UN Security Council adopts resolution calling for urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors in Gaza

Palestinians displaced by the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip prepare bread in a UNDP-provided tent camp in Khan Younis, Wednesday, Nov.15, 2023. (AP Photo/Fatima Shbair)

UNITED NATIONS — The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday adopted its first resolution since the outbreak of the Israel-Hamas war, calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in Gaza to address the escalating crisis for Palestinian civilians during Israel’s aerial and ground attacks.

The vote in the 15-member council was 12-0 with the United States, United Kingdom and Russia abstaining. The U.S. and U.K. abstained because of the resolution’s failure to condemn Hamas’ surprise cross-border attacks into Israel on Oct. 7, and Russia because of its failure to demand a humanitarian cease-fire, which Israel and the United States oppose.


The final draft watered down language from “demands” to “calls” for humanitarian pauses, and for “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups.”

Still, the resolution, which was sponsored by Malta, managed to overcome the serious differences that had prevented the council from adopting four previous resolutions.

“What we have achieved today is an important first step,” Malta’s U.N. Ambassador Vanessa Frazier said. “We will remain steadfast in our commitment to the protection of civilians and the plight of children in armed conflict that continue to suffer in a disproportionate manner.”

The resolution doesn’t mention the Oct. 7 attacks in Israel, where Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people and took some 240 others hostage. Nor does it mention Israel’s response with airstrikes and a ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says have killed more than 11,000 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.

Russia’s U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia tried unsuccessfully to amend the resolution just before the vote with language from a resolution adopted Oct. 27 by the 193-member General Assembly. It calls for an “immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities.”

The vote on the amendment was five countries in favor, the U.S. opposed, and nine abstentions.

It was not adopted because it failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes.

Nebenzia said he abstained on the resolution because of appeals from the region for council action on the dire humanitarian situation.

But he called it a disgrace that the council, which has “a uniquely powerful toolbox” including sanctions and even military action, “finally squeezed out such a weak call.”

“As the old saying goes, the mountain has labored and brought forth a mouse,” the Russian ambassador said.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she remains “horrified” that a few council members can’t condemn Hamas’ “barbaric terrorist attack,” and criticized the resolution for not reaffirming every country’s right to self-defense. She did note that the resolution is the first ever adopted “that even mentions the word Hamas.”

Nonetheless, Thomas-Greenfield called the resolution “a step forward” and said the U.S. supports its calls for humanitarian pauses and the release of hostages.

United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the Arab representative on the council, said its members supported the resolution, which is the first on the situation in the Palestinian territories since 2016.

“It is difficult geopolitical times, and to bring the unity of the council today to speak with one voice on the subject that has haunted all of us over the last month is, I think, momentous,” she said.

The resolution “is a first, important and overdue step” and will change the world’s perception that the Security Council “is indifferent,” Nusseibeh said. But the world must not lose sight of the urgent goal of a lasting humanitarian cease-fire, she said.

Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan issued a statement saying the resolution “is disconnected from reality and is meaningless.”

He criticized the council’s failure to condemn Hamas, claiming the militants were deliberately allowing the humanitarian situation to deteriorate so the United Nations would pressure Israel to back off of Gaza.

“It will not happen,” Erdan said. “Israel will continue to act until Hamas is destroyed and the hostages are returned.”

U.N. Security Council resolutions are legally binding, unlike General Assembly resolutions, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action.

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