Security Council Requests UN Coordinator for Humanitarian Aid in Gaza, Adopting Resolution 2720 (2023) by Recorded Vote
Parties to Conflict Told to Allow Deliveries to Proceed ‘At Scale’
The Security Council today requested the Secretary-General to appoint a Senior Humanitarian and Reconstruction Coordinator for the Gaza Strip as it demanded the parties to the conflict to allow, facilitate and enable the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to Palestinian civilians throughout that territory.
Adopting resolution 2720 (2023) by a recorded vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (United States, Russian Federation), the Council determined that the Coordinator will be responsible for facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying, in Gaza, the humanitarian nature of all humanitarian relief consignments provided through States which are not parties to the conflict.
It further requested that the Coordinator establish a United Nations mechanism for speeding up the provision of humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza through States which are not party to the conflict, and in consultation with all relevant parties. In that regard, it demanded that the parties to conflict cooperate with the Coordinator to fulfil their mandate without delay or obstruction.
Through its resolution, the Council demanded that the parties to the conflict allow and facilitate the use of all available routes to and throughout the entire Gaza Strip, including border crossings — and including full and prompt implementation of the announced Karem Abu Salem/Kerem Shalom border crossing — for the provision of humanitarian assistance. This is to ensure that humanitarian personnel and assistance — including fuel, food and medical supplies and emergency shelter assistance — reaches the civilian population in need throughout the Gaza Strip without diversion and through the most direct routes, according to the terms of the resolution.
Through the text, the Council reiterated its demand — contained in resolution 2712 (2023), adopted on 15 November — that all parties to the conflict comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law. It also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address the hostages’ medical needs. It further demanded the provision of fuel to Gaza at levels that will meet humanitarian needs. In addition, the Council requested that the Coordinator report to the Council on their work within 20 days, and then every 90 days thereafter through 30 September 2024.
Prior to adoption, the Council failed to adopt an amendment put forth by the Russian Federation owing to the United States casting a veto. It would have had the Council call for an urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities. The vote was 10 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Albania, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom).
The United Arab Emirates’ representative, whose delegation presented the resolution, called it the product of extensive consultations between members of the Council and concerned parties. “The purpose of this text is very simple: It responds with action to the dire humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people bearing the brunt of this conflict while protecting those who are trying to deliver life-saving aid, and it demands the urgent release of the hostages and for humanitarian access to address their medical needs,” she said.
“This was tough, but we got there,” the United States’ representative said. Through the text, the Council can provide a glimmer of hope in a sea of unimaginable suffering. She emphasized that international humanitarian law applies both to Israel and Hamas, which she described as a terror group that instigated the conflict and wages war from inside homes, hospitals and United Nations facilities.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine said that so far, 20,000 Palestinians — almost half of them children — have been killed in Gaza, with another 2 million people forcibly displaced. Israel’s objective is “no future for Palestinians in Palestine”, he asserted. He called the Israeli military “a rogue army, unhinged and empowered by the impunity it enjoys, certain that it will not be held accountable.” Only an immediate ceasefire can stop the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide under way in Gaza, he added.
Israel’s representative said that it has been 77 days since Hamas terrorists murdered, raped and mutilated 1,300 Israelis and took 250 hostages, yet the Council issued not one statement condemning that group and its atrocities. He also noted that the remaining 150 hostages held by Hamas are not even allowed visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Israel already facilitates hundreds of truckloads of aid into Gaza every day and it could expand that. However, UN monitoring of aid deliveries cannot be done at the expense of Israel’s security inspections, as Israel will not permit the regrouping and rearming of Hamas, he emphasized.
Egypt’s representative called today’s resolution is a step in the right direction to ensure that aid will be delivered and that humanitarian work will not remain hostage to the will of the occupying Power. He emphasized that this first step should be followed by many others, including obliging Israel to unconditionally halt hostilities throughout Gaza.
The Russian Federation’s representative called today a tragic moment for the Council, not one of triumph. He stated that he would have vetoed the text had it not been supported by several Arab States. He categorically disagreed with the content of operative paragraph 2, saying: “We will not put our names to this.”
France’s representative said the Council could have been more ambitious in its language regarding a ceasefire. On the importance of observing international humanitarian law, she called on the Council to condemn terrorist attacks and sexual violence by groups such as Hamas. “It is incomprehensible that this Council has still not been able to do so,” she said.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), in a statement prior to action, said that a recent visit to the Gaza Strip by Security Council members left an indelible impression of the desperate situation on the ground. Unless the Council takes drastic action, there will be famine in Gaza, she warned, adding that there is a real risk of a regional spillover of the conflict. Efforts by Egypt to mitigate the situation are admirable, but there must be an international response. The draft resolution before the Council is the product of extensive consultations and engagements between Council members and concerned parties, in particular Egypt and Palestine, she said.
“The purpose of this text is very simple: It responds with action to the dire humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people bearing the brunt of this conflict while protecting those who are trying to deliver life-saving aid — and it demands the urgent release of the hostages and for humanitarian access to address their medical needs.” The text, which builds on resolution 2712 (2023), is not perfect and only a ceasefire will end the suffering. Today’s text responds to calls for a sustainable cessation of hostilities and a massive scaling-up of humanitarian aid. “Often, in diplomacy, the challenge is meeting the moment in the world we live in, not in the world that we want — and we will never tire of pushing for full humanitarian ceasefire,” she said.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation) accused the United States of sabotaging the Council’s adoption of the draft resolution proposed by the United Arab Emirates. It had given the Council an ultimatum: either adopt a text convenient for Washington or face another veto. He proposed an amendment to operative paragraph 2, replacing the phrase “and in this regard calls for urgent steps to immediately allow safe, unhindered and expanded humanitarian access and to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities” with “and in this regard calls for an urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities”. Urging Council members to vote for this amendment — “the lowest common denominator” — he said it could be a moment of truth to show real support the people of Gaza and to end the violence there.
The Council then failed to adopt the proposed amendment by a vote of 10 in favour to 1 against (United States), with 4 abstentions (Albania, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom), owing to the negative vote of a permanent member.
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), noting that she voted against the proposed amendment, said that the draft resolution calls for urgent steps to immediately allow unhindered and expanded humanitarian access into Gaza and to create the conditions for the cessation of hostilities. “This is a strong step forward,” she said.
The Council then adopted draft resolution S/2023/1029 (to be issued as document S/RES/2720(2023)) by a recorded vote of 13 in favour to none against, with 2 abstentions (Russian Federation, United States).
Ms. THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States) said: “This was tough, but we got there.” Since the start of the conflict, the United States has worked tirelessly to alleviate the humanitarian crisis, get life-saving assistance into Gaza and get hostages out, and push for protection of innocent civilians and humanitarian workers. “Today’s vote bolsters those efforts and lends support to our direct diplomacy.” She thanked the United Arab Emirates and others for “working with us in good faith to craft a strong humanitarian-focused resolution”. As a result, the Council can provide a glimmer of hope in a sea of unimaginable suffering. She added that international humanitarian law applies not only to Israel, but also to Hamas, a terror group that instigated the conflict and wages war from inside homes, hospitals and United Nations sites. Welcoming the call for the appointment of a senior UN official to expedite delivery of humanitarian aid, she said that she was appalled that the Council was once again unable to condemn Hamas’ horrific terrorist attack on 7 October.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom), welcoming the resolution’s adoption, noted that the United Kingdom has tripled its aid to the region. It was also the first country to call on Israel to open more crossings and to deploy experts to provide logistical support at Al-Arish in Egypt. The text will streamline aid checks so as to massively scale-up the humanitarian response. It will also, “for avoidance of doubt”, stipulate that such aid is without prejudice to the rights and obligations of parties under international humanitarian law. Today’s adoption is an important signal of the Council’s commitment, and its actions — both today and in the future — must help ensure that the horror of 7 October never happens again. Condemning Hamas’ acts of terror and supporting Israel’s right to self-defence, she added that the United Kingdom supports a two-State solution that guarantees true security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians.
SÉRGIO FRANÇA DANESE (Brazil) said that the time for a humanitarian response in Gaza is now and not tomorrow or whenever the conflict ends. After more than 70 days of hostilities, the situation is dire. The remaining hostages must be released immediately and civilians and civilian facilities must be protected. “This is not just a moral or ethical choice — it is an obligation under international humanitarian law as is humanitarian access.” Humanitarian aid allowed into Gaza must be substantially increased and should contain all essential items, including fuel, he said, calling for full implementation of the resolution.
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta) said that the resolution, as well as resolution 2712 (2023), must be fully implemented. She emphasized the urgent need for an immediate ceasefire and called for compliance with international law, the protection of civilians and medical personnel, and accountability for violators. Implementation of a monitoring mechanism should not hinder humanitarian assistance, she said, adding: “On the contrary it should rapidly and efficiently facilitate it.” She went on to emphasize the importance of political engagement for lasting peace and support the resolution’s commitment to a two-State solution.
DAI BING (China) said that for reasons known to all, the draft resolution contained several adjustments touching on important aspects which did not meet the expectations of Member States. However, the Council’s action offers at least a glimmer of hope. Whether this glimmer can be truly felt by the people of Gaza depends on whether the resolution can be effectively implemented. “We expect urgent action to be taken,” he said, expressing hope that the monitoring mechanism will be put in place. Only a ceasefire can prevent political settlement prospects from being completely destroyed, he said, adding that for this reason, China voted in favour of the Russian Federation’s proposed amendment.
YAMAZAKI KAZUYUKI (Japan) said that the catastrophic humanitarian situation in Gaza needs urgent attention and meaningful action by the Council. Japan voted in favor of the resolution as the people in Gaza cannot wait any longer. Calling for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, he said that he hoped that the resolution will be a first step towards real change on the ground. He acknowledged serious diplomatic efforts by the United States to improve the situation on the ground and cited the entry of humanitarian convoys through the Kerem Shalom crossing. However, gunfire and bombardments must stop immediately in order to allow meaningful humanitarian operations, he said.
PASCALE CHRISTINE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that images from the Rafah crossing illustrate that the civilian population is desperate and requires immediate support from the international community to survive. Today’s resolution, along with the opening of the Kerem Shalom crossing, will help, she said, adding that the resolution provides for the appointment of a humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator and a UN mechanism to ensure that humanitarian aid reaches those in need as soon as possible. The text also calls for conditions to be created for a lasting ceasefire that does not prejudice Israel’s right to defend its security. Further, it is complementary to international humanitarian law, according to which all parties to conflict must authorize and facilitate rescue operations to help populations in need, she said.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said the resolution marks an important step forward. Albania would have liked a more robust text, but the resolution adopted today has notable merits. He welcomed the establishment of a clear and straightforward mechanism to allow unhindered access for humanitarian assistance at scale for the people in Gaza. “Countless families are in dire need. They must be helped now, today and every day,” he said, adding that it is urgent for the United Nations to act. He called for the resolution’s speedy and full implementation, adding that Albania’s vote in favour of the text should not be misused by Hamas as condoning the unacceptable and unjustifiable.
NATHALIE BROADHURST ESTIVAL (France) said that the Council could have been more ambitious in its language regarding a ceasefire. France has consistently advocated for an immediate and durable humanitarian truce that leads to a lasting ceasefire. Additionally, France mobilized the international community during the international humanitarian conference in November, which gathered more than €1 billion in pledges from Western nations. Emphasizing the importance of observing international humanitarian law, she called on the Council to condemn terrorist attacks and sexual violence by groups such as Hamas. “It is incomprehensible that this Council has still not been able to do so,” she said.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) said that his delegation’s vote in favour reflected Mozambique’s commitment to the principle of protection of civilians during any armed conflict. While the resolution is not a perfect text, it is an effort to respond to the critical role of humanitarian personnel in providing aid to civilians affected by the conflict. Having visited the Rafah hospital and the Rafah crossing border, his delegation “could see with our eyes and feel with our own hearts” the tragedy of the Palestinian people, he said.
HAROLD ADLAI AGYEMAN (Ghana) said that while it is time for hostilities to end, his delegation voted in favour of the resolution because with so many lives lost - mostly women and children — and many more on the verge of starvation, famine and pestilence, it is imperative to take every opportunity to save lives and facilitate humanitarian access. All parties to the conflict have an obligation to comply with international law, in particular as it impacts civilians, and to protect UN personnel and premises. He urged the easing of all rigid procedures to speed up delivery of humanitarian aid and reiterated the call for the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages. Going forward, the Council cannot lose sight of its historical responsibility for the implementation of the two-State solution “even in this most darkest of moments”.
Mr. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), recalling the vote on his delegation’s proposed amendment, said that the United States exposed its true face to the world by blocking an extremely weak call for a cessation of hostilities in Gaza. Today is a tragic moment for the Council, not one of triumph. Essentially, the Council was being asked not to get in the way while the United States “goes around twisting arms in the region”. Noting that his delegation would have vetoed the text if it was not supported by several Arab States, he said the Arab world can take decisions and bear responsibility for them. However, he categorically disagreed with the content of operative paragraph 2, stressing: “We will not put our names to this.” Implementing a Council resolution in Gaza is impossible absent a ceasefire, as the experience of resolution 2712 (2023) has shown, he said, stating that the Council will return to this issue and unambiguously demand a cessation of hostilities.
Ms. NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), welcoming the adoption of resolution 2720 (2023), said that she was grateful for the Council’s support. “The text compels the international community to finally share in the burden that Egypt has been shouldering and it commits all of us to breaking the cruel blockade strangling Gaza for the last 16 years.” Every instance of progress serves a reminder of the scale of the tragedy. However, “we are still unable to stop the war” and Palestinians are being asked to accept that diplomacy is the art of what is possible. But what is possible is not predetermined; it is the product of active choices. “The collective choices of this Council, influenced by its structure, has shaped this grim reality. They can help shape a different future,” she said.
JOSÉ JAVIER DE LA GASCA (Ecuador), Council President for December, speaking in his national capacity, said that today’s adoption was the outcome of careful negotiations, good faith and the constructive spirit. Recalling last week’s visit to the Rafah crossing by Council members, he said the humanitarian situation in Gaza is “disastrous and despairing”. Today’s resolution aims to significantly increase the quantity of aid going into Gaza; it also calls for increased humanitarian access. “This resolution in no way contravenes the previous resolution 2712 (2023) and should be seen as an additional step towards the urgent need for a ceasefire.” Reiterating his condemnation for Hamas’s actions on 7 October, he said that today’s resolution should have explicitly mentioned that it is that group which is holding the hostages.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine, said that since the start of the war, 20,000 Palestinian people — almost half of them children — have been killed, plus 60,000 wounded and 2 million forcibly displaced. Today’s resolution will allow the Palestine Red Crescent, Palestinian medical and civilian rescue teams and United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) personnel to save human lives. Referring to a statement by the Deputy Head of the Civil Administration of Israel on 4 November, he said that Israel’s goal and true objective is “no future for Palestinians in Palestine”. Furthermore, Israel also targets storytellers and journalists, he said, adding: “Israel’s target is not only the past and the present of our people, but indeed the future.”
He drew attention to the killing by Israeli troops of three Israeli hostages in Gaza as well as to the ongoing ill treatment and mass arrests of Palestinians. “Those are the soldiers of a rogue army, unhinged and empowered by the impunity it enjoys, certain that it will not be held accountable.” Death in all of its manifestations is everywhere in Gaza and the Council resolution just adopted seeks to address this inhumane situation. Noting that the Council took 75 days to “finally utter the words ‘cessation of hostilities’”, he added: “There is no way to stop the war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide under way but [for] an immediate ceasefire.”
BRETT JONATHAN MILLER (Israel) recalled that it once took the Council one day to condemn an act of terror in Iran and to express its sympathy for the victims and their families. On the other hand, 77 days after Hamas intentionally murdered, raped and mutilated 1,300 Israelis and took 250 hostages, the Council has yet to issue a single statement condemning that group and its atrocities. While humanitarian aid is pouring into Gaza, the remaining 150 hostages held by Hamas are not even allowed visits by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) — “the most heinous war crime imaginable”. Israel is already facilitating hundreds of truckloads of aid into Gaza every day, and it is willing and able to exponentially increase its entry. However, any enhancement of UN aid monitoring cannot be done at the expense of Israel’s security inspections, he said.
Israel will not permit the regrouping and rearming of Hamas, as its 7 October atrocities cannot be repeated, he continued. Israel recently exposed another four-kilometre terror tunnel in Gaza, located 50 metres underground, he noted. For years and countless times, Israel met with officials to outline Hamas’s growing terror threat, “but our words fell on deaf ears.” Just as the Council is committed to increasing aid, it should be committed to supporting Israel’s mission to return the hostages, block the smuggling of arms to terrorists and ensure that aid is not diverted to terrorists. Any resolution should hold Hamas accountable, as it is a genocidal terror organization and a direct threat to Israel, Gazans and regional stability, he said.
OSAMA MAHMOUD ABDELKHALEK MAHMOUD (Egypt) said that today’s resolution is a step in the right direction to address the humanitarian impact of the war in Gaza. It will ensure that aid will be delivered, unhindered, through a mechanism under UN supervision so that humanitarian work will not remain hostage to the will of the occupying Power. Gaza is starving and houses, hospitals and medical facilities are being destroyed, accompanied by continued settler attacks in the West Bank and East Jerusalem that could lead to spreading violence. Now that the Council has adopted a resolution, UN agencies and bodies must implement it without delay by drawing up a comprehensive plan to translate the text into a functioning, effective mechanism in full coordination with the international community, he said.
“This is a first step,” he continued, emphasizing that it should be followed by many others, including obliging Israel to unconditionally halt hostilities throughout Gaza. All efforts aimed at alleviating the humanitarian crisis will only bear fruit if the Council implements a binding resolution concerning a comprehensive, lasting ceasefire. He also pointed out that today’s resolution is not confined to humanitarian issues, as it also stresses that international law obligations should be respected, that civilians should not be forcibly transferred and that the unity of Palestinian territory in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank should be respected. These are not less important than the humanitarian aspects, he said, reiterating the importance of realizing the legitimate aspirations of Palestinians.