At UN, Palestinians Call for Halt to Israeli Offensive, World Powers Mull Options
11:10 JST, October 14, 2023
UNITED NATIONS, Oct 13 (Reuters) – The Palestinian United Nations envoy appealed to U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Friday to do more to stop a “crime against humanity” by Israel, which has warned nearly half of the population of the Gaza Strip to relocate as it plans an assault.
“He has to do more. Whatever was done is not sufficient. We need all of us to do more to stop this crime against humanity,” Palestinian U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour told reporters before a meeting of Arab Group ambassadors at the United Nations.
Countries urged Israel on Friday to hold off attacking northern Gaza, where more than a million civilians largely defied Israel’s order to evacuate before it goes after Hamas militants who slaughtered Israeli civilians last weekend.
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said on Friday that Israel’s warning to residents in northern Gaza was “to temporarily move south … to mitigate civilian harm.” He was speaking at an event Israel hosted at the U.N. with families of Israelis kidnapped by Hamas and taken to Gaza in the attack.
Guterres briefed the 15-member U.N. Security Council behind closed doors on Friday.
“The situation in Gaza has reached a dangerous new low,” he told reporters on his way to the briefing, adding that he was in constant contact with the leaders across the region to try and “prevent further dangerous escalation in the West Bank or elsewhere in the region, especially in southern Lebanon.”
Guterres reminded the parties: “Even wars have rules … Civilians must be protected and also never used as shields.”
During the meeting, Russia proposed a draft resolution for the Security Council that calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and condemns violence against civilians and all acts of terrorism, according to a draft text seen by Reuters.
“Russia cannot accept the complete inaction and lack of any reaction on the part of the UNSC,” Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said after the meeting, adding that Russia was also ready to mediate between Israel and the Palestinians.
It was not immediately clear when or if Russia would put the draft resolution to a vote. The United States has traditionally shielded its ally Israel from any Security Council action. It holds a veto along with Britain, France, China or Russia.
Brazil proposed its own draft resolution late on Friday, seen by Reuters, which is essentially a more detailed version of Russia’s text. It specifically condemns “the terrorist attacks by Hamas” and “urges the Israeli authorities to immediately rescind its order” for civilians to evacuate northern Gaza.
When asked about Russia’s draft, British U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward said: “For something that is as important as this, we’ve already seen how much human life has been destroyed, we need time for consultation, serious consultation.”
China’s U.N. Ambassador Zhang Jun said the council should “have a strong voice on this really alarming situation and also take meaningful action.”
The United Nations said Israel’s military informed it late on Thursday that 1.1 million Palestinians in Gaza should move to the enclave’s south within 24 hours, in what Palestinians fear could be a precursor to a ground offensive.
“Moving more than one million people across a densely populated war zone to a place with no food, water, or accommodation, when the entire territory is under siege, is extremely dangerous – and in some cases, simply not possible,” Guterres said.
Erdan criticized the U.N. response, saying Israel should be praised for its advance warning to Gaza residents.
He said the United Nations and the Security Council were “facing one of their most pivotal moments,” adding: “Will they remain true to their founding values? Or will they empower genocidal terrorists? This shouldn’t be a question.”
Hamas carried out their deadliest attack in Israel’s history on Saturday, killing more than 1,300 people and taking scores of hostages to Gaza. Israel has responded with the most intensive air strikes of its 75-year conflict with the Palestinians. Gaza authorities said 1,799 people have been killed.
“All hostages in Gaza must be released immediately. It is imperative that all parties – and those with influence over them – do everything possible to achieve these steps,” Guterres said.
The Arab Group ambassadors called for a ceasefire, humanitarian aid access to Gaza and a stop to any mass displacement of Palestinians. Mansour said there was no safe place in Gaza.
“We need to stop this war immediately. We need to send convoys of food and medicine to help the people there and we need to stop this ethnic cleansing from taking place,” he said.
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