UN Security Council passes resolution demanding Gaza ceasefire – as US abstains

UN Security Council passes resolution demanding Gaza ceasefire – as US abstains
  • PublishedMarch 26, 2024

The US abstained from the proposal, which also called for the immediate release of hostages and the expansion of aid into Gaza.

The United Nations Security Council has passed a resolution that demands a ceasefire in Gaza for the rest of Ramadan.

The Muslim holy month began on 10 March and is set to finish on 9 April – meaning the council is calling for a two-week truce, though the proposal said the pause in fighting should lead “to a permanent sustainable ceasefire”.

The US abstained from the vote, with the 14 other council members – including RussiaChina and the UK – voting in favour.

The resolution also demanded the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages – not linked to a timeline – and “emphasises the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to… the Gaza Strip”.

After the vote, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned delegation visit to Washington as “the US withdrew from its consistent position”.

In a statement, Mr Netanyahu’s office said “the US did not veto the new text that calls for a ceasefire without the condition of releasing the abductees”, and called the American abstention a “clear retreat”.

“This withdrawal hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the hostages, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a ceasefire without the release of our hostages,” the office said.

The Israeli delegation was to present White House officials with plans for an expected ground invasion of the strategic Gaza town of Rafah, where more than one million Palestinian civilians have sought shelter from the war.

Meanwhile, Hamas welcomed the UN resolution and said it “affirms readiness to engage in immediate prisoner swaps on both sides”.

Vote ‘does not represent policy shift’, US says

On Friday, Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that would have supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The council had adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza since the start of the war but Friday’s proposal marked the first time the US has backed a resolution containing the word “ceasefire” – reflecting a toughening of the Biden administration’s stance towards Israel.

But the White House said after Monday’s vote that the US abstention “does not represent a shift in policy” and that the resolution “did not have language the US deems essential”.

US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US “fully supports” the resolution’s “critical objectives” despite its abstention.

“In fact, they were the foundation of the resolution we put forward last week – a resolution that Russia and China vetoed.”

Resolution ‘could have come months ago’

Emphasising that her country’s support for the objectives “is not simply rhetorical”, Ms Thomas-Greenfield said the US “is working around the clock to make them real on the ground through diplomacy”.

She also said a ceasefire could have come “months ago” had Hamas been ready to release the hostages, accusing the Palestinian group of throwing roadblocks in the path of peace.

“So today my ask to members of this council… is ‘speak out and demand unequivocally that Hamas accepts the deal on the table’,” she said.

The US had vetoed three previous resolutions demanding a ceasefire in Gaza, the most recent a measure backed by the 22-nation Arab Group at the UN on 20 February.

Vote ‘sends clear and united message’

In explaining the UK’s support of the proposal, Dame Barbara Woodward, the country’s ambassador to the UN, said she “regrets that this resolution has not condemned” the 7 October attack but welcomed the ongoing diplomatic efforts by EgyptQatar and the US.

She said: “The resolution sends a clear and united message on the need for international humanitarian law to be upheld and for aid to be scaled up urgently, including the lifting of all barriers impeding its delivery.

“We need to focus on how we chart the way from an immediate humanitarian pause to a lasting sustainable peace without a return to fighting.”

Pic: WHO/Reuters
A view of damage to the facade of Al-Awda Hospital, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, in Gaza, in this still image taken from video released March 21, 2024. World Health Organization (WHO)/Handout via REUTERS THIS IMAGE HAS BEEN SUPPLIED BY A THIRD PARTY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES. MANDATORY CREDIT
Image:The damage to al Awda Hospital in Gaza in a picture taken last week. Pic: WHO/Reuters

UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres said on social media after Monday’s vote that the resolution “must be implemented”, adding: “Failure would be unforgivable.”

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed during the fighting in Gaza, according to the Hamas-led health ministry.

It does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its toll, but says women and children make up two thirds of the dead.

The Israeli strikes were in retaliation for the 7 October attack, when Hamas killed around 1,200 people in southern Israel and took hundreds of others hostage.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency, with a UN-backed report published last week stating “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza.

It added that an escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.


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