UN Security Council calls for 'pauses' in Gaza fighting

First action from the UN panel since the Israel-Gaza conflict erupted

UN Security Council calls for pauses in Gaza fighting for aid

UN Security Council calls for pauses in Gaza fighting for aid
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The UN Security Council adopted on Wednesday a resolution calling for the protection of children and “extended humanitarian pauses” in the war-ravaged Gaza strip.

Twelve members of the council voted in favour, while the US, UK and Russia abstained.

The legally binding resolution sponsored by Malta, which mentions children in nearly every paragraph, “demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law … notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children”.

It’s the council's first action on the Israel-Gaza war. The resolution makes no mention of a ceasefire but “calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days” to allow aid to reach civilians in the besieged territory.

The text also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas militants and other groups, especially children, including the rejection of the “forced displacement of the civilian population … children, in violation of international law”.

The UAE's UN ambassador Lana Nusseibeh emphasised that the adoption of the resolution “only begins our response to this war and to this crisis”.

“Too much time has passed, too many people have been killed and too much destruction has been wrought,” she said.

“It is worth noting here that where Hamas is not operating, Palestinians are also losing their lives on land internationally recognised as part of their future state.”

Ms Nusseibeh condemned Israel's raid on Al Shifa Hospital and other attacks on medical facilities, stressing that it is “precisely this type of military action that today's resolution rejects”.

“Hospitals are sacrosanct spaces that must be protected,” she stressed.

According to the UN, more than 11,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, “of whom 4,506 were said to be children”. Almost 2,700 people have been “reported missing and may be trapped or dead under the rubble” and more than 1.5 million people in Gaza are estimated to be internally displaced.

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Washington's UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield explained her country could not vote yes on a “text that did not condemn Hamas or reaffirm the right of all member states to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks”.

Although the US is “deeply disappointed by what is not in the resolution”, she said Washington fully supports the resolution's call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups.

The resolution, Ms Thomas-Greenfield said, would not save lives on its own.

“We all need to support the heroic efforts of the UN and other humanitarian workers in Gaza. And we all need to work with partners in the region to secure the release of all hostages,” she said.

Louis Charbonneau, UN director at Human Rights Watch, said the “US finally stopped paralysing the council on Israel and Palestine so this resolution on the plight of children in Gaza could move forward should be a wake-up call to Israeli authorities that global concern, even among its allies, is strong”.

During the Security Council session, Israel's UN ambassador Gilad Erdan issued a statement rejecting the resolution, calling it “disconnected from reality on the ground”.

Regardless of what the council decides, he said Israel will not abide by the resolution and that it "will continue to act until Hamas is destroyed”.

Riyad Mansour, Palestine's representative at the UN, asked the council: "What are you going to do? You just adopted a resolution. They told you: ‘We are not going to implement it.'"

"You have been calling on Israel for 40 days to uphold the laws of war. And it has chosen to continue breaching them openly," he said.

"Are you going to hold it accountable for rejecting the UN resolution you’ve adopted this afternoon?"

When questioned about the council's implementation plans for the resolution following Israel's rejection, Ms Nusseibeh told journalists that it entails a report by the UN Secretary General at the coming monthly meeting, which will also provide implementation options.

Russia failed in a last-minute bid to amend the resolution by including a call for an immediate humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.

UN chief: Civilian deaths in Gaza show something wrong with Israeli operation – video

UN chief: Civilian deaths in Gaza show something wrong with Israeli operation

UN chief: Civilian deaths in Gaza show something wrong with Israeli operation

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia's UN ambassador, accused the US of consistently blocking “any or even the weakest reference” to a ceasefire and urged the Security Council not to act “at the behest of the United States”.

While the UN has repeatedly called for a ceasefire, the council paralysis has largely been centred on whether to call for a humanitarian pause, a truce or a ceasefire, with the US supporting pauses and Russia favouring a ceasefire.

Following the attack by Hamas militants on Israel and Israel's subsequent bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the council attempted to pass four different resolutions.

Russia failed twice to get the minimum votes needed, the US vetoed a Brazilian-drafted resolution and Russia and China vetoed a US-drafted resolution.

Updated: November 16, 2023, 2:02 PM