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UN Officials Present Need to End Israeli Siege of Gaza to Security Council
Security Council's closed meeting in response continues failure to act
Ronda Hauben (netizen2)     Print Article 
Published 2009-01-30 10:39 (KST)   
Karen AbuZayd and John Holmes speak to reporters after presenting reports on need for Security Council action on Gaza.
©2009 Ronda Hauben
"Every Gazan projects a sense of having stared death in the face. Every Gazan has a tale of profound grief to tell," recounted Karen AbuZayd, the Commissioner General of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) in her presentation to the Security Council on Tuesday before they went into closed session.

She reported that there had been a systematic destruction in Gaza to schools, universities, residential buildings, factories, shops and farms. (Karen AbuZayd's Statement to the Security Council, Jan. 27, 2009) (1)

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AbuZayd told the Security Council that "There is rage against the attackers for often failing to distinguish between military targets and civilians and there is also resentment against the international community for having allowed first the siege and then the war to go on for so long."(2)

Also speaking to the Security Council before they went into closed session was John Holmes, the Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief. Holmes explains how he visited Gaza from Jan. 21 to 25.

Describing the widespread destruction to Gaza's economic and civil infrastructure, he reported, for example, that the entire industrial and residential area in East Jabalia had been systematically bulldozed, along with other serious damage to medical facilities, water, sanitation and other critical infrastructure, including damage to UN facilities. "I saw the UNRWA compound warehouse still smouldering, and the OCHA office in the UNSCO compound, where my own staff used to work, damaged beyond use," Holmes reported.

Both AbuZayd and Holmes emphasized the impossibility of any improvement in the situation in Gaza without the lifting by Israel of the blockade. "All Gaza's borders must be opened and kept open continuously (including at Karni, Sofa, Nahal Oz, Kerem Shalom, Erez and Rafah) to allow two way freedom of movement for people, goods and cash," AbuZayd told the Security Council.

"Recovery requires the free inflow of humanitarian and commercial supplies," she stressed. "Reconstruction demands open borders that enable the importation of construction materials and the export of products and goods from Gaza."

"Let me emphasize again," Holmes reiterated, "the unacceptability of the status quo ante, with a limited trickle of items into Gaza continuing the effective collective punishment of the civilian population -- and the resultant counterproductive reliance on tunnels for daily essentials, and further build up of frustration of anger."

He explained the critical need to open Gaza to at least 500 truckloads of goods daily, including commercial traffic, up from the 120 truckloads that Israel allows on "good days," in contrast to the frequent situation when fewer than 120 truckloads are given permission to enter Gaza, and the times when no trucks are allowed to enter as the crossing points are closed by Israel.

Holmes also described how many humanitarian workers, including those from international NGOs, "continue to be refused regular entry" to Gaza.

"We already see relief goods piling up in Egypt for lack of ready access," Holmes reported. Reminding the members of the Security Council that they themselves passed Resolution 1860 (2009) which provides for "unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance," Holmes pointed to the importance of this critical principle.

Moreover, Holmes explained that "Israel has a particular responsibility as the occupying power in this context, because of its control of Gaza's borders with Israel, to respect the relevant provisions of international humanitarian law." (See for example, Articles 73 and 74 of the United Nations Charter)

As soon as the reports by Holmes and AbuZayd had been presented, the Security Council went into a closed session.

When the closed session with Holmes and AbuZayd was over, these two UN officials came to speak with the press.

No member of the Security Council, however, was available to speak with the press. Journalists wondered why not even the Security Council President was available to comment on these important reports on the situation in Gaza and the need for the Security Council to act on getting Israel to lift the siege.

Had the reports about devastated Gaza as a "giant open-air prison" fallen on deaf ears at the Security Council?

The lack of any public response from any member of the Security Council to these two heart wrenching reports is but another sign of the failure of the Security Council to demonstrate its ability to carry out its mandate.

The failure of the Security Council to act with regard to the siege against Gaza began over a year ago.(3)

The growing calls for Security Council reform can only be further fueled by this lack of action by the Security Council, which the Indonesian ambassador described as, "The silence is deafening."

Notes:

(1) See: Security Council: The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.[Print version of talk, Security Council S/PV.6077], also Webcast : version of Archived Video - English: 26 minutes

(2) For background see, for example:
Ronda Hauben, "Marathon UN Meeting on Gaza Goes Nowhere: The ability of the Security Council to function breaking down", OhmyNews International, March 4, 2008

Ronda Hauben, "Israel Attempts to Justify Its Attack on Gaza. The obligations of Israel as an occupying power under the UN Charter," OhmyNews International, Jan. 12, 2009

(3)Ronda Hauben, "Security Council Fails to Act on Gaza Crisis 'The silence is deafening,' says Indonesia's UN Ambassador," OhmyNews International, Feb. 7, 2008.


A version of this article appears on my blog
©2009 OhmyNews
Other articles by reporter Ronda Hauben

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