UNSC struggles with Gaza truce vote delays, Israel orders mass evacuations

The United Nations Security Council is due to vote on a pause in hostilities in the Israel-Palestinian conflict and aid delivery to the Gaza Strip after several failed attempts to agree on the language of the resolution, as Israel ordered the evacuation of a swathe of the besieged enclave’s south.

Members of the UNSC remain engaged in high-level diplomacy in hopes of avoiding another United States veto of a new UN resolution on the delivery of desperately needed aid to Gaza, where Palestinian authorities have said the death toll in Israel’s war against Hamas has exceeded 20,000 people.

The vote, delayed three times, is now expected on Thursday, said Ecuador’s UN Ambassador Jose Javier De la Gasca Lopez-Dominguez, the current UNSC president.

The failure to pass a Security Council resolution will mean applying “dangerous double standards”, Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi warned on Thursday.

Safadi said the draft text is focused on speeding up aid shipments to Gaza that the kingdom believes Israel is obstructing to prevent sufficient life-saving assistance from getting through.

“Just within the past three days, there have been seven different delays or postponements in this UN Security Council vote on humanitarian aid getting into Gaza,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York on Wednesday.

“The main sticking point, we believe, is the language in the draft about a monitoring mechanism being implemented. Essentially, it would be the United Nations that takes the lead in overseeing and facilitating aid entering Gaza and then its distribution to the people who need it the most,” he said.

Currently, Israel inspects all aid entering the strip and decides what to let through, but the new draft calls for the establishment of a mechanism for exclusive UN monitoring of aid deliveries.

“Everyone wants to see a resolution that has impact and that is implementable on the ground,” said Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, UN ambassador for the United Arab Emirates, which sponsored the resolution, after the council agreed to another delay on Wednesday.

The US has also been struggling to change the text’s references to a “cessation” of hostilities in Israel’s war.

Nusseibeh voiced hope that a resolution calling for the “suspension” of hostilities in Gaza would eventually pass in the UNSC.

“I am optimistic, and if this fails then we will continue to keep trying because we have to keep trying,” she told reporters. “There is too much suffering on the ground for the council to continue to fail on this … we have a resolution and we need to build on that.”

The UNSC vote was initially postponed from Monday and then pushed back to Tuesday and then Wednesday.

The draft text on the table on Monday called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities”, but this language was watered down to appease the US.

The latest version seen on Wednesday called “for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities”.

US National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby also reportedly raised two other issues on Wednesday that are not in the text: condemnation of Hamas’s October 7 incursion into Israel, and Israel’s right to self-defence.

On December 8, Washington vetoed a UNSC resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. The 193-member UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar, though nonbinding, resolution on December 12.

Evacuations in Khan Younis

As diplomats grappled with the resolution, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN OCHA) said the Israeli military ordered the immediate evacuation of an area covering some 20 percent of central and southern Khan Younis city on Wednesday.

“A large number of people are going to be affected by this order and will end up being displaced,” said Al Jazeera’s Hani Mahmoud, reporting from Khan Younis.

Before Israel’s offensive, the area was home to more than 111,000 people and now includes 32 shelters housing more than 141,000 people displaced from northern Gaza by the war. Israel had initially told civilians to leave the north of Gaza for “safer” areas in the south.

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