UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States on Friday vetoed a United Nations resolution backed by all Security Council members and dozens of other countries calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Supporters called it a terrible day and warned of more civilian deaths and destruction as the war entered its third month.
The vote in the 15-member House was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining. America’s isolated stance reflected a growing rift between Washington and some of its closest allies over months of Israel’s bombing of Gaza. Among those who supported the call for an armistice were France and Japan.
The foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday in a futile attempt to pressure the Biden administration to drop its opposition to calling for a ceasefire. But their meeting with Foreign Secretary Antony Blinken took place after the UN referendum.
Along with the vote, the work of Arab diplomats shifted the U.S. responsibility more precisely to protect Israel from growing demands to end airstrikes that kill thousands of Palestinian civilians.
“If we can’t unite behind the call to end the relentless bombardment of Gaza, what message are we sending to the Palestinians?” UAE Deputy Consul General Mohammed Abushah asked after the vote. “And what message are we sending to the public around the world who may find themselves in similar situations, really?”
US Deputy Ambassador Robert Wood called the resolution “unbalanced” and criticized the council for failing to condemn Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel. A halt to military action, he declared, would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and “only sow the seeds for the next war.”
“Hamas does not want to see a lasting peace, it wants to see a two-state solution,” Wood said before the vote. “For that reason, while the United States strongly supports a lasting peace in which Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire.”
of Israel Military campaign It killed more than 17,400 people in Gaza – 70% of them women and children – and injured more than 46,000, according to the Palestinian Authority’s health ministry, with many more trapped in the rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths.
Abu Shahab, the UAE ambassador, said before the vote that his country’s resolution had gained nearly 100 co-sponsors in less than 24 hours, a reflection of global support for efforts to end the war and save Palestinian lives.
After the vote, he expressed deep disappointment at the US veto and warned that the Security Council, isolated from its mandate to ensure international peace and security, “appears disorganized”.
France’s ambassador Nicolas De Riviere, a veto-wielding Permanent Council member who supported the resolution, lamented its lack of unity and pleaded for “a new, immediate and lasting humanitarian agreement leading to a sustainable ceasefire”.
Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky called the referendum “one of the darkest days in the history of the Middle East” and accused the US of “executing thousands. Women and children.”
He said “history will judge Washington’s actions” in the face of what he called “merciless Israeli bloodshed.”
The council called an emergency meeting to hear from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres Section 99 was invoked The UN Charter enables the UN President to raise threats he sees to international peace and security. He warned “Humanitarian Disaster” in Gaza and urged the Council to call for a humanitarian ceasefire.
Guterres raised Article 99 – It has not been used at the UN since 1971 – because “there is a high risk of a total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza.” The UN expects this to “completely disrupt public order and increase pressure for mass displacement into Egypt”.
Gaza is at “breaking point,” and a desperate population is at risk of starvation.
Guterres said the atrocities committed by Hamas against Israelis on October 7 “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.
“While Hamas’s indiscriminate rocket attacks on Israel, and its use of civilians as human shields, violate the laws of war, such conduct does not absolve Israel of its own violations,” he stressed.
The UN chief described the “humanitarian nightmare” facing Gaza, citing intense, widespread and ongoing Israeli attacks from the air, land and sea that have reportedly hit 339 educational facilities, 26 hospitals, 56 health facilities, 88 mosques and three churches.
Guterres said 60% of Gaza’s homes have been destroyed or damaged, about 85% of the population has been displaced, the health system is collapsing, and “nowhere in Gaza is safe.”
Palestine UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the council that Israel’s aim was “ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip” and “expulsion and forced displacement of the Palestinian people”.
“If you are against the destruction and displacement of the Palestinian people, you must be in favor of an immediate ceasefire,” Mansour said. “When you refuse to call for a ceasefire, you refuse to call for the only thing that can put an end to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide.”
After the vote, he called the US veto a “disaster” and said it was “a terrible day for the Security Council”.
“We reject this decision and will pursue every legitimate means to stop these despicable atrocities,” Mansoor said.
But Israel’s Defense Minister Yoav Gallant thanked America for its “courageous leadership”.
“The cease-fire gives Hamas a gift, frees hostages in Gaza, and identifies terrorist groups everywhere,” he said in a statement. “Stand with Israel in our mission. We fight for our future, we fight for the free world.
In Washington, Jordan’s top diplomat told reporters that Israel’s bombing and killing of Palestinian civilians in Gaza are war crimes and threaten to destabilize the region, the United States and the world for years to come.
“If people don’t see it here, we see it,” Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi added: “We see the challenges we face to talk to our people. Everyone says we’re not doing anything. Because despite all our efforts, Israel continues these massacres.
Agnes Callamard, secretary-general of Amnesty International, criticized the US for continuing to transfer weapons to the Israeli government that “contribute to the destruction of entire families”.
Human Rights Watch’s UN Director Louis Charbonneau said that by providing arms and diplomatic protection to Israel, the United States would be “complicit in war crimes as it commits atrocities, including the collective punishment of Palestinian civilians in Gaza.”
Associated Press writers Ellen Knickmeyer and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed.