Feb 20, 2024 - World

U.S. vetoes UN resolution demanding immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza

A Palestinian woman cries as she inspects a heavily damaged apartment following Israeli bombardment on Rafah on Feb. 8

A Palestinian woman cries as she inspects a heavily damaged apartment following Israeli bombardment on Rafah on Feb. 8. Photo: Said Khatib/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Why it matters: It's the third time the U.S. has vetoed a resolution related to the war in Gaza. It also comes amid increasing global calls for a ceasefire as conditions in the enclave continue to rapidly deteriorate.

  • More than 29,100 Palestinians — the majority of whom are women and children — have been killed since the war began, according to the Ministry of Health in Hamas-run Gaza.
  • The UN warned this week that due to malnutrition, the Gaza Strip "is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza."

Details: Thirteen countries voted in favor of the Algeria-led resolution on Tuesday, while the U.S. voted against it. The U.K. abstained.

  • The resolution called for an immediate ceasefire, the delivery of aid to the entire Gaza Strip, Israel's compliance with the orders of the International Court of Justice and for all parties to respect their obligations under international law.
  • It also rejected the forced displacement of Palestinians and demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

Driving the news: The U.S. had warned it would use its veto if the resolution passed.

  • U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said in a statement this weekend that the U.S. believes a hostage deal proposal the Biden administration is pushing "represents the best opportunity to reunite all hostages with their families and enable a prolonged pause in fighting."
  • The deal would lead to at least a six-week pause in fighting.
  • "We want this deal to take place as soon as possible but sometimes diplomacy take ore time than we would like," Thomas-Greenfield said on Tuesday ahead of the vote.
  • Secretary of State Tony Blinken spoke several times with his Algerian counterpart in recent weeks and asked him to wait with the vote because it might hamper U.S. efforts to reach a hostage deal and a temporary ceasefire, a U.S. official said.

Yes, but: The negotiations over the deal have largely stalled, with significant gaps between Israel and Hamas remaining. Thomas-Greenfield acknowledged the gaps, but said the "key elements are on the table."

  • The U.S. circulated on Monday its own Security Council draft resolution that calls for a "temporary ceasefire," but did not stipulate a timeframe, saying it should come "as soon as practicable" and on the basis of releasing all hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. It's unclear whether that draft will come to a vote.
  • Thomas-Greenfield said after Tuesday's vote that the Algeria-led resolution was irresponsible and stressed the U.S. is ready to hold negotiations with all council members on its alternative draft.

What to watch: Brett McGurk, President Biden's top Middle East adviser, is expected to visit Israel on Wednesday for talks on the efforts to secure the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza.

  • He's also expected to discuss a possible Israeli military operation in Rafah, which the U.S. has said it opposes without a credible plan for evacuating the more than 1 million Palestinians who are sheltering from the war there.
  • The Israeli government has vowed to destroy Hamas to create a reality in which an attack like the one the group carried out on Oct. 7 cannot happen again. About 1,200 people, mostly civilians, were killed in that attack, according to Israeli officials.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with additional details throughout.

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