Tuesday, May 21, 2024

For the second day in a row, the United Nations Security Council delayed a vote on a resolution calling for Israel and Hamas to provide greater access for more humanitarian aid, and pauses in the fighting to make that possible, as diplomats wrestled with the United States on what it might allow to pass. The announcement of a delay on Tuesday followed hours of intense, closed-door negotiations and a Security Council session in which diplomats discussed the war in Gaza. It also followed days of negotiations since Friday, when the United Arab Emirates, which put forth the resolution, circulated the text among members. The draft resolution called for suspending the fighting long enough to allow the safe delivery of humanitarian relief to Gaza via land, air and sea and the immediate release of hostages held by Hamas. It also called for the establishment of a United Nations monitoring system to screen the aid deliveries. The proposed monitoring of aid by the U.N. has turned out to be the major obstacle for the United States, and the decision has now been referred to the White House, resulting in the multiple delays on Tuesday, according to several Security Council diplomats, who spoke on the condition that they not be named because they were not authorized to speak publicly. The diplomats said Israel was pressuring the United States not to accept putting the U.N. in charge of inspecting aid deliveries to Gaza, because it would effectively leave Israel with no role in screening them. According to the Security Council diplomats, if a concession on this issue is not reached before a vote is held on Wednesday, the United States could veto the resolution. Currently, the 100 or so trucks that enter Gaza each day travel from Egypt to Israel for inspection, then return to Egypt and snake their way to the Rafah border — a process that many diplomats and U.N. officials said was untenable and was slowing down the delivery of much-needed aid. A senior U.S. official said Washington was still poring over the text of the resolution late Tuesday night as negotiations continued. The official confirmed that the U.N. inspections were among the points of contention. Other changes sought by the United States include wording about the fighting — changing “cessation” of hostilities to “pauses,” for example. American diplomats have opposed any language implying that Israel must end the war, because they say that would allow Hamas to regroup. “We are continuing to negotiate in earnest, we have long advocated for a massive scaling-up of humanitarian aid into Gaza, as our actions on the ground have shown,” said Nate Evans, the spokesman for the U.S. mission to the U.N. He added that American diplomacy had helped open the Kerem Shalom crossing for aid deliveries from Israel since Sunday. Much of the discussion around the resolution has focused on the need for the council to act, as dire conditions get even worse for more than two million Palestinian civilians in Gaza. Tor Wennesland, the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, told the council on Tuesday that there was a “human catastrophe on the ground.” The United States has been the only member of the Security Council to block demands for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, vetoing two such resolutions. At the General Assembly last week, when an overwhelming majority of 153 countries voted in favor of a cease-fire, the United States was among 10 countries to vote against the measure. Pressure has been building on the Biden administration, internationally and domestically, to do more to help Palestinian civilians and to help end the war. A New York Times/Siena College poll published on Tuesday found that 57 percent of Americans disapproved of the Biden administration’s handling of the war. The negotiations before the latest vote focused on finding a middle ground that would have a meaningful effect in Gaza, diplomats said. During a visit last week to the Rafah border crossing between Gaza and Egypt, heads of U.N. humanitarian agencies and local aid agencies in both places told council members that alleviating Gazans’ suffering would be impossible without significantly more aid, the opening of more routes into the enclave and a halt to the fighting. The United Arab Emirates, the only Arab member of the Council, put forth the resolution after the text was modified in the negotiations. Besides calling for a U.N. monitoring system for aid, the resolution also says that commercial goods must be allowed into Gaza, on the grounds that humanitarian aid alone will be insufficient after two months of intense fighting, which has wiped out much of the enclave’s infrastructure. As many as 200 trucks of aid have been entering Gaza each day from the Rafah crossing, at Gaza’s southern border with Egypt. On Sunday, Israel opened the Kerem Shalom crossing, which lies to the east of the Rafah crossing, allowing aid trucks to enter Gaza from Israel for the first time since the start of the war in October. The U.N. World Food Program said earlier this month that nearly 60 percent of people in Gaza were on the verge of starvation, and U.N. officials have warned that the catastrophic situation was getting worse and could have irreversible consequences.
More than 1.2 million people are displaced and sheltering in close quarters without proper hygiene and clean water, the officials say, and disease is spreading fast. Medical centers throughout the territory have been attacked or shut down, or are struggling with lack of supplies and a reliable source of electricity. The U.N. has reported groups of people attacking its aid trucks to find food and water.
Katie Rogers contributed reporting from Washington.

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