The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday finally overcame a deadlock over the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, and passed a resolution calling for “urgent humanitarian pauses” to allow unhindered humanitarian access in the besieged war-ravaged Gaza Strip amid heavy bombardment and fighting.
The 15-nation Council adopted a resolution on Wednesday that called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, as well as ensuring immediate humanitarian access. The resolution was drafted by Malta with 12 votes in favour, none against and three abstentions from the United States, the United Kingdom and Russia.
The resolution called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable, consistent with international humanitarian law, the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access” for UN agencies and their partners to facilitate essential goods and services in Gaza.
The development came after four failed attempts in the past to take action on allowing humanitarian access in the month-long conflict between Israel and Hamas that began after the group launched an unprecedented attack on October 7. Russia and China vetoed a resolution by the US to affirm the rights of member-states to defend themselves against threats to peace and security posed by terrorist activities.
Similarly, two resolutions by Moscow failed to get enough votes while another resolution introduced by Brazil for humanitarian pauses in Gaza was vetoed by Washington. US President Joe Biden in the past has himself called for ‘humanitarian pauses’ in the wake of the rising death toll in Gaza.
What does the resolution say?
The resolution doesn’t mention the October 7 attacks in Israel, where Hamas militants killed around 1,200 people and took some 240 others hostage. Nor does it mention Israel’s response with airstrikes and a ground offensive in Hamas-ruled Gaza that the territory’s health ministry says have killed more than 11,500 Palestinians, two-thirds of them women and children.
The resolution calls for humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a “sufficient number of days” for unhindered access by the UN, Red Cross, and other aid groups to get water, electricity, fuel, food, and medical supplies to all those in need. It says the pauses also should allow for the repair of essential infrastructure and enable urgent rescue and recovery efforts.
The resolution “is a first, important and overdue step” and will change the world’s perception that the Security Council “is indifferent,” said United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh. “It is difficult geopolitical times, and to bring the unity of the council today to speak with one voice on the subject that has haunted all of us over the last month is, I think, momentous,” she said.
Reactions of abstaining countries
According to US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington “could not vote yes on a text that did not condemn Hamas or reaffirm the right of all member states to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks”. She said that this is the first time the Council has adopted a resolution that even mentions the word ‘Hamas’ without explicitly condemning the brutal attack on October 7.
UK’s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Barbara Woodward said that although the resolution was important, Britain “regrets” that the first resolution passed by the Council on the issue could not clearly condemn Hamas’ attack.
“The barbarity of those attacks should be clear to us all. That is why we have abstained today. But let me be absolutely clear, it was vital and overdue for the Council to speak on this crisis and we strongly support the resolution’s purpose: to get aid in, and hostages out,” Woodward said.
Russia’s Permanent Representative Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that Moscow abstained on the draft resolution, saying that one of the main shortcomings of the resolution was the absence of a call for a ceasefire. He said that any humanitarian action necessitates the immediate cessation of all hostilities.
Meanwhile, Israel has rejected the resolution, which managed to overcome serious differences that prevented the UNSC from adopting four previous resolutions.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan issued a statement saying the resolution “is disconnected from reality and is meaningless. He went on to criticise the council’s failure to condemn Hamas, claiming the militants were deliberately allowing the humanitarian situation to deteriorate so the United Nations would pressure Israel to back off of Gaza.
“Israel will continue to act until Hamas is destroyed and the hostages are returned,” he asserted.
(with inputs from agencies)