UN Security Council votes for immediate ceasefire in Gaza

Israel cancels high-level Washington visit after US abstains in key security council vote

The UN Security Council passed a resolution demanding a ceasefire in Gaza on Monday after the US abstained, leading Israel to cancel a high-level visit to Washington.

In the first such demand since the war began in October, the resolution called for an immediate cessation of hostilities for the holy month of Ramadan, of which two weeks remain.

Ron Dermer and Tzachi Hanegbi, members of Israel’s war cabinet and close confidants of prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu, had been due to travel to the US to discuss the looming invasion of Rafah, which Washington opposes.

But Israel called off the visit after the resolution was passed, the latest in a series of public rifts between the White House and Mr Netanyahu over how Israel has conducted its military campaign against Hamas.


“In light of the change in the American position, prime minister Netanyahu has decided that the delegation will not travel to the US,” Mr Netanyahu’s office said.

Washington traditionally shields Israel from UN votes it opposes and had so far blocked efforts to call for an unconditional ceasefire.

On Friday, Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution that linked “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” of at least six weeks to the release of the hostages.

In contrast, Monday’s measure demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas, but did not link this to the call for a ceasefire, drawing immediate condemnation from Mr Netanyahu.

“[This vote] gives Hamas hope that international pressure will allow them to accept a ceasefire without the release of our abductees,” he said.

Hamas is holding more than 100 Israelis captive after the Palestinian militant group abducted them on October 7th during a cross-border raid that sparked the war.

Some 1,200 people were killed in Israel, according to local authorities, and at least 32,000 Palestinians – most of them women and children – have been killed in Gaza in five months of war, according to Palestinian health officials.

Talks for a second round of Israeli hostage-for-Palestinian prisoner swaps are stalled, mainly over a disagreement on the length of the ceasefire that Israel and Hamas would agree to in order to facilitate the exchange.

“This resolution must be implemented. Failure would be unforgivable,” UN secretary general António Guterres wrote on X after the vote passed.

Hamas said it welcomed the call for an immediate cessation of hostilities, stressing “the necessity of reaching a permanent ceasefire” that would lead to the withdrawal of all Israeli forces from Gaza.

Monday’s vote marks the first time the US has allowed a security council resolution sharply critical of Israel to pass since 2016.

It also reflects growing international and domestic pressure on the White House to do more to push its ally to protect civilians and wind down the fighting in Gaza.

The White House has expressed growing frustration with Mr Netanyahu in recent weeks over how little humanitarian aid has entered the enclave, and the vast toll Israel’s military campaign has taken on Palestinian civilians.

Senior Biden administration officials have come out against a planned major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, which they say will not achieve Mr Netanyahu’s objective of eliminating Hamas.

The White House said it does not see Monday’s abstention as a shift in policy.

“There’s no reason for this to be seen as some sort of escalation,” said US National security council spokesperson John Kirby. “Nothing has changed about our policy . . . We still want to see a ceasefire, we still want to get hostages out, all of them, and we still want to see humanitarian assistance given to the people of Gaza.”

Mr Kirby added that Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant, who is widely seen in Israeli political circles as a rival to Mr Netanyahu, is already in Washington for a separate visit. He said US officials plan to raise their concerns on Rafah with him.

“We have no moral right to stop the war while there are still hostages held in Gaza,” Mr Gallant said before his meetings with US officials in Washington. “The lack of a decisive victory in Gaza may bring us closer to a war in the north [with Hizbullah].”

Seperately, President Michael D Higgins welcomed the vote for a ceasefire in Gaza, saying in a statement: “An immediate ceasefire and the release of all hostages must now follow.” – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2024