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Russia and China Veto US Resolution Calling for Immediate Cease-Fire in Gaza
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By Associated Press
Published 4 weeks ago on
March 22, 2024

Zhang Jun, China's ambassador to the United Nations, speaks during a Security Council meeting at U.N. headquarters, Friday, March. 22, 2024. (AP/Yuki Iwamura)

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UNITED NATIONS — Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution supporting “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza, calling the measure 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 that are mad at each other elsewhere, with the United States taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, whose ongoing military offensive has created a dire humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favor and three against, including Algeria, the Arab representative on the council. There was one abstention, from Guyana.

Resolution Language Didn’t ‘Demand’ War’s Halt

A key issue in the vote was the unusual language that 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.

The resolution reflected a shift by the United States, which has found itself at odds with much of the world as even allies of Israel push for an unconditional end to fighting.

In previous resolutions, the U.S. has closely intertwined calls for a cease-fire with demands for the release of Israeli hostages in Gaza. This resolution, through wording that’s open to interpretation, continued to link the two issues, but not as firmly.

Russia Says It Supports Immediate Cease-Fire

Before the vote, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate cease-fire, but he criticized the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a U.N. resolution.

He accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of “deliberately misleading the international community.”

“This was some kind of an empty rhetorical exercise,” Nebenzia said. “The American product is exceedingly politicized, the sole purpose of which is to help to play to the voters, to throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a cease-fire in Gaza … and to ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes in the draft are not even assessed.”

Thomas-Greenfield urged the council to adopt the resolution to press for an immediate cease-fire and the release of the hostages, as well as to address Gaza’s humanitarian crisis and support ongoing diplomacy by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar.

US Ambassador Critical of Veto

After the vote, Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia and China of voting for “deeply cynical reasons,” saying they could not bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which the resolution would have done for the first time.

The U.S. has vetoed three resolutions demanding a cease-fire, the most recent an Arab-backed measure supported by 13 council members with one abstention on Feb. 20.

While the most recent resolution would have been officially binding under international law, it would not have ended the fighting or led to the release of hostages. But it would have added to the pressure on Israel as its closest ally falls more in line with global demands for a cease-fire at a time of rising tensions between the U.S. and Israeli governments.

Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people in the surprise Oct. 7 attack into southern Israel that triggered the war, and abducted another 250 people. Hamas is still believed to be holding some 100 people hostage, as well as the remains of 30 others.

In Gaza, the Health Ministry raised the death toll in the territory Thursday to nearly 32,000 Palestinians. The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The international community’s authority on determining the severity of hunger crises warned this week that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza, where 70% of people are experiencing catastrophic hunger. The report warned that escalation of the war could push half of Gaza’s total population to the brink of starvation.

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