US blocks UN Security Council resolution calling for humanitarian pauses in Gaza conflict

Malta votes in favour of UN Security Council resolution proposed by Brazil condemning Hamas and calling for humanitarian pauses in Gaza • Resolution blocked by US veto

The UN Security Council has failed to agree for the second time on a resolution calling for respect of international law in the ongoing Gaza conflict
The UN Security Council has failed to agree for the second time on a resolution calling for respect of international law in the ongoing Gaza conflict

Updated at 5:45pm with comments from Malta's UN representative

The United States has blocked a UN Security Council resolution condemning Hamas and calling on all parties in the Gaza conflict to respect international law.

The US exercised its right to veto the resolution, which was proposed by Brazil, which means the matter will now be treated by the General Assembly.

Malta and 11 other members of the Security Council, including France and China, voted in favour, while the UK and Russia abstained.

The resolution also called for “humanitarian pauses” to allow “full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access” for UN agencies and other partners.

This was the second time in as many days that the Security Council failed to agree on a resolution addressing the ongoing conflict in Gaza. The first resolution proposed by Russia on Monday night did not gain support because it failed to condemn Hamas’s actions. Malta had abstained.

The Brazilian resolution specifically condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas” and the taking of hostages that took place on 7 October.

It also called for the “immediate and unconditional” release of all hostages and their “humane treatment” in compliance with international law.

The resolution urged all parties to fully comply with their obligations under international law to protect civilians, civilian infrastructure and humanitarian workers.

In a rebuke to Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip since 7 October, the text also called for the unhindered provision of essential goods and services to civilians, including electricity, water, fuel, food, and medical supplies. It stressed “the imperative, under international humanitarian law, to ensure civilians are not deprived of objects indispensable to their survival”.

The Brazilian resolution also called on Israel to rescind the order for civilians and UN staff to evacuate all areas in Gaza north of the Wadi Gaza and relocate to southern Gaza.

The US veto came on the same day that President Joe Biden landed in Tel Aviv in a show of solidarity with Israel.

In a news conference with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Biden reiterated his support for Israel and condemned the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which launched an unprecedented attack on Israel from Gaza on 7 October that left 1,400 people dead.

At least 3,000 people have been killed in retaliatory Israeli strikes on Gaza.

Biden’s visit has been overshadowed by the bombing on Tuesday night of a hospital in Gaza that killed more than 500 people. Israel has blamed the incident on a misfired rocket by Islamic Jihad, another militant group but Hamas and have said the hospital was targeted by Israel.

The hospital bombing has caused outrage and led to massive protests in the occupied West Bank and several Arab countries. A planned summit in Jordan hosted by King Abdullah and which was going to be attended by Biden, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Egyptian President Abdul Fattah al-Sisi was cancelled as a result of the hospital bombing.

Malta ‘gravely concerned’

In an explanation of Malta’s vote, Permanent Representative to the UN Vanessa Frazier said: “We deeply regret that the draft resolution was not adopted and remain gravely concerned at the highly volatile situation in Israel and Gaza.”

She said notwithstanding the decision, the Council must “critically remain seized with this matter and strive to work towards constructive steps which prioritise the protection of civilians and prevent any potential regional conflagration”.

Frazier said Malta condemned in the strongest possible terms, “the barbaric terrorist acts perpetrated by Hamas on Israeli soil and against the people of Israel”.

She added that Israel has the right to self-defence in the face of such attacks. “It has the right and obligation to protect its territory and its people in line with humanitarian and international law, and the principles of distinction and proportionality.”

Frazier expressed regret at the casualties of war, including the hundreds killed in the Al-Ahli Hospital bombing in Gaza. “Such actions are deplorable and in blatant breach of international law,” she said, adding, however, that this is the “inevitable result” of the military operations that are being conducted in Gaza, one of the most densely populated places on Earth.

“Decisions to cut off electricity, water supply and refuse supplies of aid and fuel are also deeply concerning and are leading to catastrophic results. The evacuation order which displaced over a million people to South Gaza has had serious humanitarian consequences. Such decisions are inconsistent with international humanitarian law and must be rescinded,” she insisted.

Frazier said it is important to prevent a regional spill over of the conflict, calling on all parties to exercise maximum restraint and fully comply with the norms of international law.