The US vetoes an Arab-backed UN resolution for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

AP , AFP , Tuesday 20 Feb 2024

The United States vetoed an Arab-backed UN resolution Tuesday demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israeli war in the embattled Gaza Strip.

The UN Security Council votes on the Israel-Hamas war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on Februa
The UN Security Council votes on the Gaza war, at UN Headquarters in New York City on February 20, 2024. The US vetoed a UN Security Council resolution on Tuesday that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, even as President Joe Biden faced mounting pressure to dial back support for Israel. AFP


The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 13-1 with the United Kingdom abstaining, reflecting the wide global support for ending the more than four-month Israeli war that killed 29,000 Palestinians, 70% of them women and children.

It was the third US veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasfire in Gaza.

Arab nations put to a vote a UN resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, knowing it will be vetoed by the United States but hoping to show broad global support for ending Gaza war.

Washington's veto was "absolutely reckless and dangerous," said Palestinian representative to the UN Riyad Mansour.

Hamas said the US veto gave Israel a "green light" for "more massacres."

The veto provoked a chorus of criticism of Washington, even from US allies including France, Malta and Slovenia.

"We voted for the resolution because the killing of civilians in Gaza must stop. The suffering that Palestinians are enduring is beyond anything a human being should be subjected to," said Slovenia's representative to the UN Security Council Samuel Zbogar.

"The human toll and the humanitarian situation is intolerable and Israeli operations must stop," said the French ambassador to the UN Nicolas de Riviere.

Algeria's envoy Amar Bendjama said "the draft resolution would have sent a strong message to Palestinians... unfortunately the Security Council failed once again."

"Examine your conscience, how will history judge you," Bendjama said.

The vote came as Israel prepares to move into the southern Gaza Strip city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million people have fled, as part of its mission to destroy the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

However as the death toll in Gaza soars, Israel is facing increased pressure to hold off, including from its closest ally the United States.

"This is not, as some members have claimed, an American effort to cover for an imminent ground incursion," said Thomas-Greenfield ahead of the vote.

In a surprise move ahead of the vote, the United States circulated a rival UN Security Council resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire in Gaza linked to the release of all captives, and call for the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid. 

Both of these actions “would help to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” the draft resolution obtained by The Associated Press says.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood claimed Monday that the Arab-backed resolution is not “an effective mechanism for trying to do the three things that we want to see happen, which is get captives out, more aid in, and a lengthy pause to this conflict.”

With the US draft, “what we’re looking at is another possible option, and we’ll be discussing this with friends going forward,” Wood said. “I don’t think you can expect anything to happen tomorrow.”

A senior US official said later Monday that “We don’t believe in a rush to a vote.” 

Arab nations, supported by many of the 193 UN member countries, have been demanding a cease-fire for months as Israel’s military aggression has intensified, 

Tunisia’s UN Ambassador Tarek Ladeb, this month’s chair of the 22-nation Arab Group, told UN reporters last Wednesday that a ceasefire is urgently needed.

He pointed to some 1.5 million Palestinians who sought safety in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and face a “catastrophic scenario” if Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu goes ahead with his announced plan to evacuate civilians from the city and move Israel’s military offensive to the area bordering Egypt where Israel claims Hamas fighters are hiding.

In addition to a cease-fire now, the Arab-backed draft resolution demands the immediate release of all captives, rejects the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, calls for unhindered humanitarian access throughout Gaza, and reiterates council demands that Israel and Hamas “scrupulously comply” with international law, especially the protection of civilians. 

In a tough message to Israel, the US draft resolution says Israel’s planned major ground offensive in Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances.” And it warns that further displacement of civilians, “including potentially into neighboring countries,” a reference to Egypt, would have serious implications for regional peace and security.

* This story was edited by Ahram Online.

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