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U.N. Security Council passes resolution demanding immediate Hamas-Israel war cease-fire, release of hostages

Ramadan observed amid Israel-Hamas war
Muslims observe Ramadan amid tension of Israel-Hamas war 02:36

The United Nations Security Council on Monday demanded a cease-fire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, its first demand to halt fighting. The United States abstained on the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas' Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel, which sparked the war. The measure does not link the demand for the hostages' release to the call for a cease-fire during Ramadan, which ends April 9.

Immediately after the vote, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on social media that the "resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable."

Given the dates of Ramadan, the cease-fire demanded by the resolution would last for only about two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead "to a permanent sustainable cease-fire."

Since the start of the war, the Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none has called for a cease-fire.

First U.N. demand to halt the fighting

The vote comes after Russia and China vetoed a different, U.S.-sponsored resolution on Friday, which would have supported "an immediate and sustained cease-fire" in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

The United States warned that the resolution approved Monday could impede negotiations to reach a more permanent resolution to the hostilities, which the U.S., Egypt and Qatar have continued.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, was backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations. The U.S., like China and Russia, are permanent members of the council, and thus have the ability to kill any resolution with a single veto vote.

A statement issued Friday night by the Arab Group appealed to all 15 council members "to act with unity and urgency" and vote for the resolution "to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destruction."

"It is long past time for a cease-fire," the Arab Group said.

Israeli delegation in Washington for Rafah talks 03:53

More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the war begain, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza. The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency, with a report from an international authority on hunger warning on March 18 that "famine is imminent" in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory's 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.

Israel says U.S. "retreat" at U.N. "gives Hamas hope"

The vote became another showdown involving world powers that are locked in tense disputes elsewhere, with the United States taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, even as tension between the two countries rises.

That tension spiked yet again in the wake of the U.S. abstention, which allowed the resolution to pass on Monday. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office blasted the move in a social media post as a "clear retreat from the consistent position of the U.S. in the Security Council since the beginning of the war," referring to the U.S.' previous vetoes of resolutions that, like the one now approved, did not directly link a cease-fire with the release of the remaining Israeli hostages.

"This withdrawal hurts both the war effort and the effort to release the hostages, because it gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a ceasefire without the release of our hostages," Netanyahu's office said.

It added that Netanyahu had warned the Biden administration that if the U.S. declined to block the new resolution, the Israeli leader would cancel a visit by a military delegation to Washington to discuss plans for a ground offensive in the crowded southern Gaza city of Rafah.

UN Security Council adopts Gaza cease-fire resolution for Ramadan
Linda Thomas-Greenfield (2nd L), the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, raises her hand to abstain during a U.N. Security Council vote on a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, at U.N. headquarters in New York, March 25, 2024. Fatih Aktas/Anadolu/Getty

"In light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided that the delegation would not go," his office said in the social media thread on Monday.

"We're very disappointed that they won't be coming to Washington, D.C. to allow us to have a fulsome conversation with them about viable alternatives to going in on the ground in Rafah," U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.

The U.S. had vetoed three previous resolutions demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, the most recent an Arab-backed measure on Feb. 20. That resolution was supported by 13 council members with one abstention, reflecting the overwhelming support for a cease-fire.

Russia, China bash earlier U.S. draft as "rhetorical exercise"

Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-sponsored resolution in late October calling for pauses in the fighting to deliver aid, the protection of civilians and a halt to arming Hamas. They said it did not reflect global calls for a cease-fire.

They again vetoed the U.S. resolution Friday, calling it ambiguous and saying it was not the direct demand to end the fighting that much of the world seeks.

A key issue was the unusual language in the U.S. draft. It said the Security Council "determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire." The phrasing was not a straightforward "demand" or "call" to halt hostilities.

Before the Friday vote, Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supported an immediate cease-fire, but he criticized the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a U.N. resolution.

He accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of "deliberately misleading the international community" about calling for a cease-fire.

United Nations Security Council Meets To Consider War In Gaza
Russian permanent Ambassador to the U.N. Vassily Nebenzia listens during a U.N. Security Council meeting on a resolution demanding an immediate cease-fire in Gaza, at United Nations headquarters, March 25, 2024, in New York. John Lamparski/Getty

"This was some kind of an empty rhetorical exercise," Nebenzia said. "The American product is exceedingly politicized, the sole purpose of which is to help to play to the voters, to throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a cease-fire in Gaza … and to ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes in the draft are not even assessed."

China's U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said the U.S. proposal set preconditions and fell far short of expectations of council members and the broader international community.

"If the U.S. was serious about a cease-fire, it wouldn't have vetoed time and again multiple council resolutions," he said. 

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