checkpoint.

Drone footage of the incident showed a large rush of Gazans swarming the convoy, which was attempting to deliver needed aid under challenging circumstances.

The Saturday statement said the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs observed “an incident involving Israeli forces at a large gathering surrounding a humanitarian assistance convoy southwest of Gaza City.”

“The council members take note that an Israeli investigation is underway,” it stated.

Washington had blocked a previous Security Council statement that blamed the IDF explicitly. Saturday’s Algeria-drafted text passed with softer language.

The council members “reaffirm that all parties to conflicts must comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law, as applicable,” per the statement. “They call for all parties to refrain from depriving the civilian population in the Gaza Strip of basic services and humanitarian assistance indispensable to their survival, consistent with international humanitarian law.”

It concluded by singling Israel out again.

“The council members urge Israel to keep border crossings open for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, to facilitate the opening of additional crossings to meet humanitarian needs at scale, and to support the rapid and safe delivery of relief items to people in all of the Gaza Strip,” it stated.

Russia had proposed additional language calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Washington had vetoed such language contained in three separate Security Council resolutions and one amendment. 

Ultimately, the Russian proposal was left out of Saturday’s statement.

“We regret that the U.N. Security Council once again failed to reflect in its products a clear call for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza,” Dmitry Polyanskiy, Russia’s deputy U.N. ambassador, wrote after the passage on Saturday of the statement.

“Nevertheless, we decided not break silence as the first paragraph of the draft statement has become more balanced and precise, reflecting the testimonies of U.N. OCHA officials from Gaza City,” the Moscow diplomat said. 

“At the same time, we consider the UNSC press statement adopted today as an interim product of the Security Council, and strongly believe that the council is obliged to return to drafting a resolution with a demand for an immediate ceasefire,” he added.

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