Philippe Lazzarini, who leads main UN agency in Palestine, says lives of millions depend on ceasefire.
Philippe Lazzarini accused Israel of ‘collective punishment’ of the people of Gaza. Photograph: Bilal Hussein/AP
The entire population of Gaza is becoming “dehumanised”, the commissioner general for the main UN agency in Palestine has told the UN security council, saying a ceasefire has become a matter of life and death for millions.
Philippe Lazzarini, the commissioner general for the UNRWA was one of three speakers to starkly describe the scale of the damage being inflicted on Gaza, as UN agencies piled pressure on the Security Council to set aside its divisions and back some form of immediate humanitarian ceasefire.
The speakers detailed a breakdown in civil order, the loss of clean water and a death rate of children that matches the number of children killed in conflict in the last four years.
The debate called by the United Arab Emirates was intended to build on the momentum created by Friday’s vote by the UN general assembly calling for a humanitarian truce, a vote seen as a way of shaming the superpowers to abandon their arguments for not backing a form of ceasefire.
Four previous draft UN security council resolutions on the crisis have been vetoed either by Russia or the US. Efforts are now being made by the 10 elected members of the security council – including Brazil, the current security council president – to frame a resolution that the five permanent members would feel forced to adopt.
Lazzarini accused Israel of “collective punishment” of the people of Gaza, and of forcing their displacement from the north of the territory to the south – where they are still not safe.
More than 8,000 Palestinians have now been killed in Israel’s attack, who Lazzarini said included 64 UNRWA staff.
He said that a UN worker named Samir, as well Samir’s wife and eight children, were killed just hours before the meeting.
“My UNRWA colleagues are the only glimmer of hope for the entire Gaza Strip … but they are running out of fuel, water, food and medicine and will soon be unable to operate,” said the Swiss-Italian official.
The proposed security council resolution – which would be legally binding if passed – is likely to be published in the next few days. But Russia and the US are still far apart, with Russia demanding the US back a full ceasefire, which it has previously rejected.
The UAE ambassador Lana Zaki Nusseibeh said the council may be broken altogether if it ignored the will of most of the world as expressed through the general assembly’s vote.
She said there had been 76 attacks on healthcare bodies in Gaza with 20 hospitals damaged. “Let me be clear, these sites are protected by international law,” she said, adding that warnings before attacks did not alter hospitals’ protected status.
Dangerous and unrealistic evacuation orders had to end, she said, describing them as “cruel and reckless, and so is our delay as a security council”.
She continued: “The drums of war are beating. Taking these warnings seriously begins with stopping this war in Gaza. We do not serve Israel’s security by enabling it to go on. We cannot reverse the heinous 7 October attacks by Hamas by condoning this war in which civilians are paying the price.”
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, said she supported humanitarian pauses to allow hostages to get out, to allow foreign citizens to leave and to allow safe passage for civilians.
Lazzarini said no place was safe in Gaza, and warned that a further breakdown of civil order in the territory would make it “extremely difficult if not impossible” to deliver more aid.
“Most of the people of Gaza felt abandoned. They feel the world is equating all of them to Hamas. This is dangerous – an entire population is being dehumanised. The atrocities of Hamas do not absolve the state of Israel from its obligations under international humanitarian law. Every war has rules and this one is no exception,” he said.
A senior UN aid official, Lisa Doughten, said more than one border crossing was needed to deliver aid to the besieged Gaza Strip, but Kerem Shalom, controlled by Israel, is the only one equipped to take enough trucks.
Aid trucks have been trickling into Gaza from Egypt over the past week via Rafah, the main crossing that does not border Israel.
“More than one entry point into Gaza is indispensable if we are to make a difference – Kerem Shalom, between Israel and Gaza, is the only crossing equipped to rapidly process a sufficiently large number of trucks.”
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