UN Security Council passes Gaza ceasefire resolution as US abstains

UNSC has passed a resolution calling for an "immediate" cease-fire during Ramadan in Gaza. It also calls for the immediate release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas

The vote passed, with applause following in the chamber, after months where the Security Council was paralyzed on the conflict in Gaza. (photo: DW)
The vote passed, with applause following in the chamber, after months where the Security Council was paralyzed on the conflict in Gaza. (photo: DW)


Almost six months into the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, the UN Security Council on Monday passed a resolution calling for an "immediate cease-fire" until the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

It passed with the votes of 14 Security Council members while the United States abstained, marking a key shift in Washington's stance.

Four similar resolutions have failed, three of them vetoed by the US and another last weekby Russia and China.

What's in the UN Gaza resolution?

The resolution calls for a truce to lead to a "lasting, sustainable cease-fire."

The resolution also demands the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas' terror attack on Israel on October 7. However, this demand is not linked to the demand for a cease-fire during Ramadan, which ends on April 9.

It also emphasized "the urgent need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to... the entire Gaza Strip" and called for the "lifting of all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale."

The resolution was sponsored by Algeria, the Arab bloc's current representative on the Security Council, together with other non-permanent members including Slovenia, Switzerland, Ecuador, Guyana, Japan, Malta, Mozambique, South Korea and Sierra Leone.

"The Palestinian people have been suffering terribly for five months," said Algerian ambassador to the UN, Amar Bendjama. "This bloodbath has been going on too long. It's our obligation to put an end to it. Finally, the Security Council is taking responsibility."

The Palestinian envoy said that the resolution needed to be a "turning point" in ending the Gaza war. "This must signal the end of this assault, of atrocities against our people," Riyad Mansour said, holding back tears.

Whether or not Israel or Hamas will accept and implement the resolution is a different matter.

Hamas, which is considered a terrorist organization by the US, the European Union, the United Kingdom and others, welcomed the resolution, saying it "affirms readiness to engage in immediate prisoner swaps on both sides."

US abstention marks change in position

The US abstention marks a significant shift in Washington's position almost six months into the conflict.

Washington had repeatedly blocked previous cease-fire resolutions as it attempts to walk a line between supporting its ally Israel with military aid and voicing frustration with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu as the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip mounts.

Netanyahu called the US absention a "clear retreat" from its previous position, saying the move "damages the war effort and efforts to liberate the hostages. It gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a cease-fire without the release of our abductees."

Netanyahu cancels Israeli Washington visit

He promptly canceled a planned visit to Washington by an Israeli delegation, his office saying: "In light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided the delegation would not leave."

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby denied that the US abstention represents a "shift in policy," explaining that the US backs a cease-fire but abstained because the text did not include a condemnation of Hamas.

"We're very disappointed that they won't be coming to Washington, DC, to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah," he told journalists, referring to Israeli plans for a ground offensive into the southern Gazan city of Rafah.

"Nothing has changed about our view that a major ground offensive in Rafah would be a major mistake," he said.

Germany 'relieved,' France calls for 'permanent' cease-fire

Speaking in Cairo, Egypt, on Monday, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also said "there must be no large-scale offensive on Rafah." Speaking after a meeting with her Egyptian counterpart Sameh Shoukry, she said: "People cannot disappear into thin air."

Baerbock said she was "relieved" that the resolution had been passed because "every day counts."

Meanwhile, France urged for work to begin on a "permanent" cease-fire.

"This crisis is not over. Our council will have to remain mobilized and immediately get back to work," said French UN representative Nicolas de Riviere. "After Ramadan, which ends in two weeks, it will have to establish a permanent cease-fire."

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen welcomed the resolution's adoption and said, "Implementation of this resolution is vital for the protection of all civilians."

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Published: 26 Mar 2024, 8:22 AM