UN Security Council demands 'immediate' Gaza ceasefire for first time as US abstains

AP , AFP , Monday 25 Mar 2024

After more than five months of war, the UN Security Council for the first time Monday demanded an immediate ceasefire after the United States, Israel's ally which vetoed previous drafts, abstained.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador and Representative to the United Nations, holds to abstain her vote as the United Nations Security Council passed a cease-fire resolution in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, its first demand to halt fighting at U.N. headquarters, Monday, March 25, 2024. AP


Drawing unusual applause in the often staid Security Council, all 14 other members voted in favour of the resolution which "demands an immediate ceasefire" for the ongoing Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The resolution calls for the truce to lead to a "lasting, sustainable ceasefire" and demands that Hamas and other groups free Israeli captives seized on 7 October.

Russia at the last minute objected to the removal of the word "permanent" ceasefire and called a vote, which failed to gain passage.

The successful resolution was drafted in part by Algeria, the Arab bloc's current member of the Security Council, with a diverse array of countries including Slovenia and Switzerland.

The United States has vetoed previous bids for a ceasefire but has shown growing frustration with Israel, including its stated plans to expand its military operation to the packed southern city of Rafah.

A change in tone toward its Middle Eastern ally was seen Friday when the United States put forward a resolution to recognize "the imperative" of an "immediate and sustained ceasefire."

But that text was blocked by Russia and China, which along with Arab states criticized it for stopping short of explicitly demanding Israel halt its campaign in Gaza.

The United States has repeatedly blocked ceasefire resolutions as it attempts to walk a line between supporting Israel with military aid and voicing frustration with leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip mounts.

Unlike Friday's text, the call for a ceasefire in the new resolution is not directly linked to ongoing talks, led by Qatar with support from the United States and Egypt, to halt fighting in return for Hamas releasing captives.

Israel has criticized the Security Council for previous resolutions that have not specifically condemned Hamas.

Israel's military campaign on the Gaza Strip has killed more than 32,000 people, 70 percent of women and children, according to the Palestinian health ministry.

The Security Council has been divided over the Gaza war since October 7, only approving two of eight resolutions, which both mainly dealt with humanitarian aid.

Those resolutions seem to have had little effect on the ground, where UN personnel say Israel continues to block aid convoys as experts warn of looming famine.

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