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UNSC expresses 'deep concern' over Gaza food convoy deaths, mentions Israeli forces' 'involvement'

IANS | March 03, 2024 12:13 PM

UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council has expressed "deep concern" over more than 100 deaths in Gaza around a humanitarian convoy and to cite the "involvement" of Israeli defence forces in the incident.

The Council issued the consensus statement on Saturday evening that said all "parties to conflicts must comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law and international human rights law".

While the statement does not have the power of a resolution that at least in theory is binding, it expresses the sentiment of the members even if they are not ready to endorse a resolution.

The statement came under the Council presidency of Japan's Permanent Representative Yamazaki Kazuyuki, who has the difficult task of forging consensus in a rigidly divided body.

The statement, citing observations by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) "lent credence" to reports that the people at the site of the incident were shot by Israeli forces, while that country has to pass off the incident as a stampede and vehicles running over people.

"The Council Members express deep concern regarding reports stating that over 100 individuals lost their lives with several hundred others sustaining injuries, including people with gunshot wounds as observed by UN-OCHA in an incident involving Israeli forces at a large gathering surrounding a humanitarian assistance convoy southwest of Gaza City, " it said

It added, "The Council Members take note that an Israeli investigation is underway".

The consensus on the statement is a sign that the administration of US President Joe Biden has under domestic and international pressure scaled back its opposition to anything that can be seen as criticising Israel.

Last month, the US, in line with Israel's position, vetoed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza.

On Thursday, when the Council held consultations soon after the Gaza incident, the US opposed a statement on the incident, according to diplomats.

US Deputy Permanent Representative Robert Wood told reporters before the meeting, "We do not have all the facts yet on the ground."

Besides getting the facts, he said, any Council action must reflect that "we have done the necessary due diligence with regard to culpability" for the incident.

The statement issued on Sunday acknowledged that it was "an incident involving Israeli forces" but stopped short of directly assigning blame.

While vetoing on February 20, the ceasefire resolution proposed by Algeria, the US said that it was proposing its own resolution on Gaza.

It is expected to be taken up on Thursday when Yamazaki Kazuyuki said the Council would meet on the Gaza situation.

The Council warned that all the 2.2 million people in Gaza "would face alarming levels of acute food insecurity” and demanded that all parties to the conflict allow "the immediate, rapid, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip."

The statement urged Israel "to keep border crossings open for humanitarian aid to enter Gaza, to facilitate the opening of additional crossings to meet humanitarian needs at scale, and to support the rapid and safe delivery of relief items to people in all of the Gaza Strip".

In another sign of the Biden administration's slight manoeuvring away from backing for Israel, US Air Force planes on Saturday began dropping food supplies over Gaza.

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