UN council envoys to visit Gaza crossing as crisis spirals

Palestinians check a house destroyed in the Israeli bombardment on Rafah, Gaza Strip, Monday, Dec. 11, 2023. - AP

EL-ARISH, Egypt (AFP): UN Security Council ambassadors arrived Monday in Egypt to visit the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip, days after the United States vetoed a council resolution for a ceasefire.

The informal one-day trip organised by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt comes amid a spiralling humanitarian crisis in the besieged Gaza Strip, described as a "graveyard" by United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.

Around a dozen ambassadors are taking part in the visit from countries including Russia and the United Kingdom.

But the United States, which week vetoed Friday the Security Council resolution did not send a representative as did France.

"There is no justification to turning a blind eye to the pain and suffering inflicted on the Palestinian people in Gaza," an Egyptian foreign ministry official told the envoys during a briefing following their arrival.

Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE's envoy to the Security Council, said member states were taking part in the trip in their "national and personal capacities".

She said the visit aims to help them "understand not only the suffering and destruction experienced by the people of Gaza but also their hope and their strength".

The diplomats are due receive briefings from UN agencies, Egyptian authorities and health officials on the crisis in Gaza ahead of a trip to the Rafah crossing, the only gateway into the narrow enclave.

They are also due to make a stop at a hospital treating Palestinian patients in the Egyptian town of El-Arish near the Gaza border.

The war on Gaza was triggered when Palestinian Islamist group Hamas carried out the deadliest-ever attack on Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people, according to Israeli figures, and taking about 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Israel has responded with a military offensive that has reduced much of Gaza to rubble and killed at least 17,997 people, mostly women and children, according to the Hamas-run health ministry.

The UN estimates 1.9 million of Gaza's 2.4 million people have been displaced -- roughly half of them children -- by the war and Israel's intense bombing campaign that has reduced vast areas to rubble.

The war and siege have taken a heavy toll on basic services, especially health care, with only 14 of Gaza's 36 hospitals functioning at any capacity, according to the UN humanitarian agency OCHA, and dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine. - AFP

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