US vetoes another UN Security Council resolution urging Gaza war ceasefire

Majority of members voted to call for an immediate ceasefire in Israel’s war on Gaza that has killed more than 29,000 people.

The UN Security Council meets to debate a resolution to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, amid the ongoing war, on February 20, 2024 [Mike Segar/Reuters]Published On 20 Feb 202420 Feb 2024

The United States has vetoed another United Nations Security Council draft resolution on Israel’s war on Gaza, blocking a demand for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas.

Arab nations, led by Algeria, put the draft resolution to a vote on Tuesday with the expectation that it would not pass after the US – Israel’s key ally – had warned it would not back the text and proposed a rival draft instead.

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The US was the only country to vote against the draft text while the United Kingdom abstained. The UN Security Council’s 13 other member countries voted in favour of the text demanding a halt to the war that has killed more than 29,000 people in Gaza, according to Palestinian authorities, and displaced more than 80 percent of the population.

For a UN Security Council resolution to be adopted, it requires at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by any of the five permanent members: the US, UK, France, Russia or China.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said her country was vetoing the resolution over concerns it would jeopardise talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar that seek to broker a pause in the war and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

She rejected claims that the veto was a US effort to cover for an imminent Israeli ground invasion into the southernmost Gazan city of Rafah, where some 1.4 million displaced people are sheltering.

In introducing the resolution on Tuesday, Amar Bendjama, Algeria’s ambassador to the UN, said the Council “cannot afford passivity” in the face of what is unfolding in Gaza, and that silence is “not a viable option”.

“This resolution is a stance for truth and humanity, standing against the advocates for murder and hatred,” he said. “Voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon them [the Palestinians].”

Algeria, the current Arab member of the Security Council, put forward an initial draft resolution more than two weeks ago.

The US said on Monday that it had proposed a rival draft resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire and opposing a major ground offensive by Israel in Rafah.

Palestinians gather near the ruins of houses and buildings destroyed in Israeli strikes, in Nuseirat refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip, in November 2023 [File: Ibraheem Abu Mustafa/Reuters]

‘Softening’ of language

“The Algerian draft had been negotiated for weeks,” said Al Jazeera’s James Bays, reporting from the UN headquarters in New York. “So people were rather surprised that the US came up with its own draft.”

Bays said the US draft had not yet been formally presented to Council members, and it was unclear if or when it would be put to a vote.

However, he added that in the draft text, seen by Al Jazeera, “there is a softening of the US language … and for the first time the US is using that word ‘ceasefire’, [previously] controversial for the US”.

Until now, Washington has been averse to the word “ceasefire” in any UN action on the war, but the draft resolution text echoes language that US President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The US draft resolution would see the Security Council “underscore its support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale”.

The US draft also warns Israel not to launch a ground offensive in Rafah, saying: “The Security Council should underscore that such a major ground offensive should not proceed, under the current circumstances.”

The Algerian-drafted resolution, vetoed by the US, meanwhile called for an “immediate” humanitarian ceasefire, based on last month’s interim order by the International Court of Justice, which obliges Israel to take measures to prevent acts of genocide in the territory. It also separately demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Washington traditionally shields Israel from UN action and has previously vetoed two other Security Council resolutions since the war began on October 7.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies