UPDATING LIVE: Crisis in the Middle East

UPDATING LIVE: Crisis in the Middle East

It’s another day of intense activity across the UN as the crisis in the Middle East stemming from the war in Gaza continues, both in the region and at UN Headquarters in New York. The Security Council is due to meet at the top of the hour to review the world court’s provisional ruling on genocide allegations, and the UN chief will brief the top UN committee on Palestinian rights with the latest on the struggle to stop the fighting and provide lifesaving humanitarian relief in Gaza. Follow lives updates here…

11:10 AM

Misery and suffering in Gaza getting worse each day: UN relief chief

UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said fierce fighting was continuing around the hospitals in Khan Younis, threatening the wellbeing of thousands, and driving thousands more south to Rafah.

“Each day that passes only of course deepens the misery and suffering of people in Gaza and indeed in Israel”

The number of people killed in Gaza has reportedly surpassed 26,000, and those injured reportedly more than 65,000, according to Gaza’s Ministry of Health. The vast majority are women and children, he said.

Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefs on the humanitarian situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
UN Photo
Martin Griffiths, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, briefs on the humanitarian situation in Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

He said more than 60 per cent of housing units have been destroyed or damaged, with some 75 per cent of the total population of Gaza displaced.

"Clean water is almost completely inaccessible".

Any persons displaced from Gaza must be guaranteed the right to voluntarily return, as international law demands, he said.

‘Grossly inadequate’ access to those in need

At the same time, the ability of the humanitarian community to reach the people of Gaza with relief remains “grossly inadequate”.

Despite the hazardous conditions on the ground, aid efforts are supporting the remaining bakeries, distributing food items, water, hygiene kits and cleaning kits, tents, tarpaulin sheets, and blankets, delivering medicines and medical supplies and helping to relocate patients.

Urgent steps must be taken to ensure rapid unimpeded access, he said, calling for improved security assurances, establishing a predictable flow of supplies.

Urgent steps must be taken to ensure rapid unimpeded access, he said, calling for improved security assurances, establishing a predictable flow of supplies and access to civilians in need across the enclave.

UNRWA is the ‘beating heart’ in Gaza aid effort

“The beating heart of all this is UNRWA,” even as its staff are killed, injured and displaced, he said.

Appalled that some UNRWA employees were allegedly involved in the attacks in Israel on 7 October, he said the agency has taken swift action, and an investigation is underway.

But, UNRWA’s lifesaving services to over three-quarters of Gaza’s residents should not be jeopardized by the alleged actions of a few individuals, he said.

“To put it bluntly and simply: our humanitarian response for the Occupied Palestinian Territory is completely dependent on UNRWA being adequately funded and operational," he said, emphasizing the agency’s “indispensable role” in terms of distribution, warehousing, logistics and human resources, with thousands of staff members responding to the current crisis.

“Decisions to withhold funds from UNRWA must be revoked,” he said.

Reiterating his call for a ceasefire and his demand for compliance with international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians and the infrastructure they depend on, he also called for the immediate release of all hostages.

“I urge this Council to do everything in its power to bring this tragedy to an end,” he said.

11:05 AM

The Security Council has just been called to order. The meeting was called by new member Algeria, to discuss the ICJ's provisional ruling on Gaza in the case brought by South Africa, against Israel. Both Israel and Palestine are due to speak, alongside the 15 Council members. 

10:51 AM

ICJ ruling offers hope for protection of Gazan civilians enduring ‘apocalyptic conditions’: Rights experts

The landmark ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) offers the first concrete hope to protect civilians in Gaza enduring apocalyptic humanitarian conditions, destruction, mass killing, wounding and irreparable trauma, UN experts said on Wednesday.

“The court order is urgently needed to protect the very existence of the Palestinian people from potentially genocidal actions the court has ordered Israel to halt and prevent,” the experts said.

Last Friday, the world court found it plausible that Israel’s acts could amount to genocide and issued six provisional measures, ordering Israel to, among other things, prevent and punish incitement to genocide, ensure aid and services reach Palestinians under siege in Gaza and preserve evidence of crimes committed. The decision came after South Africa filed a case against Israel in late December.

“We echo the sense of urgency demonstrated by the Court in its short, two-week deliberation, as hundreds of Palestinians are being killed by Israeli forces every day,” the experts said. “The ruling is a significant milestone in the decades-long struggle for justice by the Palestinian people.”

More than 26,000 people have been killed in Gaza – more than one per cent of the enclave’s population – since Israel responded to Hamas attacks on 7 October.

The experts who issued the statement are all UN Special Rapporteurs appointed by the UN Human Rights Council, located in Geneva. They are not UN staff and are not paid for their work.

10:07 AM

'Scar on our shared humanity': Guterres

Secretary-General António Guterres is addressing the Committee, he started by underlining the importance of its mandate amidst the unresolved issue of Palestinian statelessness and the enormous violence and suffering, especially since the horrific 7 October terror attack.

Secretary-General António Guterres delivers remarks to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People.
UN Photo

The death, destruction, displacement, hunger, loss, and grief in Gaza over the last 120 days are a scar on our shared humanity and conscience,” he said condemning the attacks by Hamas and other groups.

“The ongoing conflict and relentless bombardment by Israeli forces across Gaza have resulted in killings of civilians and destruction at a pace and scale unlike anything we have witnessed in recent years,” he added.

UNRWA: 'Backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza'

Mr. Guterres emphasized that the UN acted immediately following the extremely serious allegations implicating UNRWA staffers in the attacks on 7 October.

“I was personally horrified by these accusations,” he said, noting that on Tuesday, he met with donors to listen to their concerns and to outline the steps the Organization is taking to address them.

He reiterated the importance of keeping UNRWA’s vital work going to meet the dire needs of civilians in Gaza, and to ensure its continuity of services to Palestine refugees in the occupied West Bank, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

“UNRWA is the backbone of all humanitarian response in Gaza. "I appeal to all Member States to guarantee the continuity of UNRWA’s life-saving work,” he urged.

With over 26,000 reportedly killed in the enclave, 1.7 million displaced and massive destruction of civilian infrastructure, including homes and schools, the UN chief underscored the need for all combatants to comply with international law.

ICJ decision 'must be complied with'

“International humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precautions in attack, must be upheld at all times,” he said.

“And the binding decisions of the International Court of Justice must be complied with,” he stressed.

10:04 AM

The Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a body of the General Assembly is meeting for its 2024 session. The Committee unanimously elected Ambassador Cheikh Niang (Senegal) as the Chair. The Vice Chair and Rapporteurs will be elected at a later time.

The UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, will brief the Security Council in the meeting starting at 11:00 AM New York time while Secretary-General António Guterres is due to brief the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which is convening elsewhere in the building.

Later in the day, we expect more details on the UN chief’s meeting Tuesday night with more than 30 donor countries to the UN’s relief agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA, some of whom have suspended funding pending the investigation into alleged collusion by a dozen UNRWA workers in the 7 October terror attacks.

The UN''s top humanitarian officials and chiefs of leading NGOs warned overnight of the "catastrophic consequences of defunding UNRWA in even the short-term.

“Withdrawing funds from UNRWAwould result in the collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, with far-reaching humanitarian and human rights consequences in the Occupied Palestinian Territory and across the region,” warned the Inter-Agency Standing Committee (IASC), headed by relief chief Griffiths.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been left homeless and “on the brink of famine”, they said, since Israeli bombardment and a ground invasion began after Palestinian militants massacred some 1,200 people in Israeli communities and took more than 250 others hostage on 7 October.

Long road to reconstruction

The UN trade and development body, UNCTAD, is also due to publish its latest report into the devastating impact of war on the society and economy of Gaza since the fighting began. They’ll be outlining how reconstruction can begin when the fighting finally stops. That’s due to be released around 12:00 PM.

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