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Full Monday planned at UN with focus on US vetoes of ceasefire, UNRWA

JNS has learned the U.N.’s sexual violence in conflict envoy will address the media in her recent trip to Israel.

Pramila Patten, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, briefs the U.N. Security Council during a meeting on women, peace and security on July 14, 2023. Credit: Eskinder Debebe/U.N. Photo.
Pramila Patten, special representative of the U.N. secretary-general on sexual violence in conflict, briefs the U.N. Security Council during a meeting on women, peace and security on July 14, 2023. Credit: Eskinder Debebe/U.N. Photo.

The hyperfocus of the United Nations on the Israel-Hamas war will be on full display on Monday.

In the morning, a U.N. General Assembly session will address Washington’s Feb. 20 veto of an Algeria-drafted Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire.

That resolution garnered support from 13 of the 15 council members, with the United KIngdom abstaining. It marked the fourth time during the war that Washington wielded its veto power as a permanent council member to thwart an imposed ceasefire on Israel, including three resolutions and one Russian-submitted amendment.

Washington has insisted that diplomatic efforts between Israel and Hamas, mediated largely by Qatar and Egypt, be allowed to play out first. 

The United States is soliciting comments on its draft resolution, which among other things calls for the council to “unequivocally support international diplomatic efforts to expeditiously and urgently conclude” and to begin implementing a “temporary ceasefire in Gaza together with the release of all hostages as soon as possible, in order to help create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities and lasting peace.”

The General Assembly session on Monday is mandated by procedural changes last year that call for a meeting of the body shortly after any veto is issued in the Security Council. The country that issued the veto is called upon to explain its position.

On Monday afternoon, the General Assembly is slated to hold an urgent session on Israel’s effort to defund and disband UNRWA, the scandal-beset, Palestinian-only refugee and social services agency that is under fire for alleged substantial ties to Hamas. 

Sixteen donor countries suspended funding to UNRWA amid allegations that a dozen of its employees participated in Hamas’s Oct. 7 massacre, putting the perpetually financially challenged organization in greater peril.

Parallel reviews of the agency are taking place, with an internal U.N. investigation into the allegations of staff participation on Oct. 7, and a separate, larger review of UNRWA’s neutrality, or lack thereof, which critics expect to whitewash the organization’s overtly political nature.

Philippe Lazzarini, UNRWA commissioner-general, is expected to brief the General Assembly in person on Monday in New York.

The Arab Group of Nations, which called for the UNRWA session, is expected to use Monday’s events to push its agenda, per a recent press release from that 20-member alliance.

The group will focus upcoming efforts at the United Nations on “demanding that Israel be punished for its crimes and violations of international law,” it stated, “by freezing its membership in the General Assembly and demanding a stop to supplying it with weapons and ammunition.”

Sources told JNS that the Arab Group, which includes the Palestinian Authority, intends to restart a campaign for the Palestinian Authority, which has non-member status, to become a full U.N. member.

JNS has learned that Pramila Patten, U.N. envoy on sexual violence in conflict, will also hold a press briefing on Monday. 

Patten recently made an eight-day visit to Israel to gather testimony and evidence detailing Hamas’s use of sexual violence on Oct. 7.

The United Nations had come under heavy fire for the refusal of its various agencies for months to acknowledge, let alone condemn, Hamas’s documented rapes and sexual assaults on Oct. 7.

Accompanied in Israel by legal and medical experts, Patten met with doctors and psychiatrists from the health ministry and professionals from the social affairs ministry in the field of sexual victims. She also toured Kibbutz Be’eri, the site of 130 murders on Oct. 7, where she viewed images of and heard testimonies about the sexual abuse and mutilation that occurred there.

“I saw things here that I have not seen anywhere in the world,” Patten said during her visit. “The world outside cannot understand the magnitude of the event. I myself also internalized the magnitude of the event just by being here myself.”

“Only when I am here do I understand the magnitude of the pain, the insult and the anger of Israel regarding how the world did not sufficiently understand and treat the atrocities that happened to you,” she added.

It is unclear whether Patten will issue a full report about her visit on Monday or will update the press on her findings.

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