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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending Nov. 3


Approximately 670,000 Gazans are sheltering in UN-sponsored schools and other sites across the Palestinian enclave amid the Israel Defense Forces’ bombardment in the last three weeks. The UN agency for refugees, known as Unrwa, employs 13,000 people, mostly Palestinians. Seventy-two of its personnel have died so far in the war. UNRWA/TWITTER

Welcome to This Week @UN, where we summarize the most important news emanating from the organization as well as promote our own articles that you may have missed in the last seven days. The agonizing toll on civilians caught in the middle of the Gaza war remains the foremost focus at the UN. Herein, news on Mali, Pakistan, Syria and China as well.

In Gaza, the humanitarian strife worsens daily as the United States, the closest ally of Israel, is unable to rein in its retaliatory attacks against the Palestinian enclave; 9,061 people (mostly women and children) have died since the war broke out, and 1,400 people in Israel were killed in Hamas’s massacre on Oct. 7. As of Friday, only 374 truckloads of aid, operated by the UN or the Palestine Red Crescent Society, have gotten into Gaza from Egypt since Oct. 21, far less than the 500 daily deliveries of prewar levels, the UN says, calling it “completely inadequate.” Seventy-two UN personnel in Gaza have died in the war so far. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was in Tel Aviv on Nov. 3 to negotiate, among other goals, a humanitarian pause but was reportedly rebuffed by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Hospitals in Gaza are especially vulnerable, as they rely on fuel, which Israel is banning from the aid deliveries, to operate their generators. Seventy-one percent of all primary care facilities are inoperable. On Nov. 2, for example, the Indonesian Hospital, in northern Gaza, stopped working because it had no fuel. The hospital had been admitting hundreds of people injured from the Israeli attacks on Jabalia refugee camp, leaving patients at risk of dying or with lifelong disabilities. France announced it would hold a humanitarian aid conference on Gaza on Nov. 9 in Paris. — DULCIE LEIMBACH

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Moral support for UN Secretary-General António Guterres, amid the Gaza war, has elicited an initiative from the Peacemaking Reflection Group of former UN personnel, through an organization called FOGGS, to collect signatures backing Guterres “and the UN staff caught up in the latest Israel-Palestine conflagration.”

Monday, Oct. 30

The First Step Toward World Peace? Fix the UN: Louise Blais, a former Canadian diplomat, argues in her opinion piece that basic changes to the organization are needed to achieve its UN Charter mission of fostering world peace, starting with the Security Council. “Time and time again, the anachronistic P5 have worked to solidly increase their power beyond the original intent in 1945,” Blais writes, referring to the five permanent members, Britain, China, France, Russia and the US. They “have manipulated, changed and imposed rules and procedures not to uphold the values of the UN or prevent conflict but to game the system to their advantage.”

Spokesperson’s briefing: Shelling across Lebanon‘s Blue Line, which marks the boundary where Israeli forces withdrew from Lebanon in 2000, hit two Unifil peacekeeping mission positions, injuring two of its troops — the first direct impact at the line since the Gaza war began. “UNIFIL is working to ascertain the origin of the shell fire,” UN spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric said, and “again, we urge all actors to immediately cease hostile actions across the Blue Line.”

• Marcos Athias Neto of Brazil is the new assistant administrator and director, Bureau for Policy and Programme Services of the UN Development Program (UNDP). He succeeds Haoliang Xu of China, who has been appointed as under-secretary-general and associate administrator of the agency.

Kirsi Madi of Finland is the new deputy executive director for resource management, sustainability and partnerships at UN Women, which means administrative and fund-raising work.

Tuesday, Oct. 31

Volunteer Doctors Went to Rebel-Held Northwest Syria to Help Save Lives. Then the Bombs Started: Dawn Clancy recounts her brief but dramatic experience shadowing volunteer doctors in the rebel-held Idlib province of northwest Syria, offering a window into a country trapped in a 12-year civil war. Leaning on interviews with local people — many of them residing in crude displacement camps — Clancy chronicles life in the region as violence erupted while she was there, saying, “The Assad regime, aided by its ally Russia, continues to bomb the northwest with barely a whisper of outrage from the international community, partly due to the world shifting its attention to the brutal war and humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza.”

Spokesperson’s briefing: Dujarric confirmed that Craig Mokhiber stepped down as director of the UN Human Rights Office in New York City (OHCHR) over the UN’s inability to stop the “genocide” of Palestinians in Gaza. “[We] are seeing a genocide unfolding before our eyes, and the Organization that we serve appears powerless to stop it,” Mokhiber wrote to his boss, Volker Turk, in a letter posted on X. The UN quickly distanced itself, saying Mokhiber’s views are his own, and the “position of the Office on the grave situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territories and Israel is reflected in our public reports and statements.” Dujarric added that Mokhiber was already retiring on Nov. 1.

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s envoy to the UN, briefing the Security Council on the Mideast, including Palestine, Oct. 30, 2023. He and his delegation wore the yellow Star of David to emphasize that the goal of Hamas “is to destroy Israel,” he said in an interview later. The Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum criticized Erdan, saying the move dishonored “both the victims of the Holocaust and the State of Israel.” EVAN SCHNEIDER/UN PHOTO

Wednesday, Nov. 1

Spokesperson’s briefing: Dujarric said he had “no information to share” on comments that Secretary of State Blinken made to the US Senate on Oct. 31 about the US and Israel discussing the possibility of sending a UN-supervised international peace force consisting of US, Israeli and French troops into Gaza. When asked if the UN would support such an operation — similar to the security support mission the Security Council endorsed for Haiti earlier this month — Dujarric said, “I’m not going to get into it at this point.” (The Haiti mission will involve Kenyan troops/police and no UN personnel.)

 Thursday, Nov. 2

Is China the Right Country to Call for a Cease-Fire in Gaza? Damilola Banjo reports on China‘s plans for its monthly rotating presidency of the UN Security Council, as it aims to position itself as a key player in brokering a cease-fire in Gaza, even though it has no influence in the Mideast, the ambassador, Zhang Jun, conceded. “The war [in Gaza] will dominate the Council in November,” he said repeatedly at a Nov. 1 briefing, revealing little information as well about a new draft resolution being negotiated to address the humanitarian disaster in the Palestinian enclave, after four earlier texts have failed in votes. (Zhang also demonstrated, with help, how to play with a Luban lock toy.)

• Spokesperson’s briefing: The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has appealed to Pakistan to continue its “protection of all vulnerable Afghans who have sought safety in the country,” and that “any refugee return must be voluntary without any pressure,” Dujarric said, after hundreds of thousands of Afghans were reportedly ordered to return to their country, notably as winter arrives. The Pakistani government imposed an Oct. 31 deadline for undocumented immigrants — mostly Afghans who fled Taliban rule — to leave after Islamabad claimed Afghans were involved in the Sept. 29 suicide bombings that killed 57 people at a town bordering Afghanistan.

Friday, Nov. 3

Spokesperson’s briefing: As the UN peacekeeping mission in Mali (Minusma) withdraws by Dec. 31, the final convoy to leave the Kidal region in the remote north hit numerous improvised explosive devices (IED) this week as it headed to its next stop, farther south, in Gao. Seven peacekeepers were injured on Friday and medically evacuated. On Nov. 1, eight other peacekeepers were injured similarly. They are reportedly in stable condition. Dujarric said it was “hard to tell” whether the convoy was being targeted or if the IEDs were leftovers from previous conflicts in the area. Additionally, a convoy of 500-plus peacekeepers from Chad, which left Tessalit and Aguelhok bases last week, arrived in Gao, after traveling hundreds of kilometers in “very unsafe territory,” the UN says, and experiencing four IED incidents, resulting in minor injuries. The mission’s exit from Kidal has been particularly challenging, according to Dujarric, due to the lawlessness in the region and “the challenges with flight authorizations, including for flights to protect peacekeeping operations,” from Malian officials.


• The UN Human Rights Committee’s review of US compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights recommends that the country “establish a moratorium on the imposition of sentences to life imprisonment without parole,” often referred to as “death by incarceration.”

We welcome your comments on this article.  What are your thoughts on the UN situation in Gaza?

Arthur Bassas

Arthur Bassas is a researcher and writer who graduated from St. Andrews in Scotland, majoring in international relations and terrorism. He lives in Brooklyn, N.Y., and speaks English and French.

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It Happened at the UN: Week Ending Nov. 3
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8 months ago

With reference to Gaza, what does “humanitarian strife” mean?

8 months ago
Reply to  Norah NILAND

The humanitarian situation’s strife. thanks

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