Hamas voices 'appreciation' for move by Moscow and Beijing

Russia, China veto US resolution at UN calling for Gaza ceasefire tied to hostage deal

Motion at Security Council sought truce lasting six weeks to allow humanitarian assistance; draft stopped short of explicitly demanding immediate end to Israeli campaign

The UN Security Council meets on a motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)
The UN Security Council meets on a motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

The United Nations Security Council on Friday failed to pass a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal after Russia and China vetoed the measure proposed by the United States.

The resolution called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire lasting roughly six weeks that would protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

The vote in the 15-member council was 11 members in favor and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana.

The text marked a further toughening of Washington’s stance toward Israel. Earlier in the five-month-long war, the US was averse to the word ceasefire and vetoed measures that included calls for an immediate ceasefire.

“The vast majority of this council voted in favor of this resolution, but unfortunately Russia and China decided to exercise its veto,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council.

Before the vote, she said it would be a “historic mistake” for the council not to adopt the resolution.

The draft had stopped short of explicitly demanding that Israel immediately end its campaign in Gaza.

In the delicate language of Security Council resolutions, the draft “determines” the “imperative” of an “immediate and sustained” ceasefire.

The draft linked a ceasefire to ongoing talks, led by Qatar with support from the US and Egypt, to halt the war in return for Hamas releasing hostages.

Israel’s Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan (L) speaks during a UN Security Council vote on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

Hamas voiced “appreciation” after the veto by Russia and China. It said the draft contained “misleading wording that is complicit” with Israel and “grants it cover and legitimacy to commit a genocidal war against the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip.”

China’s representative, Zhang Jun, said the draft “dodged the most central issue, that of a ceasefire” through its “ambiguous” language.

“Nor does it even provide an answer to the question of realizing a ceasefire in the short term,” he said.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, also speaking before the vote, called on members not to vote in favor of the resolution.

He said the resolution was “exceedingly politicized” and contained an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah, a city on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where more than half of its 2.3 million residents have been sheltering in makeshift tents to escape the Israeli assault farther north.

“This would free the hands of Israel and it would result in all of Gaza and its entire population having to face destruction, devastation or expulsion,” Nebenzia told the meeting.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya listens during a UN Security Council vote on a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

During the five-month-long war, Washington has vetoed three draft resolutions at the UNSC, two of which would have demanded an immediate ceasefire. Most recently, the US justified its veto by saying such council action could jeopardize efforts by the US, Egypt and Qatar to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages.

Push on alternative resolution

French President Emmanuel Macron, speaking in Brussels immediately after the vetoes, said France would keep pushing an alternative resolution for a ceasefire.

The Security Council may later Friday consider another resolution with a more explicit call for an immediate ceasefire.

US ambassador  Thomas-Greenfield, indicated opposition, saying this would jeopardize the ongoing talks for the release of hostages.

Speaking before the vote on the US draft, Thomas-Greenfield said, “By adopting the resolution before us, we can put pressure on Hamas to accept the deal on the table.”

She later called the Russian and Chinese vetoes “not just cynical,” but also “petty.”

“Russia and China simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States,” she said.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a UN Security Council motion for a Gaza ceasefire and hostage deal vote at UN headquarters in New York, on March 22, 2024. (Angela Weiss/AFP)

“Let’s be honest — for all the fiery rhetoric, we all know that Russia and China are not doing anything diplomatically to advance a lasting peace or to meaningfully contribute to the humanitarian response effort,” she said.

Russia, China and Algeria said that the resolution should stop Israel from a threatened offensive in Rafah, where more than one million Palestinians have sheltered.

The US has publicly opposed a major IDF operation in Rafah, but Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu vowed Friday to go into the city even without US support after he met Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who promoted the now-vetoed resolution on his latest regional tour.

Israel has said the Rafah operation, where the IDF has yet to tackle the last four of Hamas’s original 24 battalions, must go forward in order to achieve the war goal of toppling Hamas. It has said it is working on plans to evacuate civilians from the area.

European Union leaders called on Thursday for an “immediate” humanitarian pause in Gaza that would lead to a ceasefire.

The EU’s 27 leaders also called for “the unconditional release of all hostages.” The European Council “urges the Israeli government not to undertake a ground operation in Rafah,” they added in their conclusions.

The war broke out after Hamas terrorists slaughtered 1,200 people in southern Israel on October 7 and abducted 253 — half of whom are still held captive in Gaza. Israel launched a military campaign in Gaza to destroy Hamas’s military and governance capabilities. Hamas says some 32,000 people have been killed in Gaza — an unverifiable toll that does not distinguish between combatants and civilians. Israel says the IDF has killed over 13,000 gunmen from Hamas and other terror groups in Gaza, as well as 1,000 inside Israel on October 7. Some 250 IDF soldiers have been killed in the Gaza fighting.

The US traditionally shields Israel at the UN, but it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for extended pauses in fighting.

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