The United Nations Security Council on Wednesday called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in fighting between Israel and Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip for a “sufficient number of days” to allow humanitarian aid access.
The 15-member council overcame an impasse, which saw four unsuccessful attempts to take action last month, to adopt a resolution that also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas.
The United States, Russia and Britain, who are council veto-powers, abstained from Wednesday’s vote on the resolution drafted by Malta. The remaining 12 members voted in favor.
The council stalemate has largely been centered on whether to call for a humanitarian pause or a ceasefire. A pause is generally considered less formal and shorter than a ceasefire, which has to be agreed by the warring parties. The United States has backed pauses, while Russia has pushed for a ceasefire.
Russia failed in a last minute bid to amend the resolution to call for a truce leading to a cessation of hostilities. Russia abstained because there was no call for an immediate ceasefire, Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia told the council.
The resolution was the fifth council attempt to take action since Israel says Hamas militants killed 1,200 people and took about 240 hostage in a surprise assault on Oct. 7. The text also does not condemn the Hamas attack – a point of contention for Israel’s ally, the U.S., and Britain.
“Ultimately, the United States could not vote ‘yes’ on a text that did not condemn Hamas – or reaffirm the right of all member states to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks,” U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council after the vote.
Britain also abstained because there was no condemnation of the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.
“The barbarity of those attacks should be clear to us all,” Britain’s U.N. Ambassador Barbara Woodward told the council. “But let me be absolutely clear, it was vital and overdue for the council to speak on this crisis and we strongly support the resolution’s purpose: to get aid in, and hostages out.”
The council called “for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable … the full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access.”
Israel has vowed to wipe out Hamas, which rules Gaza, striking the enclave of 2.3 million from the air, imposing a siege and invading with soldiers and tanks. Gaza health officials, considered reliable by the United Nations, say about 11,500 Palestinians are confirmed killed.
“Hamas has deeply embedded itself within the civilian population in Gaza,” Thomas-Greenfield said. “But we have been clear at the highest levels: Hamas’s actions do not lessen Israel’s responsibility to protect innocent people in Gaza.”
The Security Council attempted four times in two weeks in October to act. Russia failed twice to get the minimum votes needed, the United States vetoed a Brazilian-drafted resolution and Russia and China vetoed a U.S.-drafted resolution.
The resolution adopted on Wednesday demands compliance with international law, specifically the protection of civilians, especially children. It also calls on all parties not to deprive civilians in Gaza of basic services and humanitarian aid needed for their survival, welcomes the initial, limited deliveries of aid, but calls for that to be increased.
In the wake of the Security Council deadlock last month, the 193-member U.N. General Assembly adopted on Oct. 28 – with 121 votes in favor – a resolution drafted by Arab states that called for an immediate humanitarian truce and demanded aid access to the Gaza Strip and protection of civilians.
–Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Paul Grant, Emelia Sithole-Matarise, Grant McCool and Daniel Wallis