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UN resolution on Gaza aid criticised as ‘insufficient’, ‘meaningless’

The United Nations Security Council passed a resolution on more aid for Gaza after several days of delays and weakened language that did not call for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, prompting a backlash with some describing it as “woefully insufficient” and “nearly meaningless”.

The resolution merely called for steps “to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities”, and was adopted on Friday with 13 votes in favour, none against, and the United States and Russia abstaining.

It also demanded that all parties “facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale” to Palestinian civilians.

It came after several postponements and difficult closed-door negotiations aimed at reaching a compromise in the language that would not be rejected by Washington, which vetoed another UNSC resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire earlier this month.

While UNSC resolutions are legally binding, Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher said that Israel and other countries have ignored them in the past.

“The circumstances and the consequences for people refusing to follow these Security Council resolutions seem to be much worse for some countries than others,” said Fisher, reporting from occupied East Jerusalem.

Palestinian officials have said that more than 20,000 people, about 70 percent of them children and women, have been killed in Israel’s land, air and sea offensive in the Gaza Strip since the start of the war on October 7.

While top UN officials and international aid agencies welcomed the call for more humanitarian assistance, they said the resolution does not go far enough with the majority of the enclave’s population of 2.3 million displaced, the imminent threat of famine and the spread of diseases.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a post on X that he hopes the resolution can improve the delivery of aid, “but a humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare”.

I hope that today’s Security Council resolution may help improve the delivery of much-needed aid but a humanitarian ceasefire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare.

— António Guterres (@antonioguterres) December 22, 2023

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO), Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, welcomed the resolution but reiterated the need for an “immediate ceasefire”.

Oxfam America’s Scott Paul stressed to Al Jazeera that aid to Gaza “can’t work while the bombs are falling and destroying houses, factories, farms, mills, [and] bakeries”.

“There’s no point in bringing in flour if you can’t bake bread with it. So the focus is entirely wrong,” Paul said.

REACTION: @Oxfam response to the UN Security Council’s passing of a watered-down resolution instead of calling for a ceasefire in #Gaza 👉https://t.co/iyxtVGElXK@UNSC_Reports pic.twitter.com/tXb11U3ajW

— Oxfam International Media Team (@newsfromoxfam) December 22, 2023

International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (Medecins Sans Frontieres, or MSF) said the measure fell “painfully short” of what is needed to address the dire humanitarian crisis.

“This resolution has been watered down to the point that its impact on the lives of civilians in Gaza will be nearly meaningless,” MSF-USA Executive Director Avril Benoit said in a statement.

“Anyone with a conscience agrees that a massive scale-up of the humanitarian response in Gaza must take place without delay.”

All efforts to address the “unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza must be welcomed, said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, but emphasised that “nothing short of an immediate ceasefire is enough”.

She said the resolution “was watered down significantly” and “insufficient” and added that it is “disgraceful that the US was able to stall and use the threat of its veto power to force the UN Security Council to weaken a much-needed call for an immediate end to attacks by all parties”.

Tamer Qarmout, assistant professor in public policy at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, told Al Jazeera that the vote showed how the UN has become “irrelevant” to resolving the war.

“When the UN was formed after World War II, it was supposed to tackle, to prevent similar conflicts such as the one happening in Gaza,” he said. “But it’s a political organisation that is controlled by powerful countries, especially those with veto power at the UN Security Council. So politics is there in every policy and little detail of the UN work.

“I don’t think this war can be resolved through UN channels … The UN is becoming irrelevant, marginalised, very politicised and its mandate is being questioned now,” he added.

Ardi Imseis, assistant professor of international law at Queen’s University in Canada, said the UNSC has yet again failed in its responsibility to safeguard international peace and security due to the actions of one member, the US, which is protecting its ally Israel.

Today, he told Al Jazeera, the two “find themselves out on a limb against the whole of the international community and all of it at the expense of the civilian population in the Gaza Strip – defenceless, starved, chased out of their homes, subject to a scorched earth tactic”.

Here are some other reactions to Friday’s vote:

Palestine

Palestine’s envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said in a speech following the vote that the resolution was a “step in the right direction” but that what was necessary was an immediate ceasefire.

He said Palestine supported the amendment to the resolution that was proposed by Russia, but was rejected by the US. An early draft had called for an immediate ceasefire, and the Russian amendment called for the “suspension” of fighting, which was also opposed.

“What we are dealing with is an attempt at the destruction of our people, and their displacement forever from their land. This is Israel’s goal, its true objective. No future for Palestinians in Palestine,” Mansour said.

Israel

Speaking during the council meeting, Israeli envoy Gilad Erdan said, “The UN’s focus only on aid mechanisms to Gaza is unnecessary and disconnected from reality” and it should focus on releasing captives held in Gaza.

Erdan thanked the US for its support during negotiations on the resolution, which according to him, kept in place Israel’s ability to continue inspecting aid that enters Gaza.

Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said in a social media post that Israel would continue its war in Gaza “until the release of all the hostages and the elimination of Hamas in the Gaza Strip”.

Hamas

The armed Palestinian group that rules Gaza did not appear to share the Palestinian Authority’s stance on the resolution, saying in a statement that it does not do enough to meet the needs of besieged Palestinians in the Strip.

“During the past five days, the US administration has worked hard to empty this resolution of its essence, and to issue it in this weak formula … it defies the will of the international community and the United Nations General Assembly in stopping Israel’s aggression against our defenceless Palestinian people,” a Hamas statement said.

United States

The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said Washington believes the resolution “calls for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered, and expanded humanitarian access and to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

She also said she would ignore Russia’s “rant” on the resolution and criticised Moscow for “creating conditions that they are complaining about now in their unprovoked war in Ukraine”.

Russia

Vassily Nebenzia, the Russian envoy, said the US moves on the resolution had resulted in a “toothless” and “neutered” draft.

Nebenzia particularly criticised the diluted language that called for the creation of “conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities”, saying it fell short of actually pausing fighting and would give Israel a “free hand” to continue its operations.

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