The UN Security Council approves a ceasefire in Gaza limited to the month of Ramadan

The United Nations Security Council has voted on a ceasefire proposal in Gaza that will extend during the Ramadan period.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
24 March 2024 Sunday 22:20
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The UN Security Council approves a ceasefire in Gaza limited to the month of Ramadan

The United Nations Security Council has voted on a ceasefire proposal in Gaza that will extend during the Ramadan period. For its approval, it has been key that the United States did not exercise the right of veto. The US attitude has provoked the anger of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has canceled the trip of his advisors to Washington and has described the American attitude as "retreat."

Hours before the vote, António Guterres, UN Secretary General, had declared in Jordan that "we are seeing a growing consensus in the international community that tells the Israelis that the ceasefire is necessary and I see it too. I have heard to the United States, to the European Union, not to mention the Muslim world, who have clearly told Israel that the ground invasion of Rafah could mean a humanitarian disaster.”

Consensus? After four failures, this time the Security Council has given a yes, albeit a limited one. The vote was almost unanimous: 14 members in favor and the exception of the United States, which abstained, but did not veto it. The proposition demands “an immediate ceasefire” between Israel and Hamas only during the month of Ramadan, a period that ends on April 9. The resolution establishes a direct request between a ceasefire and the release of the at least one hundred hostages held by Hamas in captivity.

The document also demands that the distribution of humanitarian assistance be allowed, both to provide food and to offer health care.

There was applause in the room when the result was known, the first time that such a decision has been made after almost five months of war, since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 (more than 1,200 dead) and Israel reacted with a retaliation that has left already more than 32,000 dead in the Gaza Strip. “Today is a great day for the Middle East and to silence the guns,” congratulated the representative of Slovenia, one of the ten nations that endorsed this proposal led by Mozambique and Algeria, which also included Malta and Switzerland.

But it wasn't all congratulations. Israel reacted immediately to the vote. His Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, announced that he was canceling the visit of his advisors to Washington. He had played with the threat since early in the morning. As soon as he learned the outcome of the Security Council meeting, he accused the United States of having backed down on his position and allowing his policy to free the hostages to end in failure.

Linda Thomas Greenfield, US ambassador to the United Nations, argued that she could not vote in favor of the proposal because it does not condemn the Hamas attack. She clarified, however, that there are things in that resolution, such as the direct link between the ceasefire and the release of the hostages, which is the main objective pursued by her country.

The Biden administration diplomat downplayed the success, however, by insisting that the real work for the stable and lasting ceasefire, and the release of the hostages, is being done by the US in the negotiations taking place in Qatar. She insisted that there is a pact between all parties with the exception of Hamas, a group that she assured has no intention of accepting what is on the table. Thomas Greenfield took the opportunity to attack Russia and China, which he said do not seem interested in this double achievement to obtain their own benefit and divide the Security Council.

Prior to approval, four ceasefire requests were presented that failed due to the devilish situation of international geopolitics. The United States vetoed the proposals on all three occasions. Last Friday, Washington presented its own ceasefire proposal, but Russia and China vetoed it.

Beijing's envoy, Zhang Ju, drew differences between the approved resolution and the American one that was vetoed on Friday. “This time the ceasefire was demanded directly and the other time it was ambiguous. It is a request without conditions and the other had preconditions. The Arab countries did not want that one and they do want this one,” he remarked.

The session, which began with a minute of silence for the terrorist attack in the Moscow region on Friday, included a first intervention by Moscow's ambassador, Vasili Nebenzia. He proposed an amendment, which consisted of returning to the initial wording, which included the word “permanent” next to the ceasefire. Otherwise, Israel should have a "free hand" to attack again. The word permanent disappeared to be limited to Ramadan to make it go ahead. The amendment failed, but Nebenzia voted in favor of the unamended text.

There was still another consideration. Sources from the Israeli mission stated that the resolution was not binding. Its proponents insisted that all resolutions approved in the Security Council, the legal body of the UN, are mandatory. However, the fact that the word "demand" is used and does not demand, or that article seven of the United Nations Charter is not invoked, left the debate open. In any case there is "a moral obligation." Hamas demanded in a statement on the networks that this resolution be fulfilled.

After regretting the condemnation of the attack last weekend in Russia, Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan regretted this difference in opinion since the council has not yet condemned the Hamas massacre. "Israeli blood is cheap. This is a travesty and I am disgusted, all members should have voted against it," he lamented. On the other hand, Ryad Mansour, representative of the Palestinian Authority, stressed that "the injustice ends now," although he clarified that "healing the trauma and devastation will take generations."