UN Security Council delays vote on resolution urging cessation of hostilities in Gaza to deliver aid
UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. Security Council delayed until Tuesday morning a vote on an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for a halt to hostilities in Gaza to allow for urgently needed aid deliveries to a massive number of civilians as members intensified negotiations to try to avoid another veto by the United States.
The council said Monday’s 5 p.m. EST vote would not take place, and diplomats said negotiations were taking place to get the United States, Israel’s closest ally, to abstain or vote “yes” on the resolution.
A key issue is how to implement and sustain a desperately needed aid operation. Human Rights Watch accused Israel earlier Monday of deliberately starving Gaza’s population by blocking the delivery of water, food, and fuel, a method of warfare that it described as a war crime. The United Nations’ food agency reported on Dec. 14 that 56% of Gaza’s households were experiencing “severe levels of hunger,” up from 38% two weeks earlier.
The draft on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities” for humanitarian access to deliver aid. But this language is expected to be watered down to a “suspension” of hostilities or something possibly weaker to satisfy the Americans, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because discussions have been private.
The U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution on Dec. 8 that was backed by almost all council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The 193-member General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution on Dec. 12 by a vote of 153-10, with 23 abstentions.
The importance of a Security Council resolution is that it is legally binding, but in practice, many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, but though they are a significant barometer of world opinion.
The draft resolution that was being considered by the 15 council members on Monday recognizes that civilians in Gaza don’t have access to sufficient food, water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications, and medical services “essential for their survival.” Also, it would express the council’s “strong concern for the disproportionate effect that the conflict is having on the lives and well-being of children, women, and other civilians in vulnerable situations.”
More than 19,400 Palestinians have been killed according to the Gaza Health Ministry since Israel declared war on the Palestinian militant Hamas group following its surprise attack in southern Israel on Oct. 7 that killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and took about 240 hostages.
Hamas controls the Gaza Strip and its Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Thousands more Palestinians lie buried under the rubble in Gaza, the U.N. estimates. Israel says 116 of its soldiers have died in its ground offensive.
The proposed council resolution reiterates its demand that all parties comply with international humanitarian law, especially protecting civilians and the infrastructure critical for their survival including hospitals, schools, places of worship, and U.N. facilities.
The draft, obtained by The Associated Press, demands the parties to the conflict — Hamas and Israel — fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law and enable “the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip.”
It “calls for an urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access” in Gaza and also “firmly condemns all violations of international humanitarian law, including all indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects, all violence and hostilities against civilians, and all acts of terrorism.”
The draft also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all Hamas-held hostages.
The draft confirms its “unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-state solution,” and stresses “the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”
The draft is being negotiated by the United Arab Emirates, which is the Arab representative on the Security Council, and requests U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres establish am expeditious mechanism to monitor all humanitarian shipments to Gaza by land, sea, and air.