US vetoes Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire

Our Correspondent
Saturday, Dec 09, 2023

WASHINGTON/ GAZA: The United States on Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate ceasefire in the intense fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The United States deputy representative at the UN, Robert Wood, said the resolution was “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground.”

Thirteen council members voted in favour, the UK abstained and the US vetoed the resolution introduced by UAE.

The UN Security Council was meeting after Guterres took the unprecedented step of invoking the UN Charter’s Article 99, allowing him to convene the council for “any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security”.

Earlier, Israeli forces maintained a relentless bombardment and ground invasion on Friday, killing scores across Gaza City, Jabalia and Khan Yunis . The fighting has left 17,487 people dead in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to the latest toll from the Hamas-run health ministry.

Vast areas of Gaza have been reduced to a wasteland. The UN says about 80 percent of the population has been displaced, facing dire shortages of food, fuel, water and medicine, and the growing threat of disease.

Addressing the Security Council, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for the release of Israeli hostages, but said “the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people”.

Guterres says he wants a “humanitarian ceasefire” to prevent “a catastrophe with potentially irreversible implications for Palestinians” and the entire Middle East.

The World Health Organization reinforced his warning. “People are starting to cut down telephone poles to have a little bit of firewood to keep warm or maybe cook, if they have anything available,” WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier said. “Civilisation is about to break down.”

The Hamas health ministry reported 40 dead in strikes near Gaza City on Friday, and dozens more in Jabalia and the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

Israel’s military told residents in several districts of Gaza City to move west, and released footage of naval forces firing from the Mediterranean towards the land.

It said “numerous” militants in Khan Yunis had been killed in “extensive battles”, with around 450 targets struck over 24 hours. Israel has so far lost 91 soldiers in Gaza.

“May God punish those who can see our suffering and remain calm,” said one Gazan, Rimah Mansi, who told AFP they had lost “all those we love”. In the north, the military said it found Hamas rocket parts, launchers and other weapons as well as a one-kilometre tunnel at Al-Azhar University in the Gaza City district of Rimal.

The fighting has pushed Gazans further and further south, turning Rafah near the Egyptian border into a vast camp for many of the 1.9 million displaced. The death toll also rose in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where Israeli forces shot dead six Palestinians on Friday, the territory’s health ministry said. The armed wing of Hamas, the Ezzedine al-Qassam Brigades, said it had fired more rockets towards Israeli territory.

Hamas’s armed wing, the Qassam Brigades, says a number of captives have been “killed and injured” in Israeli air strikes. In a statement, it said “barbaric strikes on parts of Gaza City” caused the deaths and injuries. It did not provide details.

An attack in Iraq again raised fears of wider conflict in the region, with US officials saying salvoes of rockets targeted its embassy in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

It was the first attack against the US mission in Baghdad since the war began, though there have been dozens of rocket or drone strikes by pro-Iran groups against American or coalition forces elsewhere in Iraq and Syria.

Thousands of Jordanians demonstrated near the US embassy in Amman to denounce US support for Israel.

In a phone call Thursday with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, US President Joe Biden “emphasised the critical need to protect civilians and to separate the civilian population from Hamas”, the White House said. Biden also called for “corridors that allow people to move safely from defined areas of hostilities”.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock appealed for “Israel to adapt its military action” and allow more humanitarian aid, especially in Gaza’s north. The UN said 69 trucks carrying supplies and fuel had entered from Egypt on Thursday -- well below the average 500 daily truckloads before the war.

The foreign ministers of several Arab countries and Turkey, on a visit to the United States, called for an immediate cessation of hostilities in the Gaza Strip, urging Washington to support a UN resolution on a humanitarian ceasefire.

Bin Farhan, who was in Washington as part of a visit of the Arab-Islamic Ministerial Committee, said he regretted that putting a stop to the bloodshed “doesn’t seem to be a priority for the international community.” “The solution is a ceasefire,” said Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, while his Jordanian counterpart Ayman Safadi called putting an end to the fighting the number one priority. “If the UN Security Council fails to adopt the resolution that is simply calling for humanitarian pauses, that is giving Israel a license to continue its massacre against civilians in Gaza,” he said.

Meanwhile, tributes have poured in following the killing of renowned, and for some controversial, Palestinian poet and academic Refaat Alareer, in an Israeli strike in Gaza. The 44-year-old Alareer was a prominent professor at the Islamic University of Gaza and one of the leaders of a young generation of authors in the enclave. He was killed alongside several family members by an air strike in Gaza City on Wednesday. Weeks before he was killed, Alareer said in a post on X that if he died, the news should become “a tale.”

Also on on Thursday at least 100 Palestinian men detained by Israeli forces have been stripped to their underwear, blindfolded and made to kneel on a street in northern Gaza, according to images and videos widely circulated on social media and confirmed by the Israeli army. The men were shown with their heads bowed as they were guarded by Israeli troops in the undated video that first surfaced, which has drawn condemnation.