UN Organization in Gaza Asserts Immediate Cease-Fire Is Critical for Millions of Palestinian Lives

by Ryan Lee
UN Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza

The director of the United Nations entity responsible for Palestinian refugees emphasized during a U.N. emergency session on Monday that an “urgent humanitarian cease-fire is now a matter of life and death for millions.” The director accused Israel of imposing “collective punishment” on Palestinians and driving civilian displacement.

Philippe Lazzarini cautioned that the escalating chaos, evidenced by the recent looting of the organization’s storage facilities by Palestinians in search of food and other necessities, will severely hamper, if not entirely halt, the operations of the UN’s largest agency in Gaza.

The dire state of humanitarian conditions in Gaza was further elaborated upon by Lazzarini, the chief of UNICEF, and a senior U.N. humanitarian official, 23 days following the unexpected attacks by Hamas on Israel on October 7 and the subsequent military responses aimed at neutralizing the militant organization that governs Gaza.

Recent data from Gaza’s Ministry of Health revealed that the conflict has resulted in more than 8,300 fatalities, 66% of whom are women and children, along with tens of thousands of injuries, according to U.N. humanitarian sources.

Catherine Russell, the Executive Director of UNICEF, revealed that the death toll includes 3,400 children and more than 6,300 injuries. “This equates to over 420 children sustaining fatal or non-fatal injuries in Gaza daily — a staggering statistic that should deeply concern us all,” she added.

Philippe Lazzarini stressed, “The death toll surpasses annual child fatalities in global conflict zones since 2019,” emphasizing that such numbers should not be classified as “collateral damage.”

Numerous council members condemned the attacks by Hamas on Israel that resulted in over 1,400 deaths, while also urging the release of approximately 230 hostages. However, virtually all speakers pointed out Israel’s international humanitarian obligation to safeguard civilians and critical infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. Israel faced criticism for severing essential supplies like food, water, fuel, and medicine to Gaza.

Lazzarini indicated that the limited aid permitted entry into Gaza through the Rafah crossing from Egypt is grossly inadequate for addressing the needs of the over 2 million individuals trapped in Gaza. “The existing system for channeling aid to Gaza is predisposed to failure,” he said, “unless a political resolution exists to substantially increase the supply provisions, given the unparalleled humanitarian needs.”

The commissioner-general of UNRWA warned that Gaza has become a zone where no location is secure. Basic amenities are dwindling; medicine, food, water, and fuel are in scarce supply, and sewage is overflowing in the streets, posing imminent health risks.

Catherine Russell warned that the scarcity of clean water and proper sanitation is nearing catastrophic levels.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the divided Security Council to unite, underlining the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions in Gaza. She insisted on the protection of all innocent civilians and emphasized the necessity of adhering to international humanitarian law.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, urged the Security Council to break its deadlock and demand an end to the violence, which he labeled an affront to humanity and a threat to regional and international peace and security.

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan criticized the council’s focus on Gaza’s humanitarian needs while ignoring Hamas’ attacks, and stated that he would wear a yellow star as a symbol of resistance and reminder of the need for self-defense.

After the Security Council failed to pass four resolutions—each blocked by different members—Arab nations approached the U.N. General Assembly last Friday, where a resolution calling for humanitarian pauses was adopted by a vote of 120-14, with 45 abstentions. Now, elected members of the Security Council are attempting yet again to draft a resolution that will pass muster. While General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, they serve as significant indicators of global sentiment.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about UN Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza

What is the main message conveyed by Philippe Lazzarini, the head of the United Nations agency for Palestinian refugees?

The primary message from Philippe Lazzarini is that an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza is critical and has become a matter of life and death for millions of Palestinian civilians. He also highlights that the agency he leads is facing operational challenges due to the breakdown of civil order and the looting of its warehouses.

What statistics are provided regarding the impact of the conflict on women and children?

According to Gaza’s Ministry of Health, more than 8,300 people have been killed in the conflict, 66% of whom are women and children. UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell further reveals that more than 3,400 children have been killed and over 6,300 have been injured.

What is the stance of the U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield on the situation?

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urges the Security Council to unite and address the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza. She emphasizes that all innocent civilians must be protected and calls for adherence to international humanitarian law. She also reiterates President Joe Biden’s call for humanitarian pauses and safe passage for civilians.

How has Israel been criticized in the council meeting?

Israel has been criticized for imposing what has been termed as “collective punishment” on Palestinians, cutting off essential supplies like food, water, fuel, and medicine, and for not adhering to its obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and infrastructure such as hospitals and schools.

What actions have been taken by the UN General Assembly in relation to the crisis?

The UN General Assembly, comprising 193 member countries, adopted a resolution calling for humanitarian truces leading to a cessation of hostilities. The resolution was passed by a vote of 120-14, with 45 abstentions. While not legally binding, General Assembly resolutions are considered important indicators of global opinion.

What is the position of Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan?

Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan criticized the council’s failure to condemn Hamas’ attacks and questioned why the focus was solely on the humanitarian needs of Gazans. He also stated that he would wear a yellow star as a symbol of resistance and a reminder of the Jewish community’s historical suffering and resolve for self-defense.

What did Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. Ambassador, urge the Security Council to do?

Riyad Mansour urged the Security Council to end its deadlock and to demand an immediate cessation of hostilities, describing the ongoing conflict as an affront to humanity and a clear threat to regional and international peace and security.

More about UN Humanitarian Cease-Fire in Gaza

  • United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA)
  • UN Security Council
  • Gaza Ministry of Health Statistics
  • UNICEF’s Role in Humanitarian Aid
  • International Humanitarian Law
  • U.S. State Department Statements on Gaza
  • UN General Assembly Resolutions
  • Israeli Diplomatic Missions to the UN
  • Palestinian Diplomatic Mission to the UN

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Mike Williams October 31, 2023 - 7:04 pm

I get Israel has a right to defend itself but man, those numbers are staggering. There’s got to be a better way to handle this. Not all Palestinians are Hamas, right?

John Smith October 31, 2023 - 11:30 pm

Seriously, what’s the UN Security Council even doing if they can’t agree on a ceasefire? this is a human tragedy, no matter which side you’re on.

Sarah Johnson November 1, 2023 - 2:00 am

the blame game isn’t helping anyone. We’ve got a full-blown crisis on our hands, and it’s like we’re just watching it get worse. can’t believe how badly the world is failing Gaza.

Emily Brown November 1, 2023 - 5:30 am

I can’t even imagine what it must be like for the families living through this. Where’s the humanity? Especially those numbers of women and children affected is shocking.

Jane Doe November 1, 2023 - 5:39 am

Wow, this situation is really heartbreaking. Millions are suffering and the world seems paralyzed. why can’t the international community come together and end this madness?


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