Malta’s permanent representative to the United Nations has joined 12 other representatives of the Security Council for briefings in Egypt amid concerns that the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza could collapse.
In a social media post, Vanessa Frazier said the delegation has visited the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, where trucks are waiting to deliver much-needed supplies to Gaza.
Earlier this month the United Nations Security Council adopted a Malta-drafted resolution calling for “extended humanitarian pauses” in the war between Israel and Hamas militants to allow for the delivery of aid and the release of hostages.
Fighting was paused for a few days later following a deal brokered by Qatar and Egypt, allowing for the release of women and children by Hamas in exchange for Palestinian prisoners and aid. The pause ended last week when fierce fighting resumed.
The delegation's brief visit to Egypt follows a letter to the council from the UN Humanitarian Agency warning that the delivery of humanitarian aid was at risk of collapse.
"This is a code red for us, as we cannot have a humanitarian structure collapsing,” Frazier said.
“It is very important that we are here so that we can have a better understanding of what is happening on the ground and have the opportunity to discuss and understand what humanitarian workers need from us,” Frazier told Times of Malta.
The trip was arranged through negotiations with Egyptian, Palestinian and Israeli authorities.
The US, which last Friday vetoed the Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire, did not send a representative and neither did France.
The envoys visited a hospital in El-Arish near the Rafah border crossing with Gaza, treating people who had been evacuated from the conflict.
Some children we met had lost their entire family," Frazier said, adding there were patients of all ages.
Among the people the ambassadors met was Wafaa Asaad, a 27-year-old from Gaza who was heavily pregnant when her house was hit by an Israeli strike, killing her husband and injuring her two daughters.
She was evacuated to Egypt for medical treatment and had an arm and leg amputated, but managed to give birth just hours after crossing the border, her sister Alaa told AFP.
Ambassadors hear horror stories from war victims in hospital
"Our message to the UN is we want the war to stop," Alaa said, her newborn niece laying on a bed beside her.
Ecuador's envoy Jose de la Gasca told AFP he was "destroyed" by the visit to the hospital.
"I just met a young mother who lost a kid and has another little girl who is wounded," he said.
"I don't ever want to see again what I have just seen. It's horrible."
UAE envoy Lana Nusseibeh said the trip was not official Security Council work, and members were taking part on their own "national and personal" initiatives.
Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN's Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA, briefed the envoys on the humanitarian situation before he headed to Gaza for his third visit since the start of the war in October.
There is "deep frustration, disappointment and some outrage... (that) we can't even reach a consensus for a ceasefire," Lazzarini said.
"There is no real safe place in the Gaza Strip. Even the UN premises currently hosting more than one million people have been hit," he added.
"Hunger is prevailing in Gaza. More and more people haven't eaten for one day, two days, three days... people lack absolutely everything."
The war was triggered when Hamas, the Palestinian group that runs Gaza, 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 UNSC representatives had hoped to visit a field hospital in Gaza but although the visit was originally cleared by Israel, permission was later withdrawn after Israel said it would be carrying out military operations close by.
Now, the group will be speaking to personnel at the field hospital via video link, Fraizer explained.
The group also visited the Egyptian Red Crescent Humanitarian hub.
Israel banning the importation of vital items
"The head explained what the entire process for delivery to humanitarian aid into Gaza entails and the difficulties," Frazier said.
"For example, there are many vital items which are being rejected by the Israeli side and sent back, such as water purifiers, oxygen canisters, solar energy equipment and generators, because Israel says they have a dual use function."
She said the trip was providing her and her colleagues the opportunity to witness the situation first-hand rather than reading reports on the war and its impact.
“And meeting patients in hospitals makes it all very real and makes us always more aware of how important our work is. Our decisions impact lives.”