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UNSC passes watered-down Gaza resolution as US refrains from veto

The move offered a rare breakthrough at the UNSC after days of intense negotiations to avert a US veto.
Ambassadors to the UN observer a minute of silence for Kuwait's emir Sheikh Nawaf al-Ahmad Al-Sabah prior a UN Security Council meeting at UN headquarters in New York on December 19, 2023. (Photo by Charly TRIBALLEAU / AFP) (Photo by CHARLY TRIBALLEAU/AFP via Getty Images)

The United Nations Security Council on Friday passed a resolution that boosts aid deliveries to the Gaza Strip but does not enforce a UN aid mechanism or call for a cease-fire. The vote came after a breakthrough in the negotiations between the council’s 15 members, reaching a compromise that prevented a US veto.

The United Arab Emirates-sponsored resolution passed after marathon five-day negotiations over its draft amid disagreements over the “cessation of hostilities” language and the mechanism for UN aid monitoring. The latest draft reported by Agence France-Presse removes calls for the “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities" and did not include a UN-enforced mechanism to distribute the aid.

Instead, it called for “urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

The draft passed with 13 votes in favor, zero against and two abstentions — the United States and Russia abstained. The resolution was subsequently adopted.

Ahead of the vote, Russia — calling the draft resolution "toothless" due to the delays — called for an amendment to recover parts of the resolution that were omitted after days of deliberations. In remarks after the vote, the United States said that the council must continue to support humanitarian pauses, saying that Israel is committed to reaching another agreement and it is "now entirely up to Hamas" to agree to additional pauses.

The UAE is the only Arab country on the council, but its term expires on Jan. 1. 

The UN warned in a report on Thursday that more than half a million people in Gaza — a quarter of the population — are now facing starvation. It said the risks of famine are “increasing by the day” under Israeli bombardment and restrictions on humanitarian aid deliveries since Oct. 7. “It doesn’t get any worse. … I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza. And at this speed,” said Arif Husain, chief economist for the UN’s World Food Program.

Speaking after the vote, US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the “resolution speaks to the severity of this crisis, and it calls on us to do more.” “This resolution puts the weight of the security council behind these efforts and bolsters them by calling for the appointment of a senior UN official who will work to expedite the delivery of humanitarian aid at scale and in a sustained way,” she said. 

The resolution calls for pauses in fighting between Israel and Hamas to establish humanitarian corridors into Gaza from different crossings. It calls for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access,” but it does not specify a mechanism to do so.

While the original UAE-sponsored draft stipulated that the UN will “exclusively monitor all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through land, sea and air routes,” the new resolution does not include such language. Instead, it tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with appointing a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator to establish a mechanism for aid deliveries into Gaza by “facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying in Gaza, as appropriate, the humanitarian nature” of all assistance. 

This is a breaking story and will be updated.