UN General Assembly set to demand Gaza ceasefire

UN General Assembly set to demand Gaza ceasefire
UN General Assembly set to call for immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza following US veto in security council.
3 min read
12 December, 2023
The UNGA meeting could see members vote for a ceasefire [Getty]

The UN General Assembly appeared set to demand on Tuesday an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the two-month-long Israeli war on Gaza after the United States vetoed such a move in the Security Council.

No country has a veto power in the 193-member General Assembly, which is due to vote on a draft resolution that mirrors the language of one that was blocked by the United States in the 15-member Security Council last week.

General Assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight and reflect global views on the war in the Gaza Strip, as health authorities in the Hamas-run Palestinian enclave say the death toll from Israel's offensive had passed 18,000.

The assembly vote comes a day after 12 Security Council envoys visited the Egyptian side of the Rafah border crossing, the only place where limited humanitarian aid and fuel deliveries have crossed into Gaza. The United States did not send a representative on the trip.

"With each step, the U.S. looks more isolated from the mainstream of U.N. opinion," said Richard Gowan, UN director at the International Crisis Group (ICG).

The United States and Israel oppose a ceasefire because they believe it would only benefit Hamas. Washington instead supports pauses in fighting to protect civilians and allow the release of hostages taken by Palestinian militants in a deadly 7 October attack on Israel.

In October the General Assembly called for "an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities" in a resolution adopted with 121 votes in favor, 14 against - including the US  - and 44 abstentions.

Some diplomats and observers predict the vote on Tuesday will garner greater support.

"The dynamics are different to those in October. The length and intensity of Israel's operations in Gaza have left many UN  members convinced that a ceasefire is essential," Gowan said.

Israel has bombarded Gaza from the air, imposed a siege, and launched a ground offensive in retaliation for a 7 October attack by Hamas that Israel says killed 1,200 people and saw 240 people taken hostage.

The draft General Assembly resolution to be voted on Tuesday also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and that the warring parties comply with international law, specifically about the protection of civilians.

Most of the 2.3 million people in Gaza have been driven from their homes and the United Nations has given dire warnings about the humanitarian situation in the coastal enclave, saying that hundreds of thousands of people are starving.