UPDATING LIVE: UN General Assembly resumes emergency session on Gaza crisis

UPDATING LIVE: UN General Assembly resumes emergency session on Gaza crisis

The UN General Assembly is set to convene at 3 PM Tuesday New York time, to resume its Emergency Special Session on the decades long Israel-Palestine conflict, as the crisis in Gaza shows no signs of abating and the Security Council remains deadlocked on further action. The world body is due to vote on a draft resolution demanding an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. Follow developments HERE on our live page...

The Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly is scheduled to start at 3 PM (New York time).

3:18 PM

Assembly President Francis underscored the urgency to bring to an end the suffering of innocent civilians.

He reiterated the demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“We have one singular priority – only one – to save lives,” he stressed. 

"Stop this violence now", he said. 

3:10 PM

Declaring the 10th Emergency Special Session open once more, he highlighted the new request to meet once again in light of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Mr. Francis opened his statement, saying there was now "an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems and profound disrespect for international law and international humanitarian law" being shown by combatants.

Even war has rules and we must not deviate from core principles and values, he said.

Almost 70 per cent of the dead are women and children, he said. 

He said the world was witnessing an "unprecedented collapse" of a humanitarian system "in real time". The UN must bring an immediate end to the suffering of civilians, he insisted. 

It is high time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, he said. 

3:07 PM

The President of the General Assembly Dennis Francis is in his seat just above the iconic podium and has just gavelled the meeting to order.

3:05 PM

The UN General Assembly Hall is filling up with delegates, eagerly anticipating this latest emergency meeting of the world body in New York on the Gaza crisis.

1:40 PM

So far there are 21 co-sponsors of the resolution and two amendments tabled.

Some 79 speakers are scheduled to address the Assembly so far and the session is expected to continue beyond this evening.

The General Assembly meeting comes on the heels of the latest Security Council meeting on Friday which failed to adopt a similar resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and unconditional release of hostages as well as humanitarian access.

That resolution was not adopted owing to a negative vote by a permanent member – United States, 13 Council members voted in favour and the United Kingdom abstained.

The Security Council’s emergency meeting was convened followed the Secretary-General’s invocation of Article 99 of the UN Charter – one of the most powerful tools at his disposal – urging the body to help end carnage in the war-battered enclave.

Check out our explainer on what a UN General Assembly emergency special session is and why it matters

The draft resolution is due to be voted on by the 193-member body, as well as amendments proposed by Austria and the US, respectively.

According to latest information, Egypt is slated to introduce the draft, which has been sponsored by Algeria, Bahrain, Comoros, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates, Yemen, and State of Palestine.

The draft resolution

The draft resolution in front of the Assembly this afternoon has some notable differences from the one vetoed by the US in the Council on Friday.

The draft takes note of a 7 December letter from the UNRWA Commissioner General addressed to the President of the General Assembly. In that letter, Philippe Lazzarini warned that the agency’s ability to implement its mandate in Gaza is “severely limited” and that the primary platform for humanitarian assistance to over 2.2 million people in the enclave is “on the verge of collapse”.

The draft also refers to previous resolutions regarding the Question of Palestine as well as the relevant Security Council resolutions on the topic.

It also authorizes the President of the General Assembly to resume the emergency special session, after its temporary adjournment at the end of the latest deliberations.

The key points in common, include an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; demanding that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably regarding protection of civilians; and a demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.

Internally displaced people rest at a camp near the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.
© UNFPA/Bisan Ouda
Internally displaced people rest at a camp near the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.

The amendments

Austria has proposed an amendment, that inserts the phrase, “held by Hamas and other groups” in relation to the hostages still being held by Palestinian militants in Gaza, as well as inserting the word “immediate” in reference to ensuring humanitarian access.

The US amendment reflects its continued point of contention regarding Hamas, which it designates as a terrorist group, calling for wording to be inserted “unequivocally” rejecting and condemning “the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages” as the first operative paragraph.

Not binding, but influential

Resolutions by the General Assembly, though not legally binding on nations, do carry immense moral weight, representing the collective resolve of the UN membership on a matter of grave importance.

These resolutions also lead to key legal frameworks and standards, such as the over 60 human rights instruments underpinning the international rights regime, which emanate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948, and by itself is not binding.

Emergency session

General Assembly adopts resolution on Protection of Civilians and Upholding Legal and Humanitarian Obligations in Gaza.
UN Photo/Evan Schneider
General Assembly adopts resolution on Protection of Civilians and Upholding Legal and Humanitarian Obligations in Gaza.

The session today is a continuation of the tenth emergency special session of the General Assembly that last met on 26 October amid the present crisis in Gaza, during which it adopted a resolution on the crisis, calling for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”

Check out our coverage here

At the end of that meeting, the Assembly decided to adjourn the session temporarily and to authorize the President of the General Assembly to resume its meeting upon request from Member States.

The emergency special session is convened pursuant to the Assembly’s 1950 landmark “Uniting for Peace” resolution, under which the body can convene an “emergency special session” within 24 hours, should the Security Council “fail to exercise its primary responsibility” for the maintenance of international peace and security.

The session convened for the first time in April 1997, following a request from Qatar. It followed a series of Security Council and General Assembly meetings regarding the Israeli decision to build a large housing project in an area of East Jerusalem.

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