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Palestinian civilians stand in rubble after a building is destroyed in Gaza. Alamy Stock Photo
Security Council

UN Security Council calls for 'humanitarian pauses' in Gaza

The resolution, prepared by Malta, was adopted with 12 votes in favour.

THE UNITED NATIONS Security Council has called for “extended humanitarian pauses” in the Gaza Strip, the first time it has broken its silence since the start of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

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.

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

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

After the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas militants, and Israel’s reprisal bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the council tried – in vain – to adopt a resolution of some kind.

But four drafts failed in October, exposing the body’s long-held divisions on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, with Russia and China on one side and the United States on the other.

Faced with the council’s inability to act, the UN General Assembly on 27 October adopted with a large majority a non-binding text calling for an “immediate humanitarian truce“.

The United States and Israel voted against the text, which did not mention Hamas.

231115-united-nations-nov-15-2023-xinhua-representatives-vote-on-a-draft-resolution-during-a-security-council-meeting-at-the-un-headquarters-in-new-york-on-nov-15-2023-the-security-co Representatives voting this evening in New York. Alamy Stock Photo Alamy Stock Photo

With its ten non-permanent 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 this evening.

The resolution passed this evening mentions children in nearly every paragraph, including “demands that all parties comply with their obligations under international law [...] notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children.”

It also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas militants and other groups, especially children.

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.

© AFP 2023