U.N. Security Council fails to pass U.S. resolution calling for immediate Gaza cease-fire

A U.S.-led resolution calling for an immediate and sustained cease-fire between Israel and Hamas in Gaza failed to pass in the United Nations Security Council on Friday as Russia and China, who are permanent members, voted against the measure.

Vassily Nebenzia, Russia’s ambassador to the U.N., said the resolution was exceedingly politicized and contained an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah.

The vote came as the U.S. is increasingly pressuring its ally over the situation in Gaza, with Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Israel on Friday for fraught talks likely to center on humanitarian aid and Israel’s insistence on a ground assault on the overcrowded city of Rafah.

The U.S. resolution states that a cease-fire is imperative for the protection of civilians and to expand the distribution of aid to the more than 2 million Palestinians facing the threat of famine.

While a previous draft would have supported international efforts for a cease-fire as part of a hostage deal, the resolution had no direct link to the release of those taken captive during Hamas’ surprise Oct. 7 attacks on Israel. But “toward that end” it would unequivocally support diplomatic efforts “to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

Ahead of the vote by the 15 Security Council members, Nate Evans, the spokesperson for the U.S. Mission to the U.N., said in a statement that the U.S. had been “working in earnest with Council members over the last several weeks on a resolution that will unequivocally support ongoing diplomatic efforts aimed at securing an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal.”

Israel says 130 hostages remain in Gaza, although 34 have died in captivity.

Image: Smoke rises above buildings during Israeli bombardment as people fleeing the Al-Shifa hospital (AFP - Getty Images)

Image: Smoke rises above buildings during Israeli bombardment as people fleeing the Al-Shifa hospital (AFP – Getty Images)

The resolution marked a toughening of the U.S. stance toward Israel in the war nearing its sixth month. Washington, which traditionally protects Israel at the U.N., has vetoed three draft resolutions, two of which would have demanded an immediate cease-fire. Last month it justified that veto by saying it could jeopardize talks about a truce.

This was the fourth attempt to pass any kind of cease-fire resolution at the council. U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield has vetoed three previous resolutions, in OctoberDecember, and again last month.

February’s resolution tabled by Algeria received 13 votes of approval and one abstention from the United Kingdom. Russia and China were among those who criticized the U.S. for voting against the resolution for a third time.

Friday’s vote came after a report from the U.N.-backed Integrated Food Security Phase Classification initiative warned that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza and escalation of the war could push half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation.

israeli hamas conflict (Alexi Rosenfeld / Getty Images file)

Israel is facing mounting international pressure, even from some of its closest allies, to open land border crossings into Gaza and allow more aid into the enclave.

And earlier this week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu engaged in a public diplomatic spat with President Joe Biden over his plans to launch a military offensive on Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians are seeking shelter, many of them displaced by Israel’s military campaign in the north of the enclave.

The resolution also backed talks being brokered by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar over a cease-fire and emphasized support for using the period of a truce to intensify efforts in pursuit of “lasting peace.” David Barnea, the director of Israel’s Mossad spy agency, was leading the Israeli delegations at the talks, Netanyahu’s office said in a statement Thursday.

The vote came after Blinken held talks with Netanyahu and his war Cabinet in Israel. Ahead of their meeting Blinken said he would share alternatives to Israel’s planned ground assault into Rafah.

Blinken also met with the leaders of Egypt and Saudi Arabia to discuss cease-fire efforts and ideas for Gaza’s post-conflict future.

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