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Washington blocks UNSC from blaming Israel for deaths during aid delivery

“We don’t have all the facts on the ground,” the U.S. envoy said. That’s the problem.”

Robert Wood, deputy permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, briefs reporters after the closed Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on Oct. 8, 2023. Credit: Paulo Filgueiras/U.N. Photo.
Robert Wood, deputy permanent U.S. representative to the United Nations, briefs reporters after the closed Security Council meeting on the situation in the Middle East on Oct. 8, 2023. Credit: Paulo Filgueiras/U.N. Photo.

Washington blocked a statement from the U.N. Security Council which would have blamed Israeli forces for deaths and injuries early Thursday morning during a chaotic attempt to deliver humanitarian aid near Gaza City.

The statement called for council members to “express deep concern on reports stating that over 100 individuals have lost their lives, with approximately 750 others sustaining injuries due to opening fire by Israeli forces” during the incident.

“We don’t have all the facts on the ground. That’s the problem,” Robert Wood, Washington’s U.N. deputy envoy, said after closed consultations by the 15-member council late Thursday afternoon.

The statement required unanimous consensus to pass.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian Authority’s U.N. envoy, told reporters that the other 14 council members backed the statement, which Algeria drafted. He accused Israel of “intentionally targeting and killing” Gazans.

Mansour said he met Thursday morning with Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, and “implored her that the Security Council has to produce a product condemning this killing and to go after those responsible for this massacre.”

Asked if Thomas-Greenfield was open to a ceasefire, which Washington has vetoed three times, Mansour said, “I think her heart is in the right place, but she is an official of an administration that receives instructions from Washington, D.C.”

Wood said the United States is still trying to gather all the facts about what happened, amid contradictory reports. The Israel Defense Forces says Gazans rushing the humanitarian convoy trampled each other and convoy vehicles, attempting to escape, ran over others.

The IDF said 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 shows a large rush of Gazans swarming the convoy, which was attempting to deliver needed aid under challenging circumstances.

The United Nations said it was not involved in the delivery effort, as conditions have become too dangerous for it to operate there. It is unclear which countries, if any, besides Israel were involved in Thursday’s operation.

António Guterres, the U.N. secretary-general, said the situation “would require an effective independent investigation to detect how it was possible and those responsible for it.”

The Security Council’s proposed statement stresses the need to take all measures necessary to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, comply with international law and enable the immediate, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid.

It also urged Israel to keep border crossings open for aid delivery, facilitate the opening of more crossings and support the scaling up of aid delivery.

Wood said that council members are working “to see if we can find some language that everyone can agree on.”

Matthew Miller, the U.S. State Department spokesman, opened the department’s press briefing on Thursday “addressing the tragic incident in northern Gaza today, where more than 100 Palestinians are reported to have been killed and many more injured.”

“When it comes to establishing facts on the ground, we are urgently seeking additional information on exactly what took place,” he said. “We have been in touch with the Israeli government since early this morning and understand that an investigation is underway. We will be monitoring that investigation closely and pressing for answers.”

Miller added that there are “obviously, conflicting reports.”

“We’ve seen the reports from the government of Israel. We’ve seen accounts from local Palestinians who were on the scene. We don’t have ground truth on what happened,” he said. “We know what we’ve seen people say publicly, and we’re seeking more information and looking for the results of the investigation.”

“I don’t want to draw any conclusions about what appears happened, because I think it’s too early to say,” he added. “Oftentimes, the early accounts in these situations have turned out to be incorrect.”

Speaking before the U.N. Security Council on Feb. 27, Wood said, “Our hearts go out to the thousands of families in Gaza who cannot meet their basic needs.”

“Simply put, Israel must do more,” he said.

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