(Bloomberg) -- The United Arab Emirates flew senior diplomats from China, Russia, the UK and other countries to view Egypt’s border area with the Gaza Strip, as the Gulf state deepens its push for a cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war.
The UAE government arranged a flight from Abu Dhabi on Monday for about a dozen ambassadors to the United Nations — also including those from Brazil, Japan and Ghana. They visited the Rafah crossing between Egypt and Gaza, the main gateway for aid into the Palestinian territory.
The UN, the UAE and a growing number of nations are trying to persuade Israel to end its bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza, a response to Hamas’s attack on Israel on Oct. 7. Last week, Abu Dhabi asked the UN Security Council to call for an immediate cease-fire. The motion was widely backed but vetoed by the US, Israel’s closest ally and a supplier of arms for its war effort.
“We all know the situation on the ground is most catastrophic,” China’s main representative to the UN, Zhang Jun, told reporters in Egypt. “We really should not allow the situation to become worse. We’re here with the belief that with our joint efforts, we can stop the war.”
There’s no indication the US or the UK, which abstained in the UN vote on Friday, will alter their positions. Washington has firmly backed Israel’s goal of destroying Hamas, classified a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, even while expressing concern about the civilian deathtoll.
The US and France — who, along with China, Russia and the UK, comprise the five permanent members of the UN Security Council — didn’t send envoys on Monday’s trip.
The diplomats who traveled met senior UN officials involved in distributing aid to Gaza. The organization says the humanitarian situation is dire in the densely-packed territory, home to just over 2 million Palestinians, with delays during the border crossing hampering assistance.
The UN’s main aid agency for Gaza, known as UNRWA, is on “the verge of collapse,” Philippe Lazzarini, its head, told Bloomberg. “Civil order is imploding.”
He described how people have taken to looting aid trucks and drinking sewerage water, with some not eating for days. UNRWA still intends to carry out its mandate in Gaza and scale up its operations, if possible, he said.
“We are here to listen to you and to understand better from you,” Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE’s UN ambassador, said to Lazzarini. The envoys will “take that understanding of this field visit into our deliberations in New York,” she said, referring to the UN’s headquarters.
The UAE established diplomatic relations with Israel in 2020 as part of the US-brokered Abraham Accords.
Read more: Palestinian Authority Working With US on Gaza Postwar Plan
Hamas killed about 1,200 people and abducted 240 during its incursion from Gaza, Israeli authorities have said. The retaliatory air-strikes and ground offensive have left more than 17,000 people dead, according to the enclave’s Hamas-run health ministry.
The UN estimates 1.9 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Gaza. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said “the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist.”
The World Health Organization warned the medical system has nearly collapsed and more people could die from disease than the bombings.
Rafah, in northern Sinai, is the only non-Israeli controlled entry point to Gaza, and hundreds of trucks carrying food, water and medical supplies have entered in recent weeks. Foreign nationals and some injured Palestinians have exited by the same route. The UN says the assistance is a fraction of what’s needed.
“The reality is even worse than what words can speak,” Jose De La Gasca, Ecuador’s main UN envoy, said in an interview. “The humanitarian system is in breakdown.”
“Stop it,” Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said in an interview, when asked about what his message would be after the trip. “I mean cease-fire. We have been delivering that message since the conflict started.”
While the UAE has repeatedly condemned the civilian deaths from Israel’s bombardment, it hasn’t joined nations such as Turkey in withdrawing its ambassador or limiting diplomatic ties.
(Updates with Russian ambassador comment in penultimate paragraph.)
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