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Allegations of Israeli War Crimes Grow as US Again Delays Security Council Vote

UNICEF has declared Gaza to be the “world’s most dangerous place to be a child.”

US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood arrives before a UN Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on December 19, 2023.

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United States diplomats once again held up a vote on a watered-down United Nations Security Council resolution on Wednesday aimed at bringing more aid and relief to civilians in the besieged Gaza Strip as reports of starvation, mass killings, and other war crimes allegedly committed by the Israeli military continue to pile up.

After a vote on the humanitarian resolution was postponed on Monday, the 5 pm deadline for a Security Council vote came and went on Tuesday. U.S. officials reportedly asked for more time to negotiate and postponed the vote for a third time on Wednesday.

Despite massive international support for a ceasefire at the UN, on December 8, the U.S. blocked a previous attempt by the Security Council to leverage international law and secure a humanitarian ceasefire so more aid can enter Gaza. Diplomats struggled on Tuesday to come up with language for the latest resolution that the U.S. would support — or at least abstain from blocking with its powerful veto on the council.

Mohamed Abushahab, the UN ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, told the council on Tuesday that the draft resolution later delayed by the U.S. is designed to quell the humanitarian crisis in Gaza and support aid and medical workers desperately trying to save lives.

“Gazans are experiencing unprecedented levels of starvation and thirst, while doctors lack even the most basic of medical supplies to treat the wounded and the growing threat of infection,” he told the council.

The draft resolution circulating on Tuesday does not name Israel and Hamas but calls on both “parties” to facilitate delivery of aid by land, sea and air to all parts of the Gaza Strip, according to reports. It also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other groups.

The resolution also calls for the UN to create a process for screening aid deliveries, a point likely opposed by Israel, which has so far insisted that Israel Defense Forces (IDF) inspect all deliveries before they enter Gaza. The World Food Program reports that nearly everyone in Gaza — 2.2 million people — is in need of food assistance to survive, but the “food systems are collapsing.” Human Rights Watch accused Israel on Monday of using starvation as a weapon of war, a charge Israel denies.

UNICEF, an international aid group for children, has declared Gaza to be the “world’s most dangerous place to be a child.” Clean drinking water is scarce, and with sanitation services collapsing, “large-scale outbreaks of disease” are imminent, the group said this week.

The World Food Program reports that nearly everyone in Gaza is in need of food assistance to survive, but the “food systems are collapsing.” Human Rights Watch accused Israel on Monday of using starvation as a weapon of war.

Meanwhile, there are so many allegations of war crimes lodged against the IDF that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), a longstanding U.S.-based civil rights group, published a newsletter titled “Israeli War Crimes of the Day.”

Topping the CAIR newsletter’s grim list on Tuesday was an account provided to Reuters and other media outlets by Yousef Khalil, a grandfather who says he watched as IDF troops massacred his family in early December as civilians took shelter during intense fighting inside a school in northern Gaza’s Jabaliya refugee camp.

According to Khalil, IDF soldiers entered the school as he was sleeping and began shooting indiscriminately, killing at least nine people, including his children and grandchildren, who were sitting up when the soldiers arrived during a raid on the refugee camp.

“They are my children and grandchildren. Why did they shoot them in front of my eyes?” Khalil told Reuters this week. “They started to shoot all around. Then they finished shooting. I was moving. They said, ‘where do you want to go?’ I said, ‘I want to leave, to get out. I want to check my children who died.’ They said, ‘you’re not allowed out of this room’.”

Khalil said survivors either fled or were detained by the Israeli military. When survivors came back to the site last week, the bodies of his family members and other victims were still lying where they were killed, he said. Reuters video footage of the school filmed last week showed “at least two corpses on the floor of indeterminate age, bloodied bedding, and bullet holes and bloodstains low to the ground,” according to the report.

As it has with other alleged war crimes and violations of the IDF’s so-called rules of engagement, the IDF responded to questions about the killings from Reuters by claiming Israeli officials are “working on it” and looking into the report.

CAIR pointed to the killing by IDF forces of three Israeli hostages who were reportedly shirtless and carrying white flags as evidence that the Israeli military is “shooting anything that moves.”

Even President Joe Biden, one of Israel’s staunchest allies, recently criticized Israel for the civilian death toll in Gaza and “indiscriminate” airstrikes by the IDF. A recent report from U.S. intelligence found that nearly half of the airstrikes on Gaza dropped unguided munitions known as “dumb bombs” despite the risk of civilian casualties in densely populated neighborhoods, refugee camps, schools, mosques and medical facilities.

“These war crimes — and the many more that undoubtedly go unreported — carried out by Israel’s apartheid government will continue until the Biden administration joins the international community in forcing an end to the ongoing slaughter, forced starvation and ethnic cleansing in Gaza,” said CAIR National Communications Director Ibrahim Hooper, in a statement.

The Biden administration had its latest chance to intervene on Tuesday as the United Nations Security Council deliberated over an already watered-down draft resolution aimed at pausing the fighting so that food, water and medicine can be delivered to desperate Palestinians as airstrikes, disease, hunger and a dangerous lack of clean water continue to claim lives in Gaza. However, the vote was postponed for further deliberations, and reports suggest the U.S. is leaning toward a veto that would once again block international action.

UN negotiators were racing to come up with language that would avoid a U.S. veto before a scheduled vote on Wednesday, changing “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” to an “urgent suspension of hostilities” — language similar to the resolution that the Security Council passed last month, which secured a brief pause in fighting and airstrikes that allowed for a hostage exchange. Even if the resolution passes, it will not call for the permanent ceasefire that people around the world hope to see.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters on Wednesday that both the Israeli leadership and the U.S. support another pause in fighting to allow for the release of hostages, but he blamed Hamas for reneging on commitments made in past negotiations and refusing to lay down arms and surrender.

“It’s clear that the conflict will move and needs to move to a lower intensity phase, and we expect to see and want to see a shift to more targeted operations with a smaller number of forces,” Blinken said.

Meanwhile, the list of war crimes allegations goes on. Video reports tell of the IDF bulldozing medical tents with injured civilians, allegedly burying them alive. Two hospitals in northern Gaza, which suffered for days under a siege enforced by deadly Israeli snipers, were then shut down by IDF raids and the mass arrest and detention of medical workers, according to Doctors Without Borders and social media posts from Gaza health officials. As of Tuesday, a dozen medical staffers from the al-Awda Hospital were still under arrest after the IDF besieged and raided the facility, including hospital manager Ahmed Muhanna.

At least 29 Palestinians were reportedly killed in an airstrike in Rafah on Tuesday, an area designated as a southern “safe zone” for civilians by the Israeli government. There are also widespread reports of abuse, torture and death among Palestinians detained by Israeli forces.

The IDF claims to be hunting Hamas fighters hiding in these “safe zones” and medical facilities, a charge that both detained medical workers and Gaza health officials have denied.

The number of deaths reported by the Gaza Ministry of Health is reaching 20,000 people, with thousands more buried under the rubble of bombed buildings. About 1,200 people were killed and 240 taken hostage in the October 7 attack on southern Israel that sparked the IDF’s unprecedented retaliation against the people of Gaza.

“There must be a ceasefire now,” Hooper said.

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