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UN Demands Humanitarian Truce as Gaza Aid Faces Collapse

Palestinians, who fled their houses amid Israeli strikes, take shelter at a tent camp at a United Nations-run center, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 26, 2023.
Palestinians, who fled their houses amid Israeli strikes, take shelter at a tent camp at a United Nations-run center, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 26, 2023.

NEW YORK — Israel expanded its military ground operation Friday night as the international community called for an immediate humanitarian truce and U.N. leaders warned that the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip was nearing total collapse.

“Misery is growing by the minute,” U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement. “Without a fundamental change, the people of Gaza will face an unprecedented avalanche of human suffering.”

Limited humanitarian assistance only started entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip on October 21, but it has been slow, sporadic and insufficient to meet the rising needs. Fuel is urgently needed, but Israel has forbidden it, saying it believes Hamas will divert it for its war machine and that it is hoarding large fuel reserves for military use.

Guterres said the United Nations would not be able to continue to deliver aid inside Gaza without an “immediate and fundamental shift” in how it was going in. He said the mechanism to inspect goods at the Egyptian border must be adjusted so trucks can be inspected faster.

"Everyone must assume their responsibilities,” he said. “This is a moment of truth. History is judging us all.”

More than 2.2 million people live in the Gaza Strip, and the United Nations estimates more than 1.4 million of them have been displaced by the hostilities that erupted following Hamas’ October 7 terror attack on Israeli towns and cities that killed 1,400 people. Hamas is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

Earlier Friday in Jerusalem, the head of the U.N. agency that assists Palestinian refugees warned that Gazans were being “strangled.”

"As we speak, people in Gaza are dying,” Philippe Lazzarini, commissioner general of the U.N. Relief and Works Agency, told reporters. “They are dying only from bombs and strikes. Soon, many more will die from the consequences of [the] siege imposed on the Gaza Strip. Basic services are crumbling. Medicine is running out. Food and water are running out.”

FILE - Trucks head to the Egyptian side of the border to be loaded with aid that will be delivered to Palestinians in Gaza, in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, Oct. 21, 2023.

Humanitarian truce

The U.N. General Assembly voted overwhelmingly Friday for a resolution calling for a humanitarian truce.

The text, proposed by Jordan on behalf of Arab states, calls for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” allowing for the safe provision of aid to Gaza and for the release of all civilians who are being held captive, among other elements.

The General Assembly loudly applauded the result of the vote: 120 countries in favor and 14 against. The 45 abstentions did not count toward the two-thirds majority required for adoption. The body’s resolutions are not legally binding, but they express the will of the international community.

A lengthy debate preceded the vote, and Canada offered an amendment it said would make the Jordanian draft more balanced. It condemned the Hamas terror attack and the taking of hostages and called for their immediate release. The assembly voted against including it.

The United States supported the Canadian amendment but did not vote for the resolution when the amendment was not included.

“This ridiculous resolution has the audacity to call for a truce,” Israel’s ambassador, Gilad Erdan, said after the vote. “The goal of this resolution’s truce is that Israel should cease to defend itself to Hamas, so Hamas can light us on fire.”

He said Israel was closely monitoring the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

“And we know that there is no humanitarian crisis in accordance with international humanitarian law. Trusting the reports coming out of Gaza is exactly like trusting reports from ISIS,” he said, referring to the Islamic State terror group.

The Hamas-controlled health ministry in Gaza has put the death toll at more than 7,000 Palestinians and more than 18,000 injured. Those numbers cannot be independently verified.

The General Assembly convened its special session after the Security Council failed to adopt a similar resolution calling for a humanitarian cease-fire. The council considered four different texts, but each failed to garner the necessary support or was blocked by a veto.

As the assembly voted, the Israel Defense Forces announced they were expanding their ground operations in Gaza and heavy airstrikes were reported from the territory.

The U.N. resident and humanitarian coordinator for the Palestinian territories, Lynn Hastings, said on the social media platform X that phone, internet and mobile networks had been cut to Gaza and that U.N. officials were unable to communicate with aid workers there.