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UN Security Council again delays vote on Gaza

Senior United Nations official Tor Wennesland said on Tuesday that Israel's steps to allow aid into Gaza until now are 'far short of what is needed'
— United Nations (United States) (AFP)

A UN Security Council vote on a resolution calling for a pause to the Israel-Hamas war was postponed again Tuesday, as members wrangled over wording while aid efforts in the Gaza Strip neared collapse.

Three diplomatic sources said the vote on the text, the latest version of which calls for the "suspension" of hostilities, had been pushed to Wednesday.

Members of the council are grappling to find common ground on the resolution, a vote on which was pushed back several times throughout the day, according to diplomatic sources, after being postponed Monday.

Israel, backed by its ally Washington, a veto-wielding permanent Security Council member, has opposed the use of the term "ceasefire."

That has proved to be one of the sticking points for the divided body as diplomats wrangle over whether to call for a "pause" or a "truce," or to qualify any ceasefire as "humanitarian."

The current struggle comes after an impasse earlier this month, when the United States, despite unprecedented pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, blocked the adoption of a Security Council resolution on the war.

It had called for an "immediate humanitarian ceasefire" in the Gaza Strip, where Israel continues its deadly strikes in retaliation for Hamas's unprecedented October 7 attack.

Last week, the General Assembly adopted the same nonbinding resolution by 153 votes to 10, with 23 abstentions, out of 193 member states.

Bolstered by that overwhelming support, Arab countries announced the new attempt at the Security Council.

A draft text prepared by the UAE, obtained by AFP on Sunday, called for "an urgent and lasting cessation of hostilities to allow unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip."

But according to diplomatic sources, a new, modified text is now on the table, in an attempt to salvage a compromise.

It is less direct, calling for "the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities."

- Aid 'far short' of need -

As in previous texts, Hamas is not named in the current draft resolution -- a move that has in the past drawn ire from the United States.

Instead, it "firmly" condemns "all indiscriminate attacks against civilians and civilian objects... and all acts of terrorism."

It also demands "the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages."

The new draft text also calls on all sides to allow aid to be distributed across Gaza, as well as for Guterres to put in place a monitoring system for the aid.

Senior United Nations official Tor Wennesland said on Tuesday that Israel's steps to allow aid into Gaza until now have been insufficient.

"The delivery of humanitarian aid in the (Gaza) Strip continues to face nearly insurmountable challenges," said Wennesland, the organization's special coordinator for the Middle East peace process.

"Limited (humanitarian) steps by Israel... are positive, but fall far short of what is needed to address the human catastrophe on the ground."

Earlier in the day, Israeli President Isaac Herzog said his country was "ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages."

US State Department spokesman Matthew Miller said Washington "would welcome a resolution that fully supports addressing the humanitarian needs of the people in Gaza."

"But... the details of it very much do matter," he said.

- Growing impatience -

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, the Security Council faced criticism for only adopting a single text, in mid-November, calling for days-long humanitarian "pauses" to allow aid in.

Five other draft resolutions were rejected, two of them due to US vetoes.

President Joe Biden meanwhile has exhibited growing impatience with Israel, warning it risks losing international support for its "indiscriminate" bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

After the attack on October 7, which Israeli authorities say left around 1,140 people dead, most of them civilians, Israel vowed to "annihilate" Hamas. It has since pounded the Palestinian territory, laying siege to it and conducting a vast ground operation.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says Israel's military response has killed more than 19,667 people, mostly women and children.