Security Council postpones new Gaza ceasefire vote to Tuesday: Sources

AFP , Monday 18 Dec 2023

Prolonged negotiations have led the UN Security Council to postpone to Tuesday a vote on a resolution that had sought a new ceasefire in Gaza, diplomatic sources said, as Washington exhibits growing impatience with key ally Israel.

UN Security Council
A general view shows a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City. AFP


The United Arab Emirates, which had introduced the latest text, requested that the vote set for 5:00 pm (2200 GMT) Monday be postponed to allow for complex negotiations to continue, and is now expected to be rescheduled for Tuesday, the sources told AFP.

That draft had called for an "urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities" in Gaza to allow "safe and unhindered humanitarian access" in the besieged Palestinian territory.

The vote delay suggests UN diplomats have been unable yet to find common ground.

Ten days ago On December 8, despite unprecedented pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the United States blocked a Security Council resolution that would have called for a "humanitarian ceasefire" in the battered Palestinian territory, where Israel continues its deadly strikes on the Gaza Strip since October 7.

But in the General Assembly, the 193-member United Nations voted overwhelmingly for a ceasefire, with 153 in favor, exceeding the 140 or so countries that have routinely backed resolutions condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Bolstered by such broad international support last Tuesday, Arab countries prepared the upcoming Security Council resolution, although its fate remains uncertain.

In addition to a ceasefire, that draft, seen by AFP, 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 does not explicitly name Hamas, though it does call for the "immediate and unconditional release of all captives" and condemns "all violence and hostilities against civilians."

'Protect civilians'

Israel and the United States have expressed disapproval of earlier drafts that did not mention Hamas. In Washington, President Joe Biden's administration declined to say how it viewed the latest text.

"We are always trying to get to a place where there's language that we agree with, that other Security Council members agree with," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

"But right now we're in the middle of the negotiation process. I wouldn't want to speculate."

In an earlier briefing in Israel, Tal Heinrich, spokesman for Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office, said: "A ceasefire that leaves Hamas in power with impunity and with the desire and capability to repeat October 7 again and again and again is simply unacceptable."

The Security Council has faced international opprobrium for passing only one resolution on Gaza since the start of the war, in which the 15-member body called for "humanitarian pauses", after several other resolutions were rejected.

Two texts were vetoed by Washington.

Biden recently warned 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," said Louis Charbonneau, the UN director at Human Rights Watch.

On Monday Amnesty International head Agnes Callamard also urged council members to adopt the resolution, warning on X that "any use of their veto power will translate into more killings, starvation, sufferings."

Security Council resolutions are binding, but are often ignored by countries involved.

According to the Palestinian health ministry, at least 19,453 people, 70% of them women and children, have died, with around 52,286 people wounded, since the Israeli bombardment began in Gaza on October 7.

The offensive by Hamas left 1,139 people dead in Israel, and saw some 240 people captured, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

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