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UN Security Council briefed on ‘catastrophic’ situation in Gaza

Bolivian envoy blames Israel for escalating humanitarian crisis; ambassador Danny Danon says world should hold Hamas accountable

Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations' offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Palestinian children hold bread patties during a protest against aid cuts, outside the United Nations' offices in Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip on January 28, 2018. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The United Nations’ Mideast envoy briefed the Security Council behind closed doors Wednesday at the request of Kuwait and Bolivia on what Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour called the “catastrophic” humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.

Bolivian Ambassador Sacha Llorentty Soliz said Nikolay Mladenov, the special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the council that drinking water is short, hospitals have been closed and “doctors stopped doing surgeries.” Mladenov also cited Gaza’s 47 percent unemployment rate, rising to 60 percent for young people, he said.

Llorentty Soliz said he highlighted that the situation in Gaza has been worsened by the US suspension of millions of dollars in funding for the UN agency for Palestinian refugees.

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestinian Refugees, known as UNRWA, was notified January 16 that the US was withholding $65 million of a planned $125 million installment. The US demanded a “fundamental re-examination” of the agency in addition to changes to its programs, which have been heavily criticized by Israel.

Llorentty Soliz said he told the council the primary responsibility for “the catastrophic situation in Gaza” rests with Israel.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon addresses the Security Council on January 25, 2018. (UN Photo/Evan Schneider)

Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, countered that the responsibility lies with the Islamic terror group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Hamas “has been holding the people of Gaza hostage in pursuit of its own nefarious goals, ignoring their most basic needs. Hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid that should go directly towards humanitarian purposes have been misappropriated towards terror,” Danon said in a statement to AP.

Mansour said Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will address the Security Council on February 20 on the situation of all Palestinians and will ask members to implement UN resolutions “to end the occupation that started in 1967, to allow for the independence of the state of Palestine, and therefore to save the two-state solution.”

Since the mid-1990s, several US mediated rounds of Israeli-Palestinian negotiations on setting up a Palestinian state alongside Israel have ended in failure. Though US President Donald Trump has signaled his desire to clinch the “ultimate deal,” the gap between the sides has widened in recent months following the US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

On December 6, Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel in a move hailed by Israeli leaders. The Palestinians, who want East Jerusalem as the capital of an independent Palestine, responded furiously. Abbas said Trump’s action ruled out the United States as a mediator for peace.

Danon said: “Instead of coming to the Security Council with the intent to incite against Israel, chairman Abbas should instead focus on disarming Hamas and putting an end to its regime of terror.”

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