After remaining silent for six weeks, unable to find its voice amid deep-rooted divisions and the highly polarised geopolitical landscape, the UN Security Council, the most powerful organ established under the UN Charter, finally managed to pass a resolution on the tragic situation in Gaza this week. While it was hailed in some circles as a 'long-awaited diplomatic breakthrough' after weeks of bitter negotiations, the fact that it came so late, after well over 10,000 people had been killed, including over 4000 babies, should not be lost on anyone.
Sponsored by tiny Malta, one of the 10 rotating members of the 15-member council, the resolution called for "urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable, consistent with international humanitarian law, the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access for United Nations humanitarian agencies and their implementing partners." Twelve countries voted to approve the measure, with three of the permanent members - the United States, the United Kingdom, and Russia - abstaining.
Make no mistake though - it is too little, too late. The world has already witnessed a massacre that should remain etched in the collective conscience for a long time to come. Gaza has been under siege since October 7, when Israel closed exit points from the Palestinian enclave, cut it off from food, water and electricity, and began an intensive campaign of airstrikes in retaliation for an elaborate, and no less lethal attack in towns and kibbutzim in the south of the country carried out by Palestinian militant group Hamas. An estimated 1,200 Israelis, as well as people of other nationalities, were killed in the attack that also saw about 240 taken hostage. In return, we have seen Israel use its much-vaunted 'right to defend itself' to not only target Hamas, but inflict collective punishment on Palestinians in general, and Gazans in particular.
The vote on Wednesday (Nov. 15) was the Security Council's fifth attempt to pass a resolution since the latest hostilities broke out. Two resolutions proposed by Russia failed to gain enough votes, while the United States, a steadfast backer of Israel's right to defend itself, vetoed a Brazilian resolution calling for a humanitarian pause. The US's own call for a pause was vetoed by Russia and China.
UN agencies have reported that 25% of homes in Gaza have been destroyed. Some 1.1 million people were ordered to evacuate anyway by the Israeli army. Many did not in the end, fearing another Nakba, the catastrophe that befell the Palestinians in 1948 when 750,000 were driven from their homes in order to make way for the creation of the state of Israel. What they have endured in the last six weeks has been catastrophic in its own right of course. And it hasn't ended. As I write this, Israeli forces have laid siege to most of the hospitals left standing in the embattled coastal enclave, engaging in firefights while evacuating emergency patients. The tragedy that continues to unfold make it abundantly clear that it is time for a ceasefire - otherwise our conscience will have an even bigger blight to bear.
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