UN taps Gaza humanitarian director after UNSC resolution calling for aid ‘at scale’

Outgoing Dutch minister Sigrid Kaag, who is married to senior PLO official, to manage relief entering Gaza starting January 8; Kaag cast Netanyahu as ‘racist’ in 1996 interview

Then-Dutch finance minister Sigrid Kaag answers journalists at the EU headquarters in Brussels on February 13, 2023. (John Thys/AFP, File)
Then-Dutch finance minister Sigrid Kaag answers journalists at the EU headquarters in Brussels on February 13, 2023. (John Thys/AFP, File)

The United Nations named an outgoing Dutch minister, who is married to a senior PLO member, as its humanitarian coordinator for Gaza on Tuesday following last week’s watered-down Security Council resolution, which called for aid to be delivered to the Strip “at scale.”

Sigrid Kaag’s appointment comes as the people of Gaza face a dire humanitarian emergency, with aid slowed to a trickle during the ongoing war between Israel and the Hamas terror group in the densely populated coastal enclave.

In a statement introducing Kaag, the UN said that beginning January 8, she will “facilitate, coordinate, monitor, and verify humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza.”

“She will also establish a United Nations mechanism to accelerate humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza through States which are not party to the conflict,” the statement added.

War broke out between Israel and Hamas after the terror group’s October 7 massacres, which saw some 3,000 terrorists burst across the border, killing approximately 1,200 people and seizing more than 240 hostages of all ages — mostly civilians — amid horrific acts of brutality.

In response, Israel launched a wide-scale military campaign in Gaza, which the Hamas-run health ministry says has killed over 20,000 people, mainly civilians. Those figures cannot be independently verified and include both civilians and Hamas combatants.

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

The wife of PLO politician Anis al-Qaq, a deputy minister under Yasser Arafat in the 1990s and a former Palestinian Authority ambassador to Switzerland, Kaag has worked for the United Nations UNRWA agency for relief for Palestinians.

The L’Orient-Le Jour French newspaper reported in 2015 that the couple has a portrait of Arafat hanging in their dining room.

In an interview from 1996, Kaag said that Benjamin Netanyahu, who was that year elected prime minister for the first time, does not represent peace-seeking Israelis.

She also said the prime minister’s “way is of soundbites with racist, demagogic overtones about the Palestinian peace partner, his Arab peace partner, who are being sidelined.”

In May 2021, shortly after the end of a previous round of fighting between Israel and Hamas, Dutch media reported a clash between Kaag and Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte over the latter’s pro-Israel stance.

In a statement, the US State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington welcomed the appointment and looked forward “to coordinating closely with Ms. Kaag and the UN Office for Project Services on efforts to accelerate and streamline the delivery of live-saving humanitarian relief to Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”

“The United States has provided more than $110 million in humanitarian assistance for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank since October 7,” it added.

Last week’s UN Security Council resolution called for the “safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale” — but stopped short of calling for an immediate end to fighting.

The Security Council adopted the resolution on Gaza on Friday after days of delays and diplomatic wrangling. A draft version of the resolution had said that the aid mechanism to accelerate the delivery of relief would be “exclusively” under UN control. But the final version, passed after Washington abstained, now states it would be managed in consultation with “all relevant parties” — meaning Israel would retain operational oversight of aid deliveries.

Last week, President Isaac Herzog charged that the UN has been failing to keep up with the amount of aid Israel is inspecting, and that the world body is to blame for the little amount of aid entering the Strip even after Israel opened its Kerem Shalom crossing to ease the bottleneck.

Israel has said that it has been inspecting hundreds of trucks per day at its Kerem Shalom and Nitzana crossings and that many of the trucks subsequently remain outside Gaza. The UN and Egypt have argued that Israel’s military campaign has made it too dangerous to regularly deliver aid inside and through Gaza.

Kaag most recently served as the Netherlands’ deputy prime minister and finance minister. She has previously held a number of senior UN jobs including its special coordinator for Lebanon and the Joint Organization for Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations Mission in Syria.

Jacob Magid and JTA contributed to this report.

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