UN Security Council adopts demand for Ramadan ceasefire in Gaza

The US ambassador to the UN raises her hand as the US casts an abstention during a vote on a Security Council resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza.

Loey Felipe UN Photo

It took nearly six months, but the UN Security Council, tasked with ensuring world peace and security, has finally adopted a resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza for the remainder of Ramadan.

Nearly all 15 member states voted in favor of the resolution, with the exception of the US, which abstained but did not veto the text as it quashed three previous draft resolutions calling for a ceasefire.

The adopted resolution demands “an immediate ceasefire” during Ramadan, which is halfway over, “leading to a lasting sustainable ceasefire.”

Russia sought to change the resolution’s language of a “lasting” ceasefire to a “permanent” ceasefire but did not gain enough support.

The adopted resolution also calls for the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and demands that “parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain.”

The brief text also demands “the lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale, in line with international humanitarian law” and previous resolutions adopted by the Security Council.

UN agencies and other humanitarian organizations in Gaza have said that a ceasefire is required to prevent an even worse humanitarian catastrophe in the territory, where children are increasingly on the brink of death from hunger and thirst.

The adopted resolution was put forward by the 10 elected states to the Security Council: Algeria (whose draft resolution calling for a ceasefire was vetoed by the US last month), Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, the Republic of Korea, Sierra Leone, Slovenia and Switzerland.

António Guterres, the UN secretary-general, said that “this resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable.”

Hamas welcomes resolution, Netanyahu protests

Hamas welcomed the Security Council resolution and stressed “the necessity of reaching a permanent ceasefire” leading to a total Israeli withdrawal from Gaza and the return of displaced Palestinians to their homes.

Hamas also affirmed its “readiness to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides.”

Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli prime minister, protested the adoption of the Security Council resolution by canceling a planned delegation to Washington to discuss alternatives to Israel’s threatened ground offensive in Rafah.

The US says it opposes an expanded Israeli offensive in Rafah, along Gaza’s southern border with Egypt, without a plan to protect the estimated 1.5 million Palestinians now concentrated in the area after being forced to evacuate other parts of the territory.

Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, told Netanyahu on Friday that such an operation would risk “further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and standing.”

“We share Israel’s goal of defeating Hamas … a major military ground operation in Rafah is not the way to do it,” Blinken said.

Some of the officials who were due to participate in that high-level delegation are already in Washington as part of Israeli defense minister Yoav Gallant’s entourage.

Gallant said that his trip was primarily focused on “preserving the qualitative military edge of the State of Israel and its ability to obtain air defense systems and munitions” from the US.

Jeremy Konyndyk, the head of the Washington-based charity Refugees International who served in both the Obama and Biden administrations, said that Washington’s abstention on Monday “feels like a clear shot across the bow from the US to Netanyahu.”

“US diplomatic cover at the UN enabled Israel to maintain a thin patina of international legitimacy for its operation,” according to Konyndyk. “No longer.”

That was the message received by Netanyahu, who said the abstention was a “clear retreat” in support for Israel’s war campaign.

The Biden administration attempted to downplay the growing rift with Israel and bend the meaning of the resolution by insisting that it is in line with Washington’s demand that a ceasefire be linked to the release of Israelis and foreign nationals held captive in Gaza since 7 October.

The practical implications of the Security Council resolution for Palestinians enduring what the UN’s principal judicial organ has ruled to be a plausible genocide remain to be seen, given that the US continues to arm and greenlight Israel’s military operations.

Abed Ayoub, the head of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee, said that “the resolution is meaningless unless the Security Council, and particularly the United States, forces Israel to comply.”

US downplays resolution

After Monday’s vote, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the UN ambassador to the UN, attempted to undermine the resolution by saying it was non-binding. That claim was swiftly rejected by other Security Council members but repeated by State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller and White House spokesperson John Kirby.

Blinken said that the abstention “reaffirms the US position that a ceasefire of any duration come as part of an agreement to release hostages in Gaza.”

He added that Washington did not vote in favor of the resolution due to its “failure to condemn Hamas.”

Kirby said that the US abstention on Monday “does not represent a shift in our policy” and “there’s no reason for this to be seen as some sort of escalation” in tensions with Israel.

Washington’s failed resolution

The Security Council resolution adopted on Monday followed a vote on Friday on a draft put forward by the US that was vetoed by Russia and China.

News outlets and the UK’s ambassador to the UN erroneously said that the American text called for an immediate ceasefire. It instead stated that a ceasefire in Gaza is imperative but without directly demanding one.

Its ambiguous language would have allowed for the continuation of Israel’s military operations in Gaza, including in Rafah, which is why it was voted down by veto-wielding states Russia and China as well as Algeria, with an abstention by Guyana.

Craig Mokhiber, a former senior UN official, said that the US draft resolution, which “does not demand an immediate ceasefire, but instead suggests one might be negotiated if certain conditions are met … is not a ceasefire resolution. It is a ransom note.”

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, said that the “diluted formulation” was “deliberately misleading the international community” in order to delay an actual ceasefire while throwing a bone to American voters who want to see an end to the bloodshed in Gaza.

“The most urgent action to be taken by the council is to promote an immediate, unconditional and sustained ceasefire,” Zhang Jun, China’s ambassador, said after Friday’s vote. “This is the universal call of the international community.”

The UN General Assembly has twice voted by a large majority in favor of a ceasefire in Gaza but unlike those of the Security Council, its resolutions are not legally binding.

“If the US was serious about a ceasefire,” the Chinese ambassador said on Friday, “it wouldn’t have vetoed time and again multiple Council resolutions. It wouldn’t have taken such a detour and played a game of words while being ambiguous and evasive on critical issues.”

“A license for continuing bloodshed”

The adoption of Algeria’s resolution, which only the US opposed, in February “could have saved thousands of lives of innocent people,” Amar Bendjama, the North African country’s permanent representative to the UN, said after the vote on Friday.

Bendjama noted that the US draft resolution avoided “mentioning the responsibility of the Israeli occupying power” for the killing of Palestinian civilians, saying that they need to be held accountable.

He said it greenlighted the continued killing of Palestinians in Gaza by only calling for reducing harm to civilians in ongoing and future operations, implying “a license for continuing bloodshed.”

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, said after Friday’s vote that the Security Council’s failure to adopt the American resolution is “a stain that will never be forgotten.”

He blamed civilian deaths on Hamas and claimed that “libelous famine” in Gaza is “Hamas propaganda,” while denying that Israel was impeding the movement of humanitarian aid to and within the territory.

Martin Griffiths, the UN relief chief, issued a statement to settle the debate over “the challenges to getting aid to people in need in Gaza … once and for all.”

He said that responsibility for the limits to aid distribution rests with those blocking the movement of aid convoys, denying access of humanitarian missions and refusing to open crossing points in Gaza’s north, “where hundreds of thousands of people are at imminent risk of famine.”

He said responsibility lies with “those who continue to bombard Gaza.”

“We need Israel to lift all impediments to aid,” Griffiths said. “We need a ceasefire now.”

Speaking from the Egyptian side of Rafah on Saturday, Guterres, the UN secretary general, called on Israel to make an “ironclad commitment” to allow aid to flow into and throughout Gaza.

“Here from this crossing, we see the heartbreak and heartlessness of it all. A long line of blocked relief trucks on one side of the gates, the long shadow of starvation on the other,” Guterres said.

“That is more than tragic. It is a moral outrage.”




Finally, a UN Sec Co resolution imposing a ceasefire - to which Israel responds with escalation …

Channelling Susan Akram's notion of synthesising activist tools (EI, Decision at the ICJ, 26 Jan 2024), a further item that can serve as a potential game-changer arrives with the UNHCR publication of UN Special Rapporteur Albanese's findings regarding the Human Rights situation in Palestine and other occupied Arab territories, 'Anatomy of a Genocide'. It concludes that Israel committed infractions with intent that breach the Genocide Convention on at least three counts:


The report takes condemnation of Israeli policies beyond the South African case now before the ICJ - specifically, it places the present assault on Gaza ("95. … an escalatory stage of a long-standing settler colonial process of erasure") in the context of a settler-colonial history that defines the entire project as genocidal in execution.

Additionally, it spells out:
i/ that "20. The crime of genocide gives rise to both individual and State responsibility … before domestic or international courts, regardless of any official role held by the perpetrator"; and, significantly,
ii/ that "6. Israel has strategically invoked the international humanitarian law framework as 'humanitarian camouflage' to legitimize its genocidal violence in Gaza"; and
iii/ that complicit member states "96. … in accordance with their non-derogable obligations … be held accountable and deliver reparations commensurate with the destruction, death and harm inflicted"; and
iv/ a comprehensive set of actions to halt the serial atrocities: the Special Rapporteur's recommendations under paragraph 97. (a)-(g), especially those urging provision of UNRWA funding and an international protective force for Palestinians across the oPt.

Formez vos bataillons, citoyens …

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Maureen Clare Murphy

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Maureen Clare Murphy is senior editor of The Electronic Intifada.