UN Security Council resolution demands Gaza ceasefire during Ramadan

Resolution passed with 14 votes in favour and one abstention, from the US

UN Security Council passes the first ceasefire resolution in Gaza

UN Security Council passes the first ceasefire resolution in Gaza
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The UN Security Council has adopted a resolution that demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire during Ramadan that is to be “respected by all parties leading to a lasting, sustainable ceasefire”.

The E10-crafted resolution passed with 14 votes in favour and one abstention from the US.

This is the first time the council has passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza war.

The council has adopted two resolutions on the deteriorating humanitarian situation in the enclave, but neither has called for a ceasefire.

The non-permanent members of the council negotiated with the US at the weekend to prevent another veto.

Unlike Friday's US-sponsored text, which was vetoed by Russia and China, the call for a ceasefire in the new resolution is not linked to continuing talks to pause the fighting in return for Hamas releasing hostages.

The text “demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs”.

It also calls on all parties to comply “with their obligations under international law”.

Initially, the text called for a “permanent sustainable ceasefire” but the US asked for it to be replaced with “lasting” instead.

At the last minute Russia objected to the removal of the word “permanent” but the vote on the amendment was not passed.

“The word 'lasting' could be interpreted in various different ways and that is very telling. Those who are providing cover for Israel still want to give it a free hand,” said Russia's ambassador Vasily Nebenzya.

Security Council finally shouldering responsibility, Algeria says

The successful resolution was drafted in part by Algeria, the Arab Group's representative on the council, along with other non-permanent members of the council, including Slovenia, Switzerland and Mozambique.

Algeria's ambassador to the UN Amar Bendjama said the council was finally shouldering its responsibility as the primary organ responsible for maintaining international peace and security and “responding to the calls of the international community”.

“We look forward to the commitment and the compliance of the Israeli occupying power with this resolution for them to put an end to the bloodbath without any conditions to end the suffering of the Palestinian people,” he added.

Mr Bendjama emphasised that it falls upon the Security Council to guarantee the enforcement of the resolution's stipulations.

'We did not agree with everything': US abstains from vote

Washington's top UN envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield shared her appreciation for the willingness of members of the council to take “some of our edits and improve on this resolution”.

However, she pointed out that significant amendments were overlooked, including the US request to add a condemnation of Hamas.

“We did not agree with everything in the resolution. For that reason, we were, unfortunately, not able to vote yes,” added Ms Thomas-Greenfield.

“However, as I've said before, we fully support some of the critical objectives in this non-binding resolution. And we believe it was important for the council to speak out and make clear that any ceasefire must come with the release of all hostages.”

According to the UN Charter, all Security Council resolutions are binding under international law.

After the Security Council meeting, South Korea's delegate Hwang Joon-kook provided further explanation on the US envoy's comments regarding the non-binding nature of the text.

"Legally speaking [the resolution] is non binding because ... this resolution does not use the word 'decide'. And it did not invoke chapter seven of the charter."

Mozambique's UN ambassador Pedro Commissario interjected and stressed that "all United Nations Security Council resolutions are binding and mandatory".

"I have been a member of the International Law Commission for 15 years and president, and I know what I'm saying, OK?" he said.

Slovenia called for swift implementation of “this clear resolution” in particular with regard to the ceasefire, the unconditional release of hostages and the urgent need for expansion of the flow of humanitarian aid.

Ms Thomas-Greenfield said that the ceasefire can be put into effect only after Hamas starts releasing the hostages it currently holds.

Following the vote, Israel's UN ambassador Gilad Erdan said: “Your demand for a ceasefire without conditioning it on the release of the hostages not only is not helpful... because it gives Hamas terrorists the hope to get a ceasefire without releasing the hostages.”

Some in Washington said the US should have vetoed the resolution.

“By not opposing today’s UN Security Council resolution, the Biden administration has empowered Hamas terrorists as they shamefully obstruct negotiations to free the hostages," House Foreign Relations Committee chairman Michael McCaul told The National.

"Instead, the administration should have kept continued pressure on Hamas to agree to freeing hostages and a short-term ceasefire.”

“This crisis is not over. Our council will have to remain mobilised and immediately get back to work,” said Nicolas de Riviere, France's UN representative.

“After Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, it will have to establish a permanent ceasefire.”

Netanyahu cancels Washington visit

Moments after the US refused to veto the resolution, the Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned visit to Washington by a high-level delegation in protest.

Mr Netanyahu accused Washington of “retreating” from what he said had been a “principled position” by allowing the vote to pass without conditioning the ceasefire on the release of hostages held by Hamas.

The Israeli delegation was to present White House officials with plans for an expected ground invasion of the city of Rafah in Gaza, where over one million Palestinians have sought shelter from the war.

Washington has been pressing Israel to hold off on an invasion of the city until secure plans are in place to protect civilians.

“We're very disappointed that they won't be coming to Washington, DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

Updated: March 26, 2024, 6:48 AM