UN Security Council passes resolution demanding immediate Gaza ceasefire

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution on Monday demanding an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinian militants Hamas and the release of all hostages after the United States abstained from the vote.

The remaining 14 council members voted for the resolution, which was proposed by the 10 elected members of the body. There was a round of applause in the council chamber after the vote.

“The Palestinian people have suffered greatly. This bloodbath has continued for far too long. It is our obligation to put an end to this bloodbath before it is too late,” Algeria’s U.N. Ambassador Amar Bendjama told the council after the vote.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the failure of the US to veto the resolution was a “clear retreat” from its previous position and would hurt Israel’s war efforts and bid to release more than 130 hostages still held by Hamas.

“Our vote does not, and I repeat that does not represent a shift in our policy,” White House spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. “Nothing has changed about our policy. Nothing.”

Following the UN vote, Netanyahu cancelled a visit to Washington by a high-level delegation that was due to discuss a planned Israeli military operation in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, where some 1.5 million people have sought shelter.

Washington had been averse to the word ceasefire earlier in the nearly six-month-old war in the Gaza Strip and had used its veto power shield ally Israel as it retaliated against Hamas for an Oct 7 attack that Israel says killed 1,200 people.

But as famine looms in Gaza and amid growing global pressure for a truce in the war that Palestinian health authorities say has killed some 32,000 people, the US abstained on Monday to allow the Security Council to demand an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, which ends in two weeks.

Hamas welcomed the Security Council resolution, saying in a statement that it ‘affirms readiness to engage in immediate prisoner swaps on both sides’.

Famine imminent

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the US fully supported “some of the critical objectives in this nonbinding resolution,” but added that Washington did not agree with everything in the text, which also did not condemn Hamas.

“We believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that any ceasefire must come with the release of all hostages,” she told the council after the vote. “A ceasefire can begin immediately with the release of the first hostage and so we must put pressure on Hamas to do just that.”

The resolution demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Israel says Hamas took 253 hostages during its Oct 7 attack.

“It was the Hamas massacre that started this war,” Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said. “The resolution just voted upon makes it seem as if the war started by itself … Israel did not start this war, nor did Israel want this war.”

The resolution also “emphasizes the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to and reinforce the protection of civilians in the entire Gaza Strip and reiterates its demand for the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale.”

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel on Monday to lift all obstacles to aid into Gaza and allow convoys of the UN Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA into the north of the coastal enclave.

Famine is imminent and likely to occur by May in northern Gaza and could spread across the enclave by July, according to a UN-backed report by a global authority on food security released last week.

The US has vetoed three draft council resolutions on the war in Gaza. It has also previously abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

Russia and China have also vetoed two US drafted resolutions on the conflict – in October and on Friday.

“This must be a turning point,” an emotional Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the Security Council after the vote on Monday. “This must lead to saving lives on the ground.”

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