The UN Security Council, which has been undermined by strong divisions over the Israeli-Palestinian question, adopted a resolution for Gaza on Wednesday, Nov. 15.
Prepared by Malta, the resolution received 12 votes in favor and 3 abstentions. Since the start of the Oct. 7 Hamas-Israel war, four previous drafts have been rejected, particularly due to differences over the call for a ceasefire, which the adopted resolution did not mention.. The death toll in Gaza has exceeded 11,000, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry, and Israel’s ground operation continues to intensify.
The UN Security Council adopted the resolution on Wednesday with 12 votes, by which it called for “urgent and extended humanitarian breaks and corridors for a sufficient number of days,” to bring humanitarian aid to civilians trapped in the Palestinian enclave. The number of “sufficient” days is not specified in the text, which insists on “ensuring immediate humanitarian access.”
The United States (Israel’s closest ally), the United Kingdom and Russia abstained. To be adopted, a resolution requires nine votes in favor and no veto — a right reserved for the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which are the United States, France, the United Kingdom, Russia and China.
Emphasizing the protection of children (one in two Gazans is under the age of 18) the resolution “demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regards to the protection of civilians, especially children.” It also calls for "the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups,” in particular reference to the Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
Commenting on the reasons behind her country’s abstention, US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was horrified by the fact that some UNSC members “still cannot bring themselves” to condemn the acts perpetrated by Hamas against Israel on Oct. 7. The same was true for the UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, who justified her delegation’s abstention with the same argument. “We will continue to work with the Council members to resolve this crisis” and create a horizon for “making the two-state solution a reality,” Thomas-Greenfield said.
Russia said it abstained because the resolution did not include a provision calling for a ceasefire. Humanitarian pauses “are not and cannot be a substitute for a ceasefire or even a truce,” said Russian Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya.
The Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, who believes the Council should have already called for a ceasefire, agreed with Nebenzya. “It should have at least echoed the call of the General Assembly for an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” Mansour said. On Oct. 27, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly for a non-binding resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian truce.” Washington and Israel voted against it because Hamas was not mentioned in the text.
Israel immediately condemned the adoption of the resolution, saying it was “detached from reality,” according to Israel’s ambassador to the UN, Gilad Erdan. “It is unfortunate that the council continues to ignore and not condemn ... even mention the massacre committed by Hamas,” wrote Erdan on X (formerly Twitter). “Israel will continue fighting until Hamas is destroyed and until our hostages return home.”
Wednesday’s vote came more than five weeks after Hamas’s triple incursion into Israeli territory, followed by intense bombardments and a ground campaign on the Palestinian enclave. On Thursday morning, the Israeli army continued its raid of Al-Shifa, Gaza’s main hospital, which sheltered thousands of displaced civilians.
The Gaza Strip, which was placed under full Israeli siege on Oct. 9, has seen a trickle of humanitarian aid lorries arriving since the partial resumption of aid deliveries on Oct. 21. On Wednesday, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said Israel decided not to limit the number of aid bearing trucks authorized to enter Gaza, adding that the UN had around 460 trucks waiting in the Egyptian town of al-Arish, near the Rafah crossing.
The first fuel tanker also entered Gaza from Egypt on Oct. 21, delivering just over 23,000 liters, a quantity the UN considers to be grossly insufficient. “This is only 9 percent of what we need daily to sustain lifesaving activities,” wrote Thomas White, director of UNRWA Affairs in Gaza, on X, adding that Israel restricted the use of fuel to the transport aid.
The resolution, which is the first resolution adopted by the Council since the end of 2016 on the Israel-Palestine issue, came after five attempts since Oct. 7. The previous drafts were vetoed by Russia and China on the one hand, and the United States on the other.
Negotiations over the past few weeks have stalled over the terms used to call for an end to the war, while diplomatic sources quoted by Le Monde indicated that Washington in particular was opposed to any reference to a ceasefire.
An earlier version of the resolution adopted on Wednesday, to which AFP had access, required an initial pause of five consecutive days within 24 hours of the vote, but the text adopted simply mentioned a “sufficient number of days.”
Although it is not included in the text, a ceasefire in Gaza could soon be a reality. Axios reported that the negotiations between Israel and Hamas on a possible agreement for the release of the more than 240 hostages are focused on the number of days Israel would allow for a ceasefire in exchange for the return of its nationals.
During the Qatar-led mediation over the past two weeks, mediators reportedly presented the Israeli government with two Hamas proposals. While the first was immediately rejected, the second — currently under discussion — provides for a five-day pause in the fighting, during which 50 women and children held in Gaza would be released on the first day, followed by 10 other hostages every day until the ceasefire expires. According to these sources, Israel would release, in several groups, Palestinian women, teenagers and elderly people held in its prisons.
Wednesday’s vote also highlights the slight shift in the US position towards its ally. It has called into question its unconditional support for Israel, particularly in humanitarian terms since the war is fracturing the Democratic camp. At the end of Barack Obama’s term of office in 2016, the Americans did not veto UN Security Council Resolution 2334 condemning Israeli settlements in the West Bank — the last resolution adopted on the issue before the one this Wednesday — but the arrival of Donald Trump in the White House in January 2017 marked the return of Washington’s unconditional support for Israel.
This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour. Translation by Joelle El Khoury.