newsIsrael at War

Security Council members agree Gazans are malnourished, disagree on blame 

“It lies with Hamas, because Hamas started this on Oct. 7 in its invasion,” said Robert Wood, U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations.

The U.N. Security Council Chamber, Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.
The U.N. Security Council Chamber, Nov. 16, 2023. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

While a senior U.N. aid official said on Tuesday that a quarter of the Gazan population is one step away from famine, Israel and the United States laid blame at the feet of the United Nations and Hamas, respectively.

The U.N. Security Council met on Tuesday afternoon to discuss food insecurity in Gaza. Much of the enclave’s agricultural and food production infrastructure has been severely impacted by the war between Israel and Hamas.

But Robert Wood, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters that ultimately, Hamas is responsible for the suffering in Gaza.

“It lies with Hamas because Hamas started this on Oct. 7 in its invasion,” said Wood. “Now we have to deal with the aftermath of that. And the important thing, as we’ve said over and over again, is getting assistance scaled up.”

But Ramesh Rajasingham, coordination director of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told the council that, “Very little will be possible while hostilities continue and while there is a risk that they will spread into the overcrowded areas in the south of Gaza. We therefore reiterate our call for a ceasefire.”

Israel, though, claimed the main barrier to scaled-up aid is the United Nations itself.

Jonathan Miller, Israel’s U.N. deputy ambassador, told the Security Council that his delegation is fully committed to ramping up the flow and delivery of humanitarian assistance in Gaza, including the easing of the entry of aid at the Kerem Shalom and Rafah crossings. 

He also said that the opening of additional border crossings is under discussion—something Washington is pushing for, according to Wood.

“Simply put, Israel must do more,” Wood told the council. “We continue to call on Israel to improve deconfliction procedures to ensure aid can move safely and securely.”

Miller pushed back on assertions by U.N. officials and some member states that Israel is choking off the food supply to Gazans, describing them as attempts to spread Hamas lies and shift the blame onto Israel for inefficient distribution methods. 

“Israel has been clear in its policies. There is absolutely no limit, and I repeat, there is no limit to the amount of humanitarian aid that can be sent to the civilian population of Gaza,” said Miller, adding that Israel approves most aid requests.

“These are the facts. No one can claim otherwise,” said Miller, pointing to some 20 bakeries in Gaza that he said are currently producing more than two million pita breads a day.

Miller was adamant that Israel is not the entity holding up the lines of trucks waiting at Gaza’s borders with Egypt and Israel, pointing to the U.N.’s inefficiencies in routing the deliveries and the diversion of aid into the hands of Hamas.

Vassily Nebenzia, Moscow’s U.N. envoy, told the Security Council that “it is high time” to impose sanctions on Israel for obstructing the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

Nebenzia also blasted a U.S.-circulated draft resolution calling for a ceasefire once a diplomatic agreement is reached, and in tandem with the release of hostages held in Gaza.

According to Nebenzia, the text provides “another ‘license to kill’ Palestinian civilians, which the United States intends to issue to Israel under UNSC authority.”

Wood countered that Russia is in a poor position to speak while its assault on Ukraine continues. Wood told reporters that the U.S. mission is holding discussions about the feedback it has received from council members on its draft resolution and that there is no time frame for bringing it up for a vote.

“We’re going to work to find some common language that everyone can support,” said Wood, who, with the U.S. mission, has vetoed three Security Council resolutions that would have imposed a ceasefire on Israel.

In response to a question from JNS, Slovenia’s U.N. ambassador said that while he would leave discussions on specific areas of disagreement for the council chambers, there are “a few areas” where he thinks the council will “need to have additional work on the technical” aspects of the U.S. draft resolution. 

“Of course, everything starts with a ceasefire. And, of course, we hope that the efforts on the ground will give results so that we have hostages released and we have a ceasefire,” said Boštjan Malovrh. “But no matter what happens on the ground, I think we need to try once again before the beginning of Ramadan to pass a resolution.”

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