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US vetoes UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

US vetoes UN resolution calling for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza


US vetoes UN resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

US vetoes UN resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza 02:13

The United States on Tuesday vetoed a widely supported, Arab-backed UN resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, saying it would interfere with negotiations on a deal to free hostages kidnapped in Israel.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13 to 1, with the United Kingdom abstaining, reflecting strong support from countries around the world for ending the more than four-month-old war, which has began when Hamas militants invaded southern Israel, killing around 1,200 people. people and taking 250 others hostage. Since then, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli military offensive, according to Gaza's health ministry, which says the vast majority were women and children.

It is the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza and comes a day after the United States circulated a rival resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. linked to the release of all hostages and would call for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza. the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

Virtually all members of the Council – including the United States – have expressed deep concern about the impending disaster in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, where some 1.5 million Palestinians have sought refuge, if the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu implements his plan to evacuate civilians from the city. and shift the Israeli military offensive to the border area with Egypt, where Israel says Hamas fighters are hiding.

The Security Council meets before voting on a resolution regarding a ceasefire in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Seth Wenig / AP

Before the vote, Algerian U.N. Ambassador Amar Bendjama, the Arab representative on the council, said: “This resolution represents truth and humanity against supporters of murder and hatred.”

“A vote in favor of this draft resolution is support for the Palestinian right to life,” he said. “Conversely, voting against implies approval of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon them.”

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States understood the Council's desire to act urgently, but believed the resolution would have a “negative impact” on sensitive negotiations over a hostage deal and result in a break in fighting for at least six weeks. If that happens, “we can take the time to build a more lasting peace,” she said.

The proposed U.S. resolution, Thomas-Greenfield said, “would do what this text does not do: pressure Hamas to accept the hostage deal that is on the table and help ensure a pause allowing humanitarian aid to reach Palestinian civilians who desperately need it.

Algeria's Ambassador to the United Nations, Amar Bendjama, right, votes in favor of a resolution regarding a ceasefire in Gaza, while Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. Ambassador to the UN, left, attends a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters on Tuesday. February 20, 2024. Seth Wenig / AP

It remains to be seen what happens next.

The Arab Group, made up of 22 countries, could present its resolution to the United Nations General Assembly, which includes all 193 U.N. member countries, where it is virtually certain to be approved. But unlike Security Council resolutions, Assembly resolutions are not legally binding.

Thomas-Greenfield told the Council that the United States “will work seriously to negotiate” the proposed resolution, allowing time for all Council members to comment, “rather than imposing an arbitrary deadline for voting.”

The rejected resolution, supported by the Arabs, would have demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire to be respected by all parties, which would imply an end to the war.

In contrast, the US draft resolution would emphasize the Security Council's support for a temporary ceasefire “as soon as possible, based on the formula that all hostages would be released” and would call for “removing all obstacles to the provision of humanitarian assistance at all times”. ladder.”

This is the first time that the United States has used the word “ceasefire”, as opposed to cessation of hostilities.

Gilad Erdan, Israel's ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Seth Wenig / AP

The Arab plan would also have demanded the immediate release of all hostages, rejected the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, called for unimpeded humanitarian access to all of Gaza, and reiterated the Council's demands that Israel and Hamas “scrupulously respect” the law. international, in particular the protection of civilians. civilians.

Without naming any of the parties, he reportedly condemned “all acts of terrorism” and reiterated the Council's “unwavering commitment” to a two-state solution, with two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, living side by side. in peace.

In moves sure to anger Israel – and deepen differences and tensions between US President Joe Biden and Israel's Netanyahu – the US draft resolution reiterates the same unwavering commitment to a two-state solution, which the Israeli leader opposes.

Biden has repeatedly called on Israel to protect Palestinian civilians, and the draft resolution says Israel's planned major ground offensive in Rafah “should not take place under the current circumstances.”

And it warns that further displacement of civilians, “including potentially to neighboring countries,” in reference to Egypt, would have serious implications for regional peace and security.

Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Tuesday, February 20, 2024. Seth Wenig / AP

In another criticism aimed at Israel, the US draft “condemns calls by government ministers for Gaza resettlement and rejects any attempt at demographic or territorial change in Gaza that would violate international law.”

House Speaker Mike Johnson called the resolution proposed by the Biden administration a “shocking step” and accused Mr. Biden of “responding to political pressure from opponents of Israel.”

“If past actions are any indicator of future behavior, Hamas will not respect a ceasefire and will continue its campaign of terror until it is defeated,” Johnson said in a statement Tuesday evening, adding that “Republicans of the House will remain firm”. in our support of our Jewish friends and our ally, Israel, as they fight for their right to exist. »

Although this was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire, the council passed two resolutions on Gaza in which the United States abstained.

Its first resolution, on November 15, called for “urgent and prolonged humanitarian pauses” in Gaza to address the escalating Palestinian civilian crisis during Israel's air and ground attacks.

On December 22, the Council adopted a watered-down resolution calling for immediately accelerating the delivery of aid to hungry and desperate civilians in Gaza, but without the initial call for an “urgent suspension of hostilities” between Israel and Hamas.

He calls for “creating the conditions for a lasting cessation of hostilities”. The steps are not defined, but diplomats said it was the council's first reference to stopping the fighting.

Israel and Hamas at war




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