Facing pressure, Security Council to vote on new Gaza ceasefire call

AFP , Monday 18 Dec 2023

The United Nations Security Council will vote Monday on a new resolution calling for an "urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities" in Gaza, as Washington exhibits growing impatience with key ally Israel.

File photo - US Deputy Ambassador to the UN Robert Wood (R) and British Ambassador to the UN Barbara Woodward (L) attend a United Nations Security Council meeting on a resolution calling for a ceasefire in Gaza at UN headquarters in New York on December 8, 2023. AFP


The vote comes days after the United States blocked a previous Security Council resolution that would have called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the battered Palestinian territory, where Israel continues its deadly strikes.

But in the General Assembly, the UN's 193 members voted overwhelmingly for a ceasefire, with 153 in favour -- exceeding the 140 or so countries that have routinely backed resolutions condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

The upcoming Security Council resolution was introduced by Arab countries that had come away from last Tuesday's General Assembly vote bolstered by such broad international support, though the latest text's fate remains uncertain.

The new draft, drawn up by the United Arab Emirates and seen by AFP, calls for an "urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access in the Gaza Strip."

It also affirms support for a two-state solution in the region and "stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority."

The draft also calls for the "immediate and unconditional release of all captives" and condemns "all indiscriminate attacks against civilians."

 'Protect civilians' 

The Security Council has faced sharp international opprobrium as it has managed to pass only one resolution on Gaza since the start of the war, in which the 15-member body called for "humanitarian pauses" -- after five other resolutions were rejected, including two because of American vetoes.

According to diplomatic sources, negotiations on the new text continued Sunday to avoid another impasse, days after US President Joe Biden warned that Israel was at risk of losing international support due to its "indiscriminate" bombing of Gaza.

"The United States should now back those words by acting at the United Nations Security Council to pressure Israel, as well as Palestinian armed groups, to comply with international humanitarian law and protect civilians," Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at Human Rights Watch said, telling Washington: "Don't use vetoes to block resolutions aimed at stopping mass atrocities."

Security Council resolutions are technically binding but are often ignored by the countries involved, especially Israel.

"In the face of such atrocities, there is only one moral position, one defensible position: Ceasefire now, ceasefire now," Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour said Friday.

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