UN aid coordinator requested, but IDF oversight to remain

Security Council passes resolution calling for steps to immediately increase Gaza aid

Text adopted calls to create conditions for a ‘sustainable cessation of hostilities,’ stopping short of demand for immediate ceasefire due to US opposition

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US bureau chief

Representatives of member countries vote on a resolution regarding Gaza during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023. (AP/Yuki Iwamura)
Representatives of member countries vote on a resolution regarding Gaza during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023. (AP/Yuki Iwamura)

The United Nations Security Council voted Friday to pass a resolution that calls to immediately speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza while also “creating the conditions” for an end to the Israel-Hamas war.

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.”

This is the first time since the war that the council has passed a resolution including language regarding a “cessation of hostilities,” but it still stops short of demanding an immediate and permanent ceasefire, which both the US and Israel oppose. (Full resolution text here.)

The resolution reaffirms the one approved last month, which called for temporary pauses in the fighting, and it again demands the release of all hostages held by Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza.

The resolution introduced by the United Arab Emirates was adopted with 13 votes in favor and zero against. Rivals US and Russia abstained, with the former explaining that the draft failed to condemn Hamas, while the latter argued that it failed to call for an immediate ceasefire.

Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya sought to have an amendment added at the last minute that called for “an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” dropping the phrase about “creating conditions” toward that end. This was the language used in the original draft of the resolution submitted on Monday.

The US opposed the language then, and US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield exercised her veto power to block it from passing on Friday. As she raised her hand to vote, a bracelet given to her by the daughter of one of the Israeli hostages in Gaza was seen on her wrist.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield raises her hand to vote during the Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Friday, Dec. 22, 2023.  After many delays, the UN Security Council adopted a watered-down resolution Friday calling for immediately speeding up aid deliveries to civilians in Gaza but without the original call for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Friday’s vote came after days of intense negotiations and delays required to get the US on board with the initiative. United Arab Emirates Ambassador to the UN Lana Nusseibeh acknowledged that the resolution wasn’t ideal as far as Abu Dhabi is concerned, given that it believes that only an immediate ceasefire will help ensure the surge in humanitarian aid that the initiative seeks.

However, the Emirati envoy said the task of council members is to grapple with the world as it is, and she thanked the US for negotiating in good faith.

Security Council resolutions are legally binding, but in practice, many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, though they are a significant barometer of world opinion. The General Assembly voted for a ceasefire 10 days ago.

Friday’s resolution also requests the appointment of a UN humanitarian coordinator to oversee and verify third-country aid to Gaza.

An earlier text had said that the aid mechanism to accelerate the delivery of relief would be “exclusively” under UN control. The US and Israel opposed this text, with the latter insisting that Jerusalem must maintain oversight over aid to prevent Hamas smuggling in weaponry and the former arguing that such a mechanism could slow down the delivery of assistance.

The adopted resolution states that aid would be managed in consultation with “all relevant parties” — meaning Israel will retain operational oversight of aid deliveries.

Israeli soldiers inspect humanitarian aid trucks arriving from Egypt on the Israeli side of the Kerem Shalom border crossing with the southern Gaza Strip, on December 22, 2023, amid the ongoing war between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Alberto Pizzoli/AFP)

Israel has argued that the limited amount of aid entering Gaza has been the fault of UN facilitators, stressing that it has inspected three times the amount of aid than has been entering Gaza. UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres insisted in a Friday statement on the vote that Israel’s offensive was the “real problem… creating massive obstacles” to aid shipments, as he reiterated his call for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

Thomas-Greenfield called Friday’s resolution “a strong step forward,” saying “it provided a glimmer of hope among a sea of suffering.”

Still, she lamented the resolution’s failure to denounce Hamas over the October 7 atrocities.

Graphic content: The bodies of Israeli civilians killed by Hamas terrorists lie covered in the southern city of Sderot on October 7, 2023, after an unprecedented infiltration into Israel by hundreds of gunmen from the terrorist organization from Gaza. (Oren ZIV / AFP)

“Why is it so hard to condemn Hamas for slaughtering young people at a concert, for butchering families alive, for the reports of widespread sexual violence? I will never understand why some council members have remained silent in the face of such evil,” she said in her remarks after the vote.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour called the resolution “a step in the right direction” but said it had to be accompanied by an “immediate ceasefire.”

Mansour gave an emotional speech in which he choked up while telling the story of Dunya, a 12-year-old girl who lost her parents and two siblings and one of her legs in what the envoy said was an IDF shelling of their home.

“Dunya said that while she will never forget her loved ones, she has to continue living and wanted to become a doctor… but Dunya did not live to become a doctor… She was killed a few days later in the strike on the maternity ward of the Nasser Hospital complex” in Khan Younis.

The IDF says it does not target civilians or hospitals, which Hamas has been using as command centers. It has not offered specific comment on the incident at the Nasser Hospital.

File: Palestinians walk past the buildings destroyed in an Israeli strike in the central Gaza Strip, at the main road in Bureij camp, Nov. 14, 2023. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Speaking after Mansour was Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Miller, sitting in for Ambassador Gilad Erdan.

He began by noting that it took the Security Council only one day to condemn a terror attack in Tehran against Iranian police. However, the same body has still failed to issue any condemnation of Hamas’s terror onslaught on October 7, in which some 1,200 Israelis were massacred and roughly 240 were taken hostage into Gaza.

Israel has since vowed to topple Hamas, launching a major aerial offensive followed by an ongoing ground campaign.

Hamas’s media office in the Gaza Strip said Friday that the death toll in Gaza since the start of the war had crossed 20,000. The number cannot be independently confirmed, and it doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. Hamas’s toll also includes those killed as rockets fired by terrorists fall short and land in the Gaza Strip. Israel says it has killed more than 8,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Palestinian Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour speaks during the Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, December 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

“Israel not only has a right but an obligation to guarantee its security. This is why our mission to eliminate Hamas’s capabilities has not changed, and this is why security inspections of aid will not change. Israel will not permit the regrouping and rearming of Hamas, as the trustees of October 7 can never be allowed to repeat themselves,” Miller said.

“In order to promote security, this council should first recognize Hamas’s terror regime and then focus on the elimination of its threats. It should be focused on freeing the hostages. It should be focused on preventing Hamas from exploiting aid. It should be focused on ensuring Hamas can no longer expand its terror infrastructure,” Miller said.

He noted that Israel is still facilitating the entry of hundreds of trucks a day and that it reopened its Kerem Shalom Crossing last week to allow aid to enter Gaza directly from Israel for the first time since the war’s outbreak.

The number of aid trucks has continued to lag behind the pre-war average of 500 per day, with just 100 trucks entering through Kerem Shalom and Egypt’s Rafah Crossing on Thursday, according to the UN.

Israel’s Deputy Ambassador to the UN Jonathan Miller addresses the Security Council on December 22, 2023. (Screen capture/UN TV)

After the vote, Foreign Minister Eli Cohen issued a statement declaring that “Israel will continue to inspect, for security reasons, all humanitarian assistance to Gaza.”

In a separate statement, Erdan thanked the US for “standing on Israel’s side throughout the negotiations” and “maintaining defined red lines.”

“The decision maintains Israel’s security authority to supervise and inspect the aid that enters Gaza,” Erdan said, while blasting the resolution for again failing to condemn Hamas.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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