UN General Assembly overwhelmingly votes for Gaza ceasefire

UN General Assembly overwhelmingly votes for Gaza ceasefire
Despite US and Israeli objections, the UN General Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favour of the non-binding resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza,
3 min read
13 December, 2023
Though the vote is non-binding, it sends a strong signal to both Israel and its main patron the US that the world is opposed to the war on Gaza [Getty]

The UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution Tuesday demanding a ceasefire in Gaza -- taking the lead from the paralysed Security Council, and piling pressure on Israel and Washington.

The body, which includes all 193 UN member nations, voted 153 in favor of the resolution -- exceeding the 140 or so countries that have routinely backed resolutions condemning Russia for its invasion of Ukraine.

Ten countries including the United States and Israel voted against, while 23 abstained.

The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations Riyad Mansour said the vote marked "a historic day in terms of the powerful message that was sent from the General Assembly."

The vote came after the Security Council -- responsible for global peace and security -- has repeatedly failed to make such a call.

On Friday, the United States, Israel's most powerful ally and one of only five permanent members of the Security Council, wielded its veto to halt the latest draft text calling for a truce.

The Council took more than a month after the start of Israel's war on Gaza to speak out -- and it did so with a weak voice, calling in mid-November after four rejected texts for humanitarian "pauses" in the conflict.

"These tragic attempts are a despicable sign of double standards," Egypt's ambassador to the UN Osama Mahmoud Abdelkhalek Mahmoud said of Washington's efforts to provide Israel diplomatic cover ahead of the vote in the General Assembly.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has warned of a looming "complete breakdown of public order" in the besieged Gaza Strip.

Many countries and human rights organizations condemned last Friday's Security Council failure, and Guterres on Sunday described the Council's authority and credibility as "undermined."

"We agree the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire," said Washington's ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield ahead of Tuesday's vote.

"It's the diplomacy that the United States is engaging in on the ground that made that week-long humanitarian pause possible," she said, referring to the only lull in the fighting so far, which took place last month.

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Thomas-Greenfield urged countries to back an amendment to Tuesday's resolution that would have condemned Hamas, but that was voted down.

She also called on Israel "to avoid mass displacement of civilians in the south of Gaza," but said Israel was pursuing "legitimate military objectives."

Ahead of the vote, Israel's representative to the UN Gilad Erdan decried what he said was a "hypocritical resolution."

"Not only does it fail to condemn Hamas for its crimes against humanity -- it doesn't mention Hamas at all," he said.

Israeli air and land attacks continue to pummel Gaza, with more than 18,400 Palestinians killed in Israel's bombardment since October 7.