US vetoes Gaza cease-fire at UN


February 21, 2024


US vetoes Gaza cease-fire at UN

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, United States Ambassador to the United Nations, center front, votes against a resolution concerning a ceasefire in Gaza during a Security Council meeting at United Nations headquarters, Feb. 20, 2024/AP

Israel’s military on Tuesday reported intense fighting in the Khan Younis area of the Gaza Strip, while the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that calls for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, scaled up aid access and rejects the forced displacement of Palestinians.

“Demanding an immediate, unconditional cease-fire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the Algerian-drafted resolution.

For weeks, the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have been involved in delicate negotiations aimed at the release of all hostages and an extended pause in the fighting.

“Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel, extend the hostages’ time in captivity, an experience described by former hostages as ‘hell,’ and extend the dire humanitarian crisis Palestinians are facing in Gaza,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding “none of us want that.”

Algeria first presented the 15-member Security Council with its text three weeks ago and has delayed a vote to give those negotiations time. But the country’s Ambassador Amar Bendjama said silence is no longer an option and it is time for the council to act.

“We are rapidly approaching a critical juncture where the call to halt the machinery of violence will lose its significance,” he said of Israel’s impending incursion on the southern city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

“Today, every Palestinian is a target for death, extermination and genocide,” he said. “We should ask ourselves: how many innocent lives must be sacrificed before the council deems it necessary to call for a cease-fire?”

The Algerian text had strong council support – 13 members voted for it, Britain abstained, and the U.S. cast its veto. It is the third time Washington has used its council veto to block a cease-fire measure.

“The call for a cease-fire should have been agreed to a long time ago,” Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said. “What fresh hell needs to be crossed for this council to finally demand a cease-fire?”

Israel’s envoy called the idea of a cease-fire “absurd” and not a magic solution.

“So why is the council charged with security so fixated on aiding these monsters staying in power?” Ambassador Gilad Erdan asked, warning Hamas would attack Israel again given the chance.

And he urged the council as a whole to condemn the Hamas terror attack of October 7, which it has so far not done. Several council members said in their remarks that the council should take this step.

US counter-proposal

The United States is proposing its own draft resolution, which several diplomats said had not yet been officially circulated at the council.

Seen by VOA, it calls for a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable” and based on a formula of all hostages being released. It also notes the “urgent need for a viable plan” to protect civilians from an Israeli offensive in Rafah.

The U.S. proposal “underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances” and “rejects any other effort at forced displacement of the civilian population in Gaza.”

“Colleagues, this is not, as some members have claimed, an American effort to cover for an imminent ground incursion,” Thomas-Greenfield said of their text. “Rather, it is a sincere statement of our concern for the 1.5 million civilians who have sought refuge in Rafah.”

Thomas-Greenfield told reporters that the United States would work with other council members in good faith to get their resolution “over the finish line.”

Israel has warned it plans to carry out an offensive in Rafah, the area of southern Gaza along the Egyptian border. Israeli officials say the operation is necessary to target Hamas members there. The officials have also mentioned evacuations of civilians without providing any detailed plans.

United Nations officials have repeatedly said no place is safe for civilians to go in Gaza.

Egypt objects to the evacuation of Palestinians into its territory, saying it would amount to their forced displacement. Israel denies that is its intention.

Satellite images show that Egypt has started building a high-security buffer zone near the border with Gaza in case of a mass exodus.

The World Health Organization said Tuesday it led an evacuation of 32 critically ill patients from the Nasser Medical Complex in Khan Younis “amid ongoing hostilities and access restrictions.”

The WHO said hospital staff requested the transfers after an Israeli military raid last week left the facility “non-functional.”

“The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza’s health system. Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients,” the WHO said in a statement. “WHO repeats its calls for the protection of patients, health workers, health infrastructure, and civilians. Hospitals must not be militarized, misused, or attacked.”

The World Food Program said it is pausing deliveries in northern Gaza, until safe conditions are in place for distribution. About 300,000 people are believed to still be living in the north, in dire conditions including looming famine.

WFP said it resumed deliveries on Sunday after a 3-week suspension after an aid truck was hit in an airstrike. But chaotic situations with crowds climbing aboard their trucks, looting and violence, including gunfire, had impeded food distribution and made it too unsafe.

Israel began its military campaign to eliminate Hamas after the group’s fighters crossed into southern Israel on October 7, killing 1,200 people according to Israeli officials and taking about 250 others hostage. Hamas, designated a terror group by the U.S., the U.K. and EU, is believed to still be holding about 130 hostages in Gaza, including 30 who are believed to be dead.

Israel released video Monday of what it believes is hostage Shiri Bibas and her two young boys, Ariel, 4, and Kfir, 9 months, being led along a dirt street in Khan Younis shortly after their October 7 abduction. Their father, Yarden Bibas, is also still held hostage.

Rear Admiral Daniel Hagari, the military’s chief spokesperson, said the army found the videos in security cameras seized during its offensive in Khan Younis.

Israel’s military campaign has killed 29,195 Palestinians and injured 69,170 others, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza.