US vetoes Arab-backed UN resolution demanding ceasefire in Gaza

The US vetoed an Arab-backed UN resolution on Tuesday demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war in the embattled Gaza Strip.

The vote in the 15-member security council was 13-1 with the UK abstaining, reflecting the wide global support for ending the more than four-month war that started with Hamas’s surprise invasion of southern Israel that killed about 1,200 people and saw 250 others taken hostage. Since then, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s military offensive, according to the Gaza health ministry.

It was the third US veto of a security council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

Arab countries proposed it knowing it would be vetoed by the US, but hoping to show broad global support for ending the Israel-Hamas war.

The US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the Biden administration would veto the resolution because it might interfere with ongoing US efforts to arrange a deal between the warring parties, which would bring at least a six-week halt to hostilities and release all hostages taken during Hamas’s surprise 7 October attack.

In a surprise move ahead of the vote, the US circulated a rival UN security council resolution that would support a temporary ceasefire in Gaza linked to the release of all hostages, and call for the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid.

The US deputy ambassador, Robert Wood, told several reporters on Monday that the Arab-backed resolution was not “an effective mechanism for trying to do the three things that we want to see happen – which is get hostages 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 on Monday that “we don’t believe in a rush to a vote”. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity ahead of council discussions on the US draft, said: “We intend to engage in the coming days in intensive negotiation around it … That’s why we’re not putting a timeline on a vote, but we do recognize the urgency of the situation.”

Arab nations, supported by many of the 193 UN member countries, have been demanding a ceasefire for months as Israel’s military offensive 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 about 1.5 million Palestinians who sought safety in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah and face a “catastrophic scenario” if the Israeli prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, goes ahead with his announced plan to move civilians from the city and shift Israel’s military offensive to the area bordering Egypt where Israel says Hamas fighters are hiding.

In addition to a ceasefire now, the Arab-backed draft resolution demanded the immediate release of all hostages, rejected the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians, called for unhindered humanitarian access throughout Gaza, and reiterated council demands that Israel and Hamas “scrupulously comply” with international law, especially the protection of civilians. Without naming either party, it condemned “all acts of terrorism”.

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.

Thomas-Greenfield, in a statement on Sunday, explained that the US has been working on a hostage deal for months. She said the president, Joe Biden, has had multiple calls over the last week with Netanyahu and the leaders of Egypt and Qatar to push the deal forward.

“Though gaps remain, the key elements are on the table,” she said, and the deal remains the best opportunity to free the hostages and have a sustained pause that would enable lifesaving aid to get to needy Palestinians.

(Source: The Guardian)