What's In Blue

Posted Mon 19 Nov 2012

Briefing on Gaza

Council members are meeting in consultations today (19 November), starting at noon, to hear a briefing from the Department of Political Affairs on the situation in Gaza. (The open debate on piracy was suspended until 3 pm so that Council members can meet on this issue.) It is possible that members will also discuss the press statement that Morocco circulated on Friday (16 November).

The draft statement apparently expresses concern over the situation in Gaza, calls on all parties involved to immediately stop all military activities and to allow for humanitarian access and assistance. It seems that the US was unable to agree to the statement on Friday and asked for more time.

The current crisis in Gaza represents the most serious escalation of violence between Israel and Hamas since December and January of 2008/2009. At that time the Council issued a press statement (SC/9559) the day after Israeli airstrikes began. The 28 December 2008 statement called for an end to hostilities and for all parties “to address the serious humanitarian and economic needs in Gaza.” Subsequently, on 8 January 2009, the Council adopted resolution 1860, which called for a durable ceasefire, 12 days after the onset of hostilities.

The Secretary-General on 16 November in a statement expressed his concern about the continued violence in Gaza and Israel and appealed to all concerned to stop the “dangerous escalation”. He also said that rocket attacks were unacceptable and that Israel should exercise maximum restraint. On Sunday (18 November) the Secretary-General issued another statement calling for a ceasefire. He arrived in Egypt today (19 November) to participate in talks about a possible truce.

This briefing and consultations follow five days of continuing military action in the region. Starting on 9 November, there were intensified rocket attacks on Israel from Gaza. On 14 November, the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) launched Operation Pillar of Defense. This operation began with a targeted airstrike against Ahmed al-Jabari, identified by the IDF as a part of the “upper echelon” of the Hamas military command. Continuing IDF airstrikes on 14 November prompted Hamas to launch dozens of rocket attacks against southern Israel in return.

On 14 November, in response to the airstrikes, Egypt recalled its ambassador to Israel and transmitted a letter (S/2012/840) to the Council requesting “an urgent meeting of the Security Council to consider the ongoing unlawful Israeli military operation against the Palestinian people.” The Permanent Observer Mission of Palestine to the UN also transmitted a letter (S/2012/839) to the Council asserting that Israel must be held accountable for “acts of state terrorism and systematic human rights violations.”

That evening (14 November) Council members held consultations on the letter from Egypt and decided to have a private meeting later that night. (Under Rule 37 of the provisional rules of procedure of the Security Council, this format allows member states who so request to participate in the meeting alongside Council members; however, the meeting is closed and there is no verbatim record.) During Wednesday’s meeting, Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Jeffrey Feltman briefed the Council, followed by statements from all the Council members as well as the Permanent Observer of Palestine and Permanent Representative of Israel. (The other 45 states from the membership at large who asked to attend the meeting did not make statements.) In accordance with rule 55 of Council’s rules of procedure, a communiqué (S/PV.6863) was issued through the Secretary-General following the meeting.

On 15 November, Israeli airstrikes and Palestinian rocket attacks continued, while news reports indicated that Israel was preparing to mobilise 30,000 reserve troops for a possible ground invasion. A second letter from Palestine to the Council protested the mobilisation, saying it “demand[s] the attention of the international community.”

With attacks continuing, the Arab League foreign ministers held an emergency meeting in Cairo on 17 November and released a statement condemning the Israeli offensive and expressing “complete discontent” over the Security Council’s inability to bring about a ceasefire. The foreign ministers also agreed to form a delegation to visit Gaza in a show of support. In New York, Arab permanent representatives met with India, the Council president for November, on Saturday (17 November). Council members briefly discussed the Gaza situation following a briefing on the DRC on Saturday (17 November) afternoon.

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