The United Nations Security Council has again failed to take action on the Israel-Hamas conflict despite a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Palestinian enclave of Gaza.
Russia and China on Wednesday vetoed a United States resolution that called for a humanitarian pause to allow humanitarian aid access, the protection of civilians and a stop to arming Hamas and other armed groups in the Gaza Strip.
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A rival text put forward by Moscow then failed to draw sufficient support.
The US had toned down an initial draft released over the weekend after diplomats expressed shock at its failure to recognise the humanitarian crisis and its bold statement that Israel had a right to defend itself.
“We did listen to all of you,” US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the 15-member council after the Russian and Chinese veto, which she described as disappointing. “Though today’s vote was a setback, we must not be deterred.”
Ten members voted for the resolution, while the United Arab Emirates voted no and Brazil and Mozambique abstained.
It was a rare move by the US to suggest Security Council action, but diplomats noted that a humanitarian pause was not the same as a ceasefire, which has been backed by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. A pause might last only a matter of hours.
“The draft does not reflect the world’s strongest calls for a ceasefire, an end to the fighting, and it does not help resolve the issue,” China’s UN Ambassador Zhang Jun told the council after the vote. “At this moment, ceasefire is not just a diplomatic term. It means the life and death of many civilians.”
After the failure of the US resolution, the Security Council voted on a Russian-drafted text that called for a humanitarian ceasefire and withdrawal of Israel’s order for civilians in Gaza to relocate south ahead of a ground assault.
It was Russia’s second attempt at a resolution but the effort secured only four votes. Its first attempt on October 16 received the support of five council members.
UAE ambassador, Lana Nusseibeh, who backed the Russian resolution, said that the Security Council needed to respond “tangibly” to the dire situation in Gaza.
The elected 10 members of the Security Council now plan to work on a new draft resolution, Malta’s UN Ambassador Vanessa Frazier said.
A Brazilian-drafted resolution put forward on October 18 was vetoed by the US, which said it did not do enough to stress Israel’s right to self-defence. Russia and the United Kingdom abstained.
“This crisis is also gripped by a growing risk of a regional spillover. This demands our undivided attention,” Frazier said. “We have the duty and the obligation to act.”
Amid the council deadlock, the 193-member UN General Assembly will vote on Friday on a draft resolution put forward by Arab states and others calling for an immediate ceasefire. No country holds a veto in the General Assembly and while its resolutions are non-binding, they carry political weight.
Israel has said it wants to wipe out Hamas, which controls Gaza, in retaliation for an October 7 attack in which the group killed 1,400 people and took at least 200 captive.
Israel has imposed a siege on Gaza and subjected its 2.3 million people to relentless bombing. Palestinian authorities say more than 6,500 have been killed since the war began.