US vetoes resolution on Gaza which called for ‘immediate humanitarian ceasefire’
The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Friday morning New York time to discuss the catastrophic situation in Gaza. This follows Wednesday’s urgent letter by Secretary-General António Guterres – one of the most powerful tools at his disposal – urging the body to help end carnage in the war-battered enclave through a lasting humanitarian ceasefire. A resolution tabled late afternoon in the chamber calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire was vetoed by the United States.
The Security Council meeting has adjourned.
Here are the key points:
- The US vetoed a resolution put forward by the United Arab Emirates and backed by over 90 Member States. There were 13 votes in favour and the United Kingdom abstained.
- The UN chief began this latest meeting on the crisis with a stark warning that “the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist.”
- He said “the eyes of the world - and the eyes of history - are watching", demanding that the international community "do everything possible" to end the ordeal of the people of Gaza.
- Mr. Guterres said “the UN is totally committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza.”
- The resolution which failed to pass took note of the Secretary-General’s invocation of Article 99, expressed grave concern over the “catastrophic situation” in Gaza, and emphasized that both Palestinian and Israeli civilians must be protected.
- It demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages as well as humanitarian access.
- It did not condemn the terror attacks perpetrated by Hamas on 7 October.
- For summaries of this and other UN meetings, visit our colleagues at the UN Meetings Coverage in English and French
‘Humanity must prevail’: Palestine
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine, said it was “beyond regrettable” and “disastrous” that the Security Council was prevented from upholding its responsibilities - through a newly adopted resolution - in the face of the crisis.
“Millions of Palestinian lives hang in the balance, every single one of them is sacred and worth saving,” he said, adding that instead of allowing this Council to follow its mandate by finally making a clear call, after two months of massacres and atrocities, “the war criminals are given more time to perpetrate their crimes.”
“How can this be justified? How can anyone justify the slaughter of an entire people?”, he said.
UK: Hamas must be condemned
Explaining the UK’s abstention from the draft resolution, Ambassador Barbara Woodward said her country could not vote in favour of a resolution that fails to condemn the atrocities Hamas committed on innocent Israeli civilians on 7 October.
“Calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage,” she said, noting that Israel needs to be able to address the threat posed by Hamas and it needs to do so in a manner that abides by international humanitarian law.
She reiterated the importance of working meaningfully towards a two-State solution “which delivers statehood for the Palestinians, security for Israel and peace for people on both sides.”
‘No contradiction’ in fighting terror and protecting civilians: France
France’s Permanent Representative Nicolas de Rivière said the UN chief was correct to raise the alarm over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Gaza.
“It is for this reason that France voted in favour of this resolution and it is for that reason that we plead for an immediate and lasting humanitarian truce”, he added.
“For our part, we do not see any contradiction in the fight against terrorism and the protection of civilians, in strict respect of international humanitarian law,” he said, adding “we would have wished for this Council to finally have been able to condemn the Hamas attacks and those of other terrorist groups on 7 October.”
“Unfortunately once again, this Council has failed. With a lack of unity and by refusing to genuinely commit to negotiations in doing this, the crisis in Gaza is getting worse and it runs the risk of extending,” he said.
Resolution ‘divorced from reality’: US
The US engaged in good faith on the text, said Deputy Permanent Representative Robert A. Wood, that would increase opportunities for hostage release and more aid to reach Gaza.
“Unfortunately, nearly all of our recommendations were ignored” leading to an “imbalanced resolution that was divorced from reality that would not move the needle forward on the ground in any concrete way. And so, we regretfully could not support it."
He said the US still could not understand why the resolution’s authors declined to include language condemning “Hamas’s horrific terrorist attack” on Israel, of 7 October.
It killed people from a range of nationalities, subjecting many to “obscene sexual violence.”
He said he had explained earlier in the day why an unconditional ceasefire would simply be “dangerous” and leave Hamas in place, able to attack again.
It was “a recipe for disaster for Israel, for Palestinians and for the entire region”.
Any ceasefire leaving Hamas in control would also deny Palestinians the chance to build something better for themselves, he added.
US vetoes resolution
The vote just took place, with 13 members in favour.
The US voted AGAINST, with the UK abstaining. Owing to the US veto, the resolution was not therefore adopted.
Dmitriy Polyanskiy, Russia’s representative, said US diplomacy was "leaving scorched earth in its wake". He said if an immediate ceasefire was blocked by the US again, how could the country look its partners in the eye? He called on the US to "make the right choice" and support the demand for an end to violence.
Speaking before the vote, the representative of the UAE, said at least 97 Member States have co-sponsored their resolution: "It is clear in its intention - an immediate humanitarian ceasefire."
Saving lives right now, must supercede all other considerations, he said.
The president of the Council, the permanent representative from Ecuador, has brought the meeting to order again. A long list of non-member countries who have co-sponsored the resolution, are joining.
Security Council reconvenes for the vote
The meeting is back in open session with the cameras rolling and a vote is believed to be imminent once it formally begins.
Meeting behind closed doors
Ambassadors are now meeting behind closed doors, ahead of an anticipated vote on a new draft resolution tabled by the United Arab Emirates, which many members referred to during the morning session discussing the Secretary General’s letter under Article 99.
The resolution takes note and specifies it is acting on the letter from the UN chief under the special powers invoked by Article 99.
The draft demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as well as an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages. Ambassadors have been negotiating intensely in the past few hours over the final text.
The draft also reiterates the demand of the Council for all warring parties to comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to protection of civilians in both Palestine and Israel.
Draft resolutions do not represent an official position of the Security Council until they are adopted.
Meeting in recess
The meeting has adjourned. The UN chief began this latest meeting on the crisis with a stark warning that “the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist.”
He said “the eyes of the world - and the eyes of history - are watching”, demanding that the international community “do everything possible” to end the ordeal of the people of Gaza.
Security Council members, meanwhile, continue negotiations on a new draft resolution on the crisis, and are currently scheduled to reconvene at 5:30 PM New York time.
Mr. Guterres said “the UN is totally committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza.”
We need to respond with urgency: UK
Barbara Woodward, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the United Kingdom (UK) to the UN, started off by stressing “we need to respond, and to respond with urgency.”
“The sheer scale of civilians killed is shocking,” she said.
Noting that her country continues to support Israel’s right to defend itself against Hamas terrorism as it seeks the return of well over 100 hostages still held in Gaza, she stated: “we are absolutely clear that Israel must be targeted and precise in achieving that goal.”
“Civilians must be protected,” she underscored.
Ambassador Woodward also noted the need for a marked increase in sustainable and unhindered lifesaving aid and essential services to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe from taking place.
“As we work to halt the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza, we need also to work to avoid escalation in the West Bank, including in Occupied East Jerusalem,” she said, noting that Israel’s announcements approving new settlements there is alarming and that it will only raise tensions.
“Let us be clear: settlements are illegal under international law. They present an obstacle to peace, and they threaten the physical viability and delivery of a two-State solution,” she said, calling for an immediate reversal of Israeli policy on expansion.
Condemn Hamas terror, agree a fresh truce: France
France’s Permanent Representative Nicolas de Rivière, reiterate his nation’s call for “a new, immediate and lasting humanitarian truce”, which must lead to a permanent ceasefire.
We must act and continue our collective mobilization for the population of Gaza, he said.
Given the gravity of the situation, he said France deplored the decision of the Israeli authorities not to renew the visa of Lynn Hastings, the United Nations Resident Coordinator, who is now due to leave next week.
We must also put an end to Hamas actions and “it unacceptable that this Security Council has not yet been able to condemn these acts”, he said, referencing the terror acts of October 7.
Israel can count on France to fight against Hamas, he said, which, along with the other groups, must release all hostages they are holding inside Gaza, immediately and unconditionally.
The situation in the West Bank is equally worrying. We reaffirm our strong condemnation of recent decisions regarding colonization and the violence carried out by settler groups against Palestinians, said Ambassador de Rivière.
France is considering measures to ban travel and freeze assets. But “what is important now is to restore a political horizon, on the basis of the only viable solution”, that of two States living side by side in peace and security.
The President of France is fully committed, he said and continues his discussions towards a resolution, with partners in the region.
A ‘fundamental disconnect’: US
Robert A. Wood, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States (US) to the UN, said that the Security Council’s failure to condemn Hamas’ 7 October terrorist attacks including its acts of sexual violence and other unthinkable evils, is a serious moral failure.
“It underscores the fundamental disconnect between the discussions we have been having in this chamber and the realities on the ground,” he said.
An “undeniable part of that reality”, he added, is that if Israel unilaterally laid down its weapons today, Hamas would continue to hold hostages.
Ambassador Wood stated that as of today, Hamas continues to pose a threat to Israel and remain in charge of Gaza, stressing that no government would allow such as threat to continue to remain on its borders, after events like the 7 October massacres.
Ceasefire will ‘plant seeds for the next war’
“For that reason, while the US strongly supports a durable peace in which both Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire. This would only plant the seeds for the next war, because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a two-State solution,” he said.
In his remarks, the Ambassador said that Israel must respect international humanitarian law and conduct its operations in a way that minimizes civilian harm.
To back up these words and protect civilians, the US has supported establishing an effective humanitarian deconfliction mechanism with the UN, where it also monitors implementation.
“In every conversation we also have underscored that Israel must avoid further mass displacement of civilians in the south of Gaza, many of whom previously fled violence,” he said, adding, “Israel must further ensure sufficient humanitarian support exists for displaced individuals.”
He also noted that civilians displaced in Gaza must have an opportunity to return as soon as conditions permit.
“There must be no enduring displacement or reduction in Gaza’s territory. Under no circumstances would the US support forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank,” he said.
Immediate ceasefire will save lives: China
Representative of China Zhang Jun, paid tribute to the Secretary-General for his statement on the seriousness of the situation in Gaza.
The draft resolution submitted by the UAE reflects the call of the international community, which China supports and co-sponsors because only an immediate ceasefire will save lives and pave the way for the two-State solution, he added.
“A larger crisis is imminent,” and regional peace and security is “on the precipice”. The world is watching. Member States must act, he warned.
Save Palestinians ‘from extermination’, Russia urges
Russia’s Deputy Permanent Representative, Dmitriy Polyanskiy, said that with the humanitarian pause, the parties got their break in hostilities and realized their tactical objectives but then Israel, with the “proactive support” of the United States, moved on to a new, even more bloody phase of its ground operation in Gaza.
He quoted from the UN chief’s letter, emphasizing the desperate conditions being faced by civilians.
Meanwhile, the Security Council has not adopted any clear, binding decision demanding – not calling – for the parties to stop the violence.
The discussions here amount only to “empty words”, he said.
Flooding Gaza with seawater by the Israeli military as a tactic of war, would amount to a war crime, he said.
Today the Council has a good opportunity “to end to this abnormal situation and do what the international community expects of it”, he declared, by passing a ceasefire resolution later today.
We hope that all colleagues will find the strength and courage to adopt the draft resolution prepared by the United Arab Emirates, Mr. Polyansky added.
Of course, we should not lose sight of the prospects for a Palestinian-Israeli settlement based on the “two-State formula,” which we consider to have no alternative.
We are ready to work on this, he said, but today, the primary task is to stop hostilities and “save Palestinian civilians from extermination.”
Security Council must act: UAE
Mohamed Issa Abushahab, Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to the UN said that for many Gazans who have never left the enclave, “their entire world is systematically demolished before their eyes”.
He stated the Security Council must act on the crisis when too little aid is getting in and humanitarian workers are unable to deliver it for the fear of getting killed.
“Despite the recent temporary pause, the violence and danger to civilians has not abated, in fact this conflict has now graduated to a new and more dangerous phase,” he added, noting that the siege of Khan Yunis and other parts in southern Gaza has now started.
“There is literally no safe haven for the millions of people trapped and under attack,” the Ambassador said.
Ceasefire will only prolong Hamas ‘reign of terror’: Israel
Gilad Erdan, Israel’s ambassador, said the globe has been reeling from the impact of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Yet not once, has Article 99 of the UN Charter been invoked by the current Secretary-General, citing other grinding conflicts which have destabilised entire regions.
He said regional stability in the Middle East can “only be achieved once Hamas is eliminated”. Calling for a ceasefire would not achieve that end, he insisted.
He said that on 6 October, a ceasefire held, but the following day “thousands of Hamas Nazis” carried out a massacre the like of which has not been seen since the Holocaust.
Mr. Erdan said if Hamas was not destroyed, then atrocities would be carried out by the group “again and again”. Gazans have been forced to live in poverty, he said, and calling for a ceasefire would ensure that the suffering and the fighting will continue.
He said it sent a clear message: “that Hamas is forgiven for their deliberate atrocities, and Hamas’s oppression of Gazans is given a green light by the international community.”
The Israeli ambassador said Hamas’s main weapon was terror and was seeking to “maximize civilian casualties” to put more and more pressure on Israel to relent.
He said Hamas was the root cause of the situation in Gaza, and yet there has been “zero accountability for their evil”, questioning why Hamas was not being held responsible for its actions.
He said fuel tankers and medical supplies had been allowed into Gaza during the ceasefire by Israel, but Hamas had violated the terms of the truth, he added.
With 138 hostages still being held “Hamas has not even allowed the Red Cross to visit them and provide their families with the most basic sign of life. This is an abhorrent war crime”, he said.
He said Israel would continue with its mission, while supporting "every humanitarian initiative", but the destruction of Hamas is the only option.
Aim is not security: Palestine
Riyad Mansour, Permanent Observer of the Observer State of Palestine to the UN, outlined the impact of the strikes by Israel, saying the bombardment “placed every possible impediment on humanitarian aid and access.”
“And we are all supposed to pretend that this aggression is not aimed at the destruction of the Palestinian people in the Gaza strip, when it has besieged and bombed our people and deprived them of all requirements of life?” he said.
“I keep reading in the media that Israel has no clear war objectives, are we supposed to pretend that we don’t know the objective is the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip?” he continued.
He said that if anyone says they are against the destruction and displacement of Palestinian people, they have to be in favour of an immediate ceasefire.
“When you refuse to call for a ceasefire, you are refusing to call for the only thing that can put an end to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. This is how Israel is conducting the war, through atrocities,” Mr. Mansour said.
Mr. Mansour noted that the aim of the war by Israel is not security, but to “prevent for ever any prospect of Palestinian impudence and peace”.
“These intentions are clear in the Gaza Strip as well as in the West Bank, including East Jerusalem,” he said.
He further underscored the universality of international law, stating that the “Israeli exceptionalism has to end, and it has to end now”.
“Stop rewriting international law to fit Israeli crimes and stop calling for respect for international law while supporting an assault that has torn it into shreds,” he said.
“The Palestinian people will not die in vain, the Palestinian people deserve respect … we have earned it, we have paid the heaviest price to end it … show us respect, not in words but in deeds, show us respect for our lives and our rights,” he added.
Conditions for effective aid delivery ‘no longer exist’ - Guterres
The president of the Council has gavelled the meeting to order, and invited the UN chief to speak.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres thanked ambassadors for their response to his invocation of Article 99 saying he had written because “we are at breaking point” in the war between Israel and Palestinian militants.
“There is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which would have devastating consequences.”
He said public order could completely break down, increasing pressure for mass displacement across the border into Egypt.
“I fear the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region”, he said, adding that the Occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, had already been drawn in to the conflict to varying degrees.
There is clearly, in my view, a serious risk of aggravating existing threats to the maintenance of international peace and security”.
He said more than 130 of his colleagues had already been killed: "this is the largest single loss of life in the history of this Organisation. Some of our staff take their children to work so they know they will live or die together."
The conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist
– UN Secretary-General
Despite this, the UN is totally committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza, said the UN chief.
He said the humanitarian situation however, was "simply becoming untenable."
"The conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist."
Horror of ‘human pinball’
The UN chief went on to note the catastrophic situation continues to worsen by the day.
More than 17,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the start of Israel’s military operations, including over 4,000 women and 7,000 children. Tens of thousands are reported to have been injured, and many are missing, presumably under the rubble.
About 85 per cent of Gaza’s population has been displaced; hospitals, schools and UN facilities have been damaged or destroyed.
There is also a serious risk of starvation and famine, Mr. Guterres reported, noting that half the people in northern Gaza and more than one third of displaced people in the south are “simply starving”.
“Attacks from air, land and sea are intense, continuous and widespread,” he said, adding that people in Gaza “are being told to move like human pinballs – ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival.”
‘Unreserved condemnation’ of Hamas attacks
The Secretary-General also reiterated his “unreservedly condemnation” of Hamas’ brutal attacks on Israel on 7 October, stressing that he is “appalled” by the reports of sexual violence.
“There is no possible justification for deliberately killing some 1,200 people, including 33 children, injuring thousands more, and taking hundreds of hostages,” he said, adding “at the same time, the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”
“While indiscriminate rocket fire by Hamas into Israel, and the use of civilians as human shields, are in contravention of the laws of war, such conduct does not absolve Israel of its own violations,” Mr. Guterres said.
He underscored that international humanitarian law includes the obligation to protect civilians and to ensure that civilians’ essential needs must be met, including by facilitating the unimpeded delivery of humanitarian relief.
Looking into the abyss
Stressing that the people of Gaza “are looking into the abyss”, the UN chief called on the international community to do “everything possible” to end their ordeal.
The eyes of the world – and the eyes of history – are watching
– UN Secretary-General
“I urge the Council to spare no effort to push for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, for the protection of civilians, and for the urgent delivery of lifesaving aid,” he said, recalling also the importance of the two-State solution, based on UN resolutions and international law, with Israel and Palestine living side-by-side in peace and security.
“This is vital for Israelis, Palestinians, and for international peace and security. The eyes of the world – and the eyes of history – are watching,” he said.
Following the discussions, Council members are expected to vote later in the day on a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire as well as an immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.
The draft resolution also reiterates the demand of the Council for all parties to comply with their obligations under international law, notably with regard to protection of civilians in both Palestine and Israel.
Draft resolutions do not represent an official position of the Security Council until they are adopted.
In his letter the Secretary-General invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which grants him with the responsibility to “bring to the attention” of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security.
It was the first time ever that Mr. Guterres had used the rarely invoked clause.
“Facing a severe risk of collapse of the humanitarian system in Gaza, I urge the Council to help avert a humanitarian catastrophe & appeal for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared,” Mr. Guterres wrote on X, formerly Twitter, after dispatching the letter.
Council’s last meeting
The Security Council last discussed the situation in Gaza, in an open doors meeting, on 29 November. Here are the highlights:
- “We need a true humanitarian ceasefire,” said UN Secretary-General António Guterres, describing a catastrophe on the ground in Gaza and underlining the need to release all hostages
- Tor Wennesland, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, had “a message that resonates today as we mark the International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People: There must be a new and different approach, or we are doomed to return to the path of managing a conflict that clearly cannot be managed”
- Council members, including many ministers, roundly decried the unfolding humanitarian crisis and commended the ongoing pause in fighting, with some calling for the full implementation of its resolution 2712 on the crisis
- “We cannot afford to lose more lives,” said the ambassador of Malta, penholder of resolution 2712, adopted in mid-November following several failed attempts
- Non-Council members echoed those calls, with Qatar’s Prime Minister saying “it is high time to take real measures towards peace; the region will not enjoy peace and security without the establishment of a Palestinian State”
- Israel’s ambassador said the Council has not addressed Hamas’s “central role in the ruin of the region”
- “We are at a historic crossroad,” said the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates of the observer State of Palestine