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On Gaza, 72 Hour Ceasefire Announced at UN, Serry Has Assurances

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, July 31 -- At 5:30 pm on July 31 the UN announced it would read out a statement, "for the cameras," in its briefing room. Inner City Press ran there this is what was said:

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and United States Secretary of State John Kerry announce that the United Nations Representative in Jerusalem, Special Coordinator Robert Serry, has received assurances that all parties have agreed to an unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

This humanitarian ceasefire will commence at 8 am local time on Friday, August 1, 2014. It will last for a period of 72 hours unless extended. During this time the forces on the ground will remain in place.

We urge all parties to act with restraint until this humanitarian ceasefire begins, and to fully abide by their commitments during the ceasefire.

This ceasefire is critical to giving innocent civilians a much-needed reprieve from violence. During this period, civilians in Gaza will receive urgently needed humanitarian relief, and the opportunity to carry out vital functions, including burying the dead, taking care of the injured, and restocking food supplies. Overdue repairs on essential water and energy infrastructure could also continue during this period.

Israeli and Palestinian delegations will immediately be going to Cairo for negotiations with the Government of Egypt, at the invitation of Egypt, aimed at reaching a durable ceasefire. The parties will be able to raise all issues of concern in these negotiations.

We thank key regional stakeholders for their vital support of this process, and count on a continued collaborative international effort to assist Egypt and the parties reach a durable ceasefire as soon as possible.

    Earlier on July 31, after the UN Security Council met for five hours, in the wake of the shelling of the UNRWA school in Jabalya, what emerged were mere "elements to the press" - the weakest form of Security Council action.

  The "press elements" consist of 77 words, not one of which is "school." Inner City Press listened and transcribed it:

Council members expressed their grave disappointment that the messages in the Presidential Statement of 28 July have not been heeded. They reiterated in the strongest terms their expectation that the PRST must be implemented Council members called for an immediate unconditional humanitarian ceasefire, that can lead to a sustainable ceasefire, based upon the Egyptian proposal. Pending this, Council members encouraged the use of humanitarian pauses. They called on member states to donate to UNRWA's flash appeal.”

   Earlier on July 31 when UN Relief and Works Agency chief Pierre Krahenbuhl called in on July 31 to take questions from the media, Inner City Press asked him to explain a sentence from his earlier briefing to UN Security Council.

   Krahenbul told the Council, "should further large scale displacements indeed occur, the Occupying Power, according to International Humanitarian Law, will have to assume direct responsibility to assist these people."

  Inner City Press asked Krahenbuhl to explain this, also if UNRWA is thinking of seeking reimbursement for destruction from Israel, and if he is aware of the European Union seeking reimbursement for the destruction of EU-funded projects.

   On reimbursement, Krahenbuhl said there is a precedent, from Operations Cast Lead, but it is too early to look into it on this, "Protective Edge."

   While continuing to parse Krahenbuhl's response on Occupation, the general (assembly) theory is that duties as Occupying Power were delegated or outsourced to UNRWA when it was created by the UN General Assembly.  It seems the duties could be handed back. But how would non-compliance with or non-fulfillment of these duties be enforced?

Just capitalizing letters in a legal phrase doesn't make it so.

   Earlier on July 31 outside the UN Security Council, Israel's Ambassador Ron Prosor and then the State of Palestine's Permanent Observer Riyad Mansour took questions from the Press.

  Inner City Press asked Prosor about Krahenbuhl's call to end the blockade of Gaza. Prosor replied that Israel has no interest in being in Gaza -- what, is there oil there, he asked rhetorically -- but cited and showed charts of Hamas rocket fire, and tunnels (which he said are funded by Qatar).

  Inner City Press asked Mansour about the US Department of Defense' confirmation of new ammunition transfers to Israel (see below).

  Mansour said that more weapons are not needed; he said that the killing of entire families would make peace much more difficult to achieve but that it should be strived for, an independent state of Palestine.

  In the UN Security Council, the Gaza issue has essentially been delegated to the US. In the UN Security Council on July 30, Nigeria criticized the Council's delay in issuing even a Presidential Statement; Chad called the Council "impotent."

  At the end of Rwandan presidency reception later on July 30, Inner City Press was told by more than one Council member that it is all up to the US. But, one might ask, how can a party transferring ammunition be considering an honest broker?

  Couldn't this transfer had been at least delayed? But that too would have been a story, bigger than this one, which Inner City Press was notified was broken by CNN, leading to this statement:

"The Department of Defense received a letter of request from the Israeli Ministry of Defense on July 20 for a normal Foreign Military Sales delivery of ammunition.  The appropriate DoD activities processed the request through normal inter-agency processes, resulting in a signed Letter of Offer and Acceptance on July 23.
"Two of the requested munitions were available in the War Reserve Stockpile Ammunition-Israel (WRSA-I), on the ground in Israel, and were therefore delivered to the Israeli Defense Force from this stockpile. Both munitions had been in WRSA-I stock for a few years, well before the current crisis.  All stocks in WRSA-I, as required by law, are "in excess to U.S. requirements." Issuing munitions from the WRSA-I stockpile was strictly a sourcing decision and White House approval was not required.

 "The United States is committed to the security of Israel, and it is vital to U.S. national interests to assist Israel to develop and maintain a strong and ready self-defense capability. This defense sale is consistent with those objectives."

  Thus spake the US Pentagon, or at least its spokesperson Kirby. But what will UN Security Council members say, at their July 31 session? Watch this site.

 Back on July 27-28, the Security Council convened to adopted a Presidential Statement, below.

 Afterward, Inner City Press asked Jordan's Deputy Permanent Representative why no vote had been called the draft resolution, if there was one or more vetoes or abstaining votes that would block it.

  He said things haven't reached that stage; rather it was a matter of seeing when the members of the Council thought a resolution would be useful to support of ceasefire.

  Some ask: so is that the UN Security Council's only function?

  Inner City Press asked Israel's Ron Prosor about the different drafts leaked to Haaretz and Al Jazeera (which Inner City Press noted, here). Prosor went wider scope with his answer. A ceasefire did not sound closer.

  Prosor was also asked about Ban Ki-moon flying around in a Qatar-funded private jet - a question on which Inner City Press first reported eight days ago, and on which Ban himself should answer.

 Palestine's Riyad Mansour cited as a precedent a 1994 Security Council resolution providing protecting in Hebron, by Norwegians in white shirts, he said. He said he wished the Presidential Statement had called for Israel to pull out of Gaza, and that he wished for a resolution. We will continue on this.

  Inner City Press immediately inquired and was informed it was to adopt a Presidential Statement; the version below was provided. But why not a resolution? Why proceeding so cautiously, compared most recently with the July 21 resolution on MH17 in Ukraine? 

  Earlier, with even the “humanitarian pause” over in Gaza, the draft "framework" agreement rejected by the Israeli cabinet on July 25 was leaked from both sides.

   But the versions leaked by each side were different.

  On Al Jazeera a one-page document was waved around, which had Qatar in the first paragraph as one of the signatories making commitments, which provided for the opening of “border and non-border” crossings and specified fishing rights up to 12 nautical miles, and a $47 million commitment by the US.

  In the “5 pm Confidential Draft” published by Ha'aretz, Qatar is the last paragraph (without Egypt), fishing rights and the $47 million from the US are not specified, nor are “non-border” crossing being opened.

  At least, the two sides leaked different stages or versions of the draft. Or is there more to this, in the spin war that this stage of the Gaza war has become?

  (The drafts are different; Al Jazeera is saying Ha'aretz stole its scoop. There may be more to this.)

  Meanwhile, silence at the UN with the draft Security Council resolution of Jordan and the Arab League not scheduled for a vote, and canned statements from Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, who after taking a Qatar-funded private jet from New York to Doha refused through his spokespeople to answer Inner City Press' follow-up questions on who paid for the rest of his travel. Watch this site.


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