UN General Assembly votes overwhelmingly in favour of immediate Gaza ceasefire

United States and Israel vote against Gaza ceasefire resolution

Maroosha Muzaffar
Wednesday 13 December 2023 06:16 GMT
Related: Gaza professor’s recording he asked to be published if he was killed

The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on Tuesday even as the United States and Israel were among eight countries to vote against the resolution.

The resolution passed with 153 members voting in favour of a ceasefire, 10 voting against, and 23 members abstaining in the 193-member General Assembly.

The US, Israel and eight other nations, including Austria, Guatemala and Paraguay, voted against the ceasefire resolution.

“The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,” the leaders of Canada, Australia, and New Zealand said in a joint statement after the vote.

The United Kingdom was among the members who abstained from the vote.

“We thank all those who supported the draft resolution that was just adopted by a huge majority,” Saudi Arabia’s UN ambassador Abdulaziz Alwasil said soon after the vote.

“This reflects the international position to call for the enforcement of this resolution,” he added.

This comes amid increasing international pressure on Israel to cease its assault on Gaza which has, to date, killed over 18,000 Palestinians, most of them women and children.

Due to Israel’s retaliatory attacks since 7 October, at least 80 per cent of Gaza’s 2.3 million residents have been forced to flee from their homes.

Facing heat on the world stage, US president Joe Biden on Tuesday told Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that Israel “has the European Union, it has Europe, it has most of the world supporting them, but they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place”.

Tuesday’s UNGA resolution comes just days after the US vetoed a UN Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Gaza which called for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”. The UN chief appealed to the members on Friday and said that “the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist” in Gaza.

UN chief Antonio Guterres said recently that he invoked the “rarely used” Article 99 of the UN Charter “for the first time in my tenure as secretary general” to press for a humanitarian ceasefire in the occupied Palestinian enclave.

Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for the secretary-general, described the use of Article 99 as a “dramatic constitutional move” that, according to a statement, Mr Guterres “hoped would put more pressure on the Council and the international community at large to demand a ceasefire between the warring parties”.

“I think it’s arguably the most important invocation,” Mr Dujarric told reporters at UN Headquarters, “in my opinion, the most powerful tool that he has.”

The last time Article 99 of the UN Charter was invoked was in 1971 during the partition that led to the creation of Bangladesh and its separation from Pakistan.

Unlike votes in the UNGA, resolutions in the UNSC are binding.

Despite the non-binding UNGA resolution, Israel’s envoy Gilad Erdan called the organisation a “moral stain” on humanity.

“Why don’t you hold the rapists and child murderers accountable?” he said before the vote. “The time has come to put the blame where it belongs: on the shoulders of the Hamas monsters.” The US 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 Hamas militants on 7 October.

Meanwhile, Palestinian ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour called the UNGA vote “historic”.

UNGA president Dennis Francis opened the emergency session on Tuesday by saying “we have one singular priority – only one – to save lives”.

He added: “Even war has rules, and it is imperative that we prevent any deviation from these principles and values – the validity of which resides in their universal application.”

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