UN Security Council calls for 'humanitarian pauses' in war-hit Gaza, rejects ceasefire

UN Security Council calls for 'humanitarian pauses' in war-hit Gaza, rejects ceasefire
12 members voted for the humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza - which has been under intense Israeli bombardment since October 7, in a resolution adopted by Malta.
3 min read
16 November, 2023
The UNSC has attempted to vote on a resolution for Gaza on a number of occasions [Getty / file photo]

The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for "extended humanitarian pauses" in the Gaza Strip, the first time it has broken its silence since the start of Israel's bloody conflict in Gaza.

The resolution, prepared by Malta and adopted with 12 votes in favour, "calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days" to allow aid to reach civilians in the besieged territory.

The text raises the question of how many days would be considered sufficient. A previous version of the draft seen by AFP called for an initial pause of five consecutive days within 24 hours of the adoption of the resolution.

"It needs to be long enough for us to be able to mobilize the resources, once we have enough fuel, for people to get what they need," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

Security Council resolutions are meant to be legally binding, but in practice some members have ignored them.

The resolution called on all parties to comply with international humanitarian obligations "notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children."

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It also called for the "immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children." Over 230 hostages are believed to be held by Hamas.

However, the resolution refrained from condemning the attack carried out by Hamas on October 7, which killed 1,200 Israelis.

Three states abstained - the United States, Britain and Russia.

As a response, Israel's foreign ministry spokesman called for an "unequivocal" condemnation of Hamas, but signaled there was no room "for prolonged humanitarian pauses" as long as the hostages were not released.

Diplomats say members waited to schedule a vote until they were relatively sure of success.

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Following Israel's brutal onslaught of Gaza which has killed over 11,500 Palestinians, the council tried multiple times - in vain - to adopt a resolution of some kind.

With its 10 nonpermanent members taking the lead, the Security Council launched new talks on a resolution, but those negotiations got bogged down on the wording to be used to call for a stop, however brief, to the fighting.

The United States opposed any use of the term "ceasefire," diplomats said. Other terms floated were "truce" and "pause."

"I know we are all disappointed about the inaction of the Council in the past 40 days," China's UN ambassador Jun Zhang said Wednesday.

Malta's UN envoy Vanessa Frazier said "the Security Council members are united in wanting a voice."

While recognizing the "nuances" between their positions, she said all 15 members have "the desire to save life and provide respite" to civilians.