UN Security Council votes to demand immediate ceasefire in Gaza, as U.S. abstains


The United Nations Security Council on Monday issued its first demand to halt the fighting in Gaza, calling for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in a vote that drew an immediate protest from the Israeli prime minister.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a high-level delegation’s planned visit to Washington and accused the U.S. of “retreating” from a “principled position” by allowing the vote to pass without conditioning the ceasefire on the release of hostages held by Hamas.

WATCH | War can’t stop until hostages returned, Israeli minister says: 

War in Gaza cannot stop, Israeli defence minister says

Israel’s Minister of Defence Yoav Gallant says they have ‘no moral right’ to call a halt to the war in Gaza until all the hostages still in captivity under Hamas are released.

The resolution passed 14-0 after the U.S. decided not to use its veto power and instead abstained on the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’s Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel.

But the measure does not link that demand to the ceasefire during Ramadan, which ends April 9.

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

White House national security spokesperson John Kirby said the U.S. had been “consistent” in its support for a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal.

“The reason we abstained is because this resolution text did not condemn Hamas,” Kirby said.

The U.S. State Department on Monday said it was “surprising and unfortunate” that the Israeli delegation cancelled its visit. State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller added that a full-scale invasion of Rafah would be a mistake and would weaken Israel’s security.

The vote comes after Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution Friday that would have supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The United States warned that the resolution approved Monday could hurt negotiations to halt hostilities by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, raising the possibility of another veto, this time by the Americans.

Because Ramadan ends next month, the ceasefire demand would last for just two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead “to a permanent sustainable ceasefire.” 

“The Security Council just approved a long-awaited resolution on Gaza, demanding an immediate ceasefire, and the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” UN Secretary General António Guterres wrote on X after the vote.

“This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable.”

‘We’re not there yet’: U.S.

U.S. ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that the resolution “spoke out in support of the ongoing diplomatic efforts,” adding that negotiators were “getting closer to a deal for an immediate ceasefire with the release of all hostages, but we’re not there yet.”

“So today, my ask to members of this council and to member states in every region of the world is this: speak out and demand unequivocally that Hamas accepts the deal on the table,” she said.

WATCH | U.S. resolution vetoed on March 22: 

U.S.-led UN resolution on ceasefire was ‘cynically vetoed’ by Russia and China, Blinken says

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Tel Aviv, says the U.S.-led resolution at the UN Security Council that was vetoed Friday was trying to show a ‘sense of urgency about getting a ceasefire tied to the release of hostages.’

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, was backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

Algeria’s UN ambassador, the Arab representative on the council, thanked the council for “finally” demanding a ceasefire.

“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 said. “It is the responsibility of the Security Council to ensure the implementation of the provisions of this resolution.”

Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said Monday that she welcomed the call for a ceasefire.

Canada has been asking for a sustainable ceasefire since December, she said at a press conference in Ottawa.

“We’ve clearly stated that the violence must stop and this ceasefire must be linked to hostages being released, Hamas laying down its weapons and also making sure that humanitarian aid can reach Gaza.

“We hope that this [resolution] will be sending a clear message to all parties involved.”

WATCH | Gaza is a ‘catastrophic’ place to be right now, Joly says: 

Gaza is a ‘catastrophic’ place to be right now, Joly says

Following Monday’s United Nations Security Council vote calling for a ceasefire in the ongoing Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, Foreign Affairs Minister Mélanie Joly said any ceasefire should also be linked to the release of hostages, Hamas agreeing to lay down its weapons and assurances that aid can reach those in Gaza who need it.

Joly said she has already raised concerns with Israel and other countries in the region about a potential military operation in Rafah.

“We know that Gaza is one of the most catastrophic place to live on Earth right now,” she said.

“A military operation would be devastating because these people have nowhere else to go.”

Final draft drops words ‘permanent’

Shortly before Monday’s vote, the elected members changed the final draft resolution to drop the word “permanent” from its demand that a Ramadan ceasefire will lead to “a permanent sustainable ceasefire,” apparently at the request of the United States.

Russia complained that dropping the word could allow Israel “to resume its military operation in the Gaza Strip at any moment” after Ramadan and proposed an amendment to restore it. That amendment was defeated because it failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes — with three council members voting in favour, the United States voting against and 11 countries abstaining.

Since the start of the war, the Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none has called for a ceasefire.

More than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the fighting, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency, with a report from an international authority on hunger warning March 18 that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.

WATCH | ‘Catastrophic hunger’ in Gaza: 

The CBC’s Abby Kuhathasan speaks with Kate Phillips-Barrasso about what a UN-backed report is calling “catastrophic hunger” in Gaza.

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