Springfield News-Sun

U.N. demands cease-fire in Gaza during Muslim holy month

- By Edith M. Lederer

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations Security Council on Monday demanded a ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, its first demand to halt fighting.

The United States abstained on the resolution, which also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive during Hamas’ Oct. 7 surprise attack in southern Israel. But the measure does not link that demand to the cease-fire during Ramadan, which ends April 9.

The vote comes after Russia and China vetoed a U.s.-sponsored resolution Friday that would have supported “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israeli-hamas conflict.

The United States warned that the resolution approved on Monday could hurt negotiatio­ns to halt hostilitie­s by the U.S., Egypt and Qatar, raising the possibilit­y of another veto, this time by the Americans.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, is backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

A statement issued Friday night by the Arab Group appealed to all 15 council members “to act with unity and urgency” and vote for the resolution “to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destructio­n.”

“It is long past time for a ceasefire,” the Arab Group said.

Because Ramadan ends next month, the cease-fire demand would last for just two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead “to a permanent sustainabl­e cease-fire.”

Since the start of the war, the Security Council has adopted two resolution­s on the worsening humanitari­an situation in Gaza, but none has called for a cease-fire.

More than 32,000 Palestinia­ns in Gaza have been killed during the fighting, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The agency does not differenti­ate between civilians and combatants in its count, but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitari­an emergency, with a report from an internatio­nal authority on hunger warning March 18 that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-greenfield told the council Friday that the resolution’s text “fails to support sensitive diplomacy in the region. Worse, it could actually give Hamas an excuse to walk away from the deal on the table.”

“We should not move forward with any resolution that jeopardize­s the ongoing negotiatio­ns,” she said, warning that if the diplomacy isn’t supported, “we may once again find this council deadlocked.”

“I truly hope that that does not come about,” Thomas-greenfield said.

The United States has vetoed three resolution­s demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, the most recent an Arab-backed measure on Feb. 20. That resolution was supported by 13 council members with one abstention, reflecting the overwhelmi­ng support for a cease-fire.

Russia and China vetoed a U.s.-sponsored resolution in late October calling for pauses in the fighting to deliver aid, the protection of civilians and a halt to arming Hamas. They said it did not reflect global calls for a cease-fire.

They again vetoed the U.S. resolution Friday, calling it ambiguous and saying it was not the direct demand to end the fighting that much of the world seeks.

The vote became another showdown involving world powers, with the U.S. taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel.

A key issue was the unusual language in the U.S. draft. It said the Security Council “determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire.” The phrasing was not a straightfo­rward “demand” or “call” to halt hostilitie­s.

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