Israel fury at US abstention on Security Council ceasefire vote


Israel reacted angrily on Monday to the first UN Security Council vote to demand an “immediate ceasefire” in the Gaza war, after its closest ally the United States abstained, while fighting raged in the Palestinian territory.

Immediately after the resolution passed, Israel cancelled the visit of a delegation to Washington, which the United States had requested to discuss concerns over a mooted Israeli invasion of Rafah, in crowded southern Gaza.

Israel said the US abstention “hurts” both its war effort and efforts to release hostages.

It was “a clear retreat from the consistent position of the US,” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said.

While diplomatic attention turned to New York, fighting continued across the Gaza Strip, with Israeli forces battling Hamas militants around at least two major hospitals.

Washington insisted that its Security Council abstention did not mark a shift in policy, although it has taken an increasingly tougher line with Israel in recent weeks.

The United States had repeatedly vetoed Security Council resolutions calling for an immediate ceasefire, but on Friday it put forward its own unsuccessful text mentioning one, before abstaining on Monday’s resolution drafted by non-permanent Council members.

– Applause –

It meant that the resolution, which demands an “immediate ceasefire” for the ongoing Muslim holy month of Ramadan that leads to a “lasting” truce, went through with all other 14 Security Council members voting yes.

The resolution drew applause in the usually staid council and also demands that Hamas and other militants free hostages they seized, though it does not directly link a release to the ceasefire.

The Gaza war broke out with Hamas’s unprecedented attack of October 7 which resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes around 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 presumed dead.

Netanyahu’s failure to bring home the hostages has led to regular protests in Israel.

Vowing to destroy Hamas and free the captives, Israel has carried out a relentless bombardment of the coastal territory and a ground invasion that began in Gaza’s north before moving southward.

The health ministry in the Hamas-run Gaza Strip on Monday put the total Palestinian death toll at 32,333, most of them women and children.

Hamas welcomed the Security Council resolution and said it was reaffirming its readiness to negotiate the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners held by Israel.

Member states are obliged to comply with resolutions passed by the Security Council, whose vote came while Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant visited Washington.

After the UN decision, Gallant said the war will go on.

“We have no moral right to stop the war while there are still hostages held in Gaza,” he said.

Tensions between the two allies have grown alongside US concerns about the humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where the UN says famine is imminent.

Netanyahu’s determination to launch a ground operation in Rafah, the city on Gaza’s southern border where most of the territory’s population is sheltering, has become a key point of contention.

Prior to the UN vote, US Vice President Kamala Harris told ABC TV that a Rafah invasion would be “a huge mistake”. Asked hether she would rule out “consequences” for Israel, Harris said: “I am ruling out nothing”.

Before heading to Washington, Gallant said his focus would include “our ability to obtain platforms and munitions”.

– Hospital battles –

Troops and tanks have encircled Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital, the territory’s biggest, for a week and more recently moved on Al-Amal Hospital in the main southern city of Khan Yunis.

Israel has labelled its operations “precise operational activities” and said it has taken care to avoid harm to civilians, but aid agencies have voiced alarm about civilians caught up in the fighting.

The Israeli military said it was battling militants around the two hospitals and reported around 20 militants killed around Al-Amal over the past day in close-quarters combat and air strikes.

Palestinians living near Al-Shifa have reported hellish conditions, including corpses in the streets, constant bombardment and the rounding up of men who are stripped to their underwear and questioned.

The Al-Shifa raid was in its eighth day and the military reported having detained a total of about 500 militants “affiliated with” Hamas and Islamic Jihad, another militant group.

– ‘We are suffering’ –

Israel has signalled an extended presence at Al-Shifa which troops also raided in November, to an international outcry.

At Al-Amal Hospital, the Palestinian Red Crescent said Israeli troops ordered staff and patients to evacuate, but the departing convoy got stuck due to debris on the road.

The charity reported that Israeli troops opened fire on staffers who tried to clear the debris, wounding two — one of whom made it back to the convoy.

Israel’s military did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The military said its Al-Amal operation included “raids on several terrorist infrastructure sites”, where they found explosive devices, rocket-propelled grenades and other military equipment.

UN chief Antonio Guterres, on a visit to the Middle East, has pleaded for an end to the “non-stop nightmare” for the 2.4 million people trapped in Gaza’s worst-ever war and stalked by starvation.

According to Gaza’s health ministry, at least 107 people were killed in a 24-hour period into Monday, and the Hamas government press office said more than 50 airstrikes rained down on the Gaza Strip.

Israel’s armed forces gave a similar number and said its fighter jets and helicopters had struck about 50 targets.

Food and water shortages have deepened the suffering, especially in northern Gaza where residents, mostly women and children, waited in line to fill up jerrycans and buckets in Jabalia.

“We don’t even have food to give us the energy to go to collect the water — let alone the innocent children, women and the elderly,” said one man, Bassam Mohammed al-Haou.

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