UN Security Council vote on Gaza ceasefire call postponed again

Vote rescheduled for Thursday as members continue to wrangle over wording of resolution; source says latest delay was at request of US

The empty Security Council chamber is pictured at UN headquarters in New York City on December 20, 2023. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)
The empty Security Council chamber is pictured at UN headquarters in New York City on December 20, 2023. (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

A UN Security Council vote on a resolution calling for a halt to the Israel-Hamas war was postponed again on Wednesday as members wrangled over wording.

“The Security Council has agreed to continue negotiations today to allow for additional time for diplomacy. And the presidency will reschedule the adoption for tomorrow (Thursday) morning,” said Ecuador’s Jose Javier De La Gasca Lopez-Dominguez, who holds the council’s rotating presidency.

Members of the council have been grappling for days to find common ground on the resolution, a vote on which was pushed back several times throughout Tuesday, after being postponed Monday.

Israel, backed by its ally the United States, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, has opposed the use of the term “ceasefire.”

The latest delay was at the request of the United States, a diplomatic source said.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said earlier today there will be no ceasefire in Gaza until the “elimination” of Hamas.

Israeli soldiers fire mortars from southern Israel towards the Gaza Strip, in a position near the Israel-Gaza border, on December 20, 2023. (AP Photo/Tsafrir Abayov)

But Russia and the Arab League stepped up diplomatic pressure on Israel to bring fighting to a close, using the Russian-Arab Cooperation Forum in Morocco to call for a ceasefire.

The envoy of the United Arab Emirates, the resolution’s sponsor, said “(we) are part of very high-level discussions that are happening between capitals to try and reach a text that could be in fact be adopted.”

“We need today a little bit of space for additional diplomacy… and we are going to be optimistic trying to do that,” added Lana Zaki Nusseibeh. “This will go to a vote.”

This week’s back and forth comes after an impasse earlier this month when the United States, despite unprecedented pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, blocked the adoption of a Security Council resolution on the war.

That resolution had called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip, where Israel has been waging a ground offensive against Hamas following the terror group’s devastating October 7 onslaught. The US said it vetoed the measure for failing to condemn the Hamas massacres or acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself.

‘Human catastrophe’

Last week, the UN General Assembly adopted the same nonbinding resolution by 153 votes to 10, with 23 abstentions, out of 193 member states.

Bolstered by that overwhelming support, Arab countries announced the new attempt at the Security Council.

A draft text prepared by the UAE, obtained by AFP on Sunday, called for “an urgent and lasting cessation of hostilities to allow unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip.”

The last version seen by AFP was, however, a modified text that seemingly sought to salvage a compromise.

It was less direct, calling for “the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

United Nations official Tor Wennesland said Tuesday that Israel’s “limited” steps to allow aid into Gaza “are positive, but fall far short of what is needed to address the human catastrophe on the ground.”

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip during an Israeli bombardment on December 20, 2023, amid the ongoing between Israel and the Palestinian terror group Hamas. (Said Khatib/AFP)

The war erupted when Hamas led some 3,000 terrorists in a devastating cross-border attack on October 7 that killed over 1,200 people, mostly civilians. At least 240 people of all ages were kidnapped and taken as hostages.

Following the attack, Israel vowed to topple Hamas, launching a major aerial offensive followed by the ongoing ground campaign.

Hamas’s media office in the Gaza Strip said Wednesday afternoon that the death toll in Gaza since the start of the war had crossed 20,000. The number cannot be independently confirmed, and it doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants. Hamas’s toll also includes those killed in failed Palestinian rocket attacks. Israel says it has killed over 7,000 Hamas operatives in Gaza.

Hamas says some 8,000 children and 6,200 women are among the dead. Hamas counts as children anyone below 18, while the IDF says many Hamas gunmen taking part in combat are minors in their late teens.

Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites, including schools and hospitals, which are supposed to be protected.

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