Maghreb nations play their role in Gaza resolution

Maghreb nations play their role in Gaza resolution
Mark Seddon

Finally, after over five months of intensive Israeli military action in Gaza, which has also claimed well over 30,000 Palestinian lives, mainly women and children, the UN Security Council voted earlier this week for an immediate ceasefire for the remaining period of Ramadan. "The bloodbath has continued for far too long," said Algeria’s Permanent Representative to the UN Amar Bendjama, the leader of the 22 strong Arab Group and a current Security Council member. Algeria sponsored Resolution 2728, which is binding, and which was also supported by Morocco. Having vetoed each previous attempts to call for a ceasefire, this time, the United States abstained. The vote took place on the day that the Israeli authorities announced that the main UN relief agency, the UN Relief & Works Agency, would no longer be allowed to operate in northern Gaza, where starvation is beginning to claim lives.  

The decision to block UNRWA from delivering aid, apart from being another breach of international law, will put added pressure on many of those countries who are trying to find alternative or additional ways of delivering aid. Earlier this month Morocco became the first country to transport humanitarian aid from Ben Gurion Airport, transferring it to the Palestinian Red Crescent at the Kerem Shalom crossing into Gaza.  Other nations have been actively dropping supplies via air while the US is building a temporary port to facilitate aid deliveries – although this will take time. 

The ceasefire – which the UN would like to see become permanent -- will therefore be essential if widespread starvation is to be avoided. Resolution 2728 is legally binding. But the obvious elephant in the room is enforcement: who is to enforce it? It ultimately falls to Israel and Hamas to heed the Security Council’s call and to the Council itself to enforce its requests. Under Article 41 of the UN Charter, the Security Council may call upon UN Members States to apply measures that include complete or partial interruption of economic relations and of rail, sea, air, postal, telegraphic, radio, and other means of communication, the severance of diplomatic relations and suspension from membership of the United Nations. This was very much the approach followed by the UN with Apartheid South Africa. But, if these measures are seen to be ‘inadequate or have proved to be inadequate’ by the Security Council, it can adopt Article 42 and authorise Member States to; ‘take action by air, sea, or land forces as may be necessary to maintain or restore international peace and security’. This latter course of action seems unlikely, but for those who claim that the UN has no teeth to act, a salutary reminder that in extremis, it does. 

 *Mark Seddon is a former Speechwriter to UN Secretary-General Ban ki moon & former Adviser to the Office of the President of the UN General Assembly

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