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UN Security Council for first time demands Gaza ceasefire as US abstains

By AFP - Mar 26,2024 - Last updated at Mar 26,2024

The United Nations Security Council meets on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, at the UN headquarters in New York on Monday (AFP photo)

UNITED NATIONS, United States — After more than five months of war, the UN Security Council for the first time on Monday demanded an immediate ceasefire after the United States, Israel's ally which vetoed previous drafts, abstained.

Drawing unusual applause in the often staid Security Council, all 14 other members voted in favour of the resolution which "demands an immediate ceasefire" for the ongoing Islamic holy month of Ramadan.

The resolution calls for the truce to lead to a "lasting, sustainable ceasefire" and demands that Hamas and other militants free hostages seized on October 7.

Russia at the last minute objected to the removal of the word "permanent" ceasefire and called a vote, which failed to gain passage.

The successful resolution was drafted in part by Algeria, the Arab bloc's current member on the Security Council, with a diverse array of countries including Slovenia and Switzerland.

The United States has vetoed previous bids for a ceasefire but has shown growing frustration with Israel, including its stated plans to expand its military operation to the packed southern city of Rafah.

A change in tone towards its Middle Eastern ally was seen on Friday, when the United States put forward a resolution to recognise "the imperative" of an "immediate and sustained ceasefire".

But that text was blocked by Russia and China, which along with Arab states criticised it for stopping short of explicitly demanding Israel halt its campaign in Gaza.

The United States had repeatedly blocked ceasefire resolutions as it attempts to walk a line between supporting Israel with military aid and voicing frustration with leader Benjamin Netanyahu as the civilian death toll in the Gaza Strip mounts.

Unlike Friday's text, the call for a ceasefire in the new resolution is not directly linked to ongoing talks, led by Qatar with support from the United States and Egypt, to halt fighting in return for Hamas releasing hostages.

Israel has criticised the Security Council for previous resolutions that have not specifically condemned Hamas.

The Security Council has been divided over the Hamas-Israel war since the October 7 attacks, only approving two of eight resolutions, which both mainly dealt with humanitarian aid.

And those resolutions seem to have had little effect on the ground, where UN personnel say Israel continues to block aid convoys as experts warn of looming famine.

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