Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations

Statement by Permanent Representative Vassily Nebenzia at UNSC briefing on the humanitarian situation in Gaza


We thank Senior Humanitarian Coordinator Kaag for the report and commitment to find opportunities to enhance humanitarian deliveries to the enclave in accordance with UNSC resolution 2720.

As you know, we abstained on the aforementioned resolution, which provides, inter alia, for the establishment of a United Nations mechanism to facilitate the delivery of humanitarian supplies to Gaza, the parameters of whose work are being discussed today. The reason is the absence in that document of an explicit demand for a ceasefire, which is a key condition for unimpeded and safe humanitarian access to those in need. Instead, it envisages "creating conditions" of some kind for putting an end to violence in Gaza. We warned that such ambiguous language would be interpreted by Israel as a green light. That is exactly what has happened.

Colleagues, we are getting weary of repeating that in the context of the Israeli military operation in the Gaza Strip, which has been going on for more than six months now, with the full support of the United States, it is simply impossible to provide adequate assistance to the population of the enclave. This is an obvious thing. Humanitarian workers are unarmed people. They are defenseless against shelling. It is simply inhumane to require them to die under attack, whilst the Council is unable to force Israel to cease hostilities.

There is another critical point. The UNSC has a logical, historically established algorithm for action in conflict situations. First, the Council demands that the parties cease fire. Then the monitoring of ceasefire by military – that is, professionally trained personnel – observers. Then, if they are not allowed into the zone of contact or identify a ceasefire violation, the question of coercive measures arises. In particular, deployment of a peacekeeping contingent.

In the case of Gaza, however, this whole chain of actions has been turned upside down. In fact, humanitarian workers have been asked to carry out the tasks of peacekeepers, sacrificing their lives. Colleagues, this is absurd and extremely dangerous.

If the ceasefire regime is not being observed, let us discuss concrete measures to ensure its implementation. The Security Council has well-established algorithms and tools in this regard, including in the context of peacekeeping contingents.

For starters, we could at least revisit the idea of more active involvement of the UN Truce Supervision Organization (UNTSO). Its head, Patrick Gauchat, has already briefed the Council once and promised to provide more details on the resources available to UNTSO. We suggest that we discuss this issue again.

In addition, the Israeli authorities are openly obstructing the delivery of essential goods to peaceful Gazans. Last week, we discussed at length the situation of UNRWA that is simply unacceptable.

As far as we know, UN humanitarian agencies, including UNRWA, maintain a significant presence in the Palestinian territories. They have sufficient resources, including finance. Top-loaded convoys wait at the crossings on the border with Gaza. There is a full range of legal possibilities for organizing the delivery of humanitarian aid, without creating additional superstructures in the form of a Mechanism. First of all, I am referring to the IHL, including the Geneva Conventions and the guidelines of UNGA resolution 46/182. In these circumstances, we do not believe it necessary to establish any special humanitarian regime for Gaza, especially since it will obviously not work as long as one of the parties is determined to continue fighting.

In this regard, everyone must recognize one simple thing. The problem is not the presence or absence of a mechanism for the delivery of humanitarian aid, but the lack of conditions for that due to the intense fighting, to which the IDF makes no exceptions for hospitals, schools or humanitarian convoys.

It is our firm belief that humanitarian access must be granted in accordance with IHL norms and that humanitarian workers must be guaranteed an adequate level of safety and protection.

In this connection, we reiterate once again: the primary task of the international community, represented by the UN Security Council, is to ensure an immediate and sustainable ceasefire. Only then can we seriously talk about resolving problems with food security, sanitation, education and other vital areas.

Of course, we would like to believe that the proposed mechanism for the delivery of humanitarian aid will make a difference, but that is unrealistic in the context of the fierce fighting and the ongoing “cleansing” operations. It has already come to the point where Israeli settlers are raiding Palestinian villages, committing murder and arson. Under such conditions, humanitarian workers would continue to die, and the “one stop shop” proposed under the Mechanism would hardly help.


Since our task today is to substantively discuss the Concept Note on the modalities of the Mechanism, allow me to ask a few questions to its authors.

The main one is whether the Israeli and Palestinian parties have agreed to such a Mechanism. Have the details of this scheme of humanitarian deliveries been discussed with them? If so, with whom exactly?

Are there guarantees that the Israeli authorities will not inspect trucks, as they do now, and withhold entry permits for months? If there are no such guarantees, what is the "added value" of this Mechanism? How does it actually differ from current practices? On the contrary, in this case the Mechanism would become another bureaucratic barrier, with additional checks and inspections.

Another fundamental question is that the Concept Note refers to the Kerem Shalom and Rafah access points, which are already used to let through cargoes. Why are the other land and sea crossings, such as the five crossings on the border with Israel, the temporary pier in Gaza and the port in Ashdod, not included?

The document misses a section on the interaction of UN staff, who are expected to implement the Mechanism, with the Israeli and Palestinian sides and various UN agencies. Only some key partners, relevant authorities and humanitarian actors are mentioned. That point needs to be clarified.

We would also like to know more about proposed commercial deliveries under the Mechanism that is supposed to serve purely humanitarian tasks. Given that this is an unparalleled and unprecedented approach, we would appreciate further clarification.

Thank you.

Video of the statement