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Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - Aid for Gaza is seen outside an Egyptian Red Crescent humanitarian society depot during the UN Security Council ambassadors' visit to Rafah December 11, 2023. — AFP pic
CAIRO, Dec 12 — Hunger was worsening among Palestinians in the besieged Gaza strip, aid agencies said, as the United Nations General Assembly prepared to vote today on an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the two-month-old conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Hundreds more civilians have died in Israel’s assault on Gaza since the US on Friday vetoed a Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.
Most of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have been driven from their homes and residents say it is impossible to find refuge or food in the densely populated coastal enclave. The UN World Food Programme has said half of the population is starving.
“Hunger stalks everyone,” UNRWA, the UN body responsible for Palestinian refugees, said on X.
Gazans said people forced to flee repeatedly were dying of hunger and cold as well as the bombardments, describing looting of aid trucks and sky-high prices.
Israel says its instructions to people to move are among measures it is taking to protect civilians as it tries to root out Hamas militants who killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in an October 7 cross-border attack on Israel, according to Israeli tallies. About 100 hostages have since been freed.
Israel’s retaliatory assault has killed 18,205 people and wounded nearly 50,000, according to the Gaza health ministry.
The 193-member General Assembly is likely today to pass a draft resolution that mirrors the language of one that was blocked by the United States in the 15-member Security Council last week.
General Assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight and reflect global views.
Some diplomats and observers predict the vote will garner greater support than the assembly’s October call for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce.”
Israeli soldiers stand beside assorted weapons displayed on the floor inside a mosque in Jabalia, in the northern Gaza Strip, in this screengrab taken from video released on December 11, 2023. — Israel Defence Forces handout pic via Reuters
Scrutiny on US support
The vote was due a day after 12 Security Council envoys visited the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, the only place where limited humanitarian aid and fuel have entered. The United States did not send a representative on the trip.
US President Joe Biden, who has weathered intense criticism for his support of Israel’s response to the October 7 attacks, yesterday told a White House celebration for the Jewish holiday of Hannukah that his commitment to Israel is “unshakeable.”
“Folks, were there no Israel, there wouldn’t be a Jew in the world that was safe,” Biden said. He also alluded to his complex relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who he said is in a “tough spot.”
State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller told reporters yesterday that Israel was no exception to US policy that any country receiving its weapons must comply with the laws of war after Washington sold about 14,000 tank shells to Israel without congressional review, using an emergency procedure.
“We are monitoring everything that happens in this conflict,” Miller said. “We are engaged in conversations with the Israeli government.”
As the war has intensified, how and where Israel uses weapons from the US have come under more scrutiny, even though US officials say there are no plans to put conditions on military aid to Israel or to consider withholding some of it.
Washington found images circulating on social media showing Palestinian men detained in Gaza in their underwear “deeply disturbing” and asked Israel to clarify the circumstances around the photographs, Miller added. Israel has said the men were stripped to make sure they were not hiding explosives or weapons.
The White House also said yesterday it was concerned about reports Israel used US-supplied white phosphorus munitions in an October attack in southern Lebanon and was seeking more information. The munitions, which can be legally used on battlefields to make smoke screens among other uses, can cause serious burns.
Israel said an allegation by Human Rights Watch that it uses white phosphorus munitions in Gaza and Lebanon was “unequivocally false”.
Aid for Gaza is seen in an Egyptian Red Crescent humanitarian society depot during the UN Security Council ambassadors' visit to Rafah on December 11, 2023. — AFP pic
New aid screening system
UN officials say 1.9 million people — 85 per cent of Gaza’s population — are displaced and describe the conditions in the southern areas where they have concentrated as hellish.
To increase the amount of aid reaching Gaza, Israel said yesterday it would add shipment screening at the Kerem Shalom border crossing even though it was not opening the crossing itself. Most trucks entered the strip at this crossing before the war. Two Egyptian security sources said inspections would begin today under a new deal between Israel, Egypt and the United States.
After the collapse of a week-long ceasefire on December 1, Israel began a ground offensive in the south and has since pushed from the east into the heart of Khan Younis city.
Yesterday, militants and residents said fighters were preventing Israeli tanks moving farther west and clashing with Israeli forces in northern Gaza, where Israel had said its mission was largely complete.
Israel said dozens of Hamas fighters had surrendered and urged others to join them.
Residents reported exchanges of fire near the coastal road and Hamas media said fighters foiled an attempt by Israeli naval forces to make a landing of forces offshore.
Israeli bombing continued into the night yesterday, residents and health officials said. Medics said Israeli air strikes killed at least 15 people in separate strikes in the central and southern Gaza strip. — Reuters
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