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US vetoes UN resolution backed by many nations demanding immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza

Published:Friday | December 8, 2023 | 7:32 PM
Reporters raise their hands to ask questions as Foreign Ministers, from left, Turkish Foreign Minister Hakan Fidan, Palestinian Minister of Foreign Affairs Riyad al-Maliki, Qatari Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani, Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, Jordan's Minister of Foreign Affairs Ayman Safadi, and Egyptian Foreign Affairs Minister Sameh Shoukry, attend a news conference about the Israel-Hamas war, and pressure to reduce civilian casualties, Friday, December 8, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States vetoed a United Nations resolution Friday backed by almost all other Security Council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza.

Supporters called it a terrible day and warned of more civilian deaths and destruction as the war goes into its third month.

The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the United Kingdom abstaining. The United States' isolated stand reflected a growing fracture between Washington and some of its closest allies over Israel's monthslong bombardment of Gaza. France and Japan were among those supporting the call for a cease-fire.

In a vain effort to press the Biden administration to drop its opposition to calling for a halt to the fighting, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday. But their meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken took place only after the UN vote.

Along with the vote, the Arab diplomats' mission served to shift responsibility more squarely onto the United States for protecting Israel from growing demands to stop the airstrikes that are killing thousands of Palestinian civilians.

"What is the message we are sending Palestinians if we cannot unite behind a call to halt the relentless bombardment of Gaza?" United Arab Emirates deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushaha asked after the vote. "Indeed, what is the message we are sending civilians across the world who may find themselves in similar situations?"

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood called the resolution "imbalanced" and criticised the council after the vote for its failure to condemn Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel in which the militants killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians, or to acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself. He declared that halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and "only plant the seeds for the next war."

"Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a two-state solution," Wood said before the vote. "For that reason, while the United States strongly supports a durable peace, in which both Israelis and Palestinians can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate cease-fire."

Israel's military campaign has killed more than 17,400 people in Gaza — 70 per cent of them women and children — and wounded more than 46,000, according to the Palestinian territory's Health Ministry, which says many others are trapped under rubble. The ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

Over 60 per cent of Gaza's housing has reportedly been destroyed or damaged, some 85 per cent of the population has been forced from their homes, the health system is collapsing, and "nowhere in Gaza is safe," Guterres said.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN ambassador, told the council that Israel's objective is "the ethnic cleansing of the Gaza Strip" and "the dispossession and forcible displacement of the Palestinian people."

"We reject this result, and we'll continue resorting to every legitimate avenue to stop these abhorrent atrocities," Mansour said.

But Israel's Defence Minister Yoav Gallant thanked the United States for its "bold leadership."

"A cease-fire is handing a prize to Hamas, dismissing the hostages held in Gaza, and signalling terror groups everywhere," he said in a statement. "Stand with Israel in our mission. We are fighting for our future, and we are fighting for the free world."

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