UN Security Council Blocks Biden's Gaza Ceasefire Resolution

Israeli soldiers operate amid the ruins of buildings, at a location given as the Gaza Strip (Reuters)

The United Nations Security Council on Friday failed to pass the United States' resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza after Russia and China vetoed the measure, objecting to the resolution's demand that Hamas release all its remaining hostages as a condition of the ceasefire.

The resolution, which Guyana also abstained from voting for, called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire lasting roughly six weeks that would protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

It marked a further toughening of Washington's stance toward Israel. Earlier in the five-month-long war, the U.S. was averse to the word ceasefire and vetoed measures that included calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"The vast majority of this council voted in favor of this resolution, but unfortunately Russia and China decided to exercise its veto," President Joe Biden's ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council.

Before the vote, she said it would be a "historic mistake" for the council not to adopt the resolution.

Russia's ambassador to the U.N., Vassily Nebenzia, also speaking before the vote, called on members not to vote in favor of the resolution.

He said the resolution was "exceedingly politicized" and contained an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah, a city on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where more than half of its 2.3 million residents have been sheltering in makeshift tents to escape the Israeli assault farther north.

"This would free the hands of Israel and it would result in all of Gaza and its entire population having to face destruction, devastation, or expulsion," Nebenzia told the meeting.

He said a number of non-permanent members of the Security Council had drafted an alternative resolution, which he called a balanced document, and said there was no reason for members not to support it. That resolution calls for an immediate ceasefire with no conditions, in contrast with the U.S. resolution's demand that Hamas free its hostages.

China's ambassador to the U.N. said Beijing also supported the alternative resolution.

But Thomas-Greenfield said that measure fell short.

"In its current form, that 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," she said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Thursday he believed talks in Qatar, which are focused on a six-week truce and the release of 40 Israeli hostages and hundreds of jailed Palestinians, could still forge an agreement.

The U.S. resolution had backed talks brokered by the United States, Egypt, and Qatar over a ceasefire.

A diplomat said a resolution drafted by the 10 elected members of the Security Council under Mozambique's coordination could be brought forward for a vote as soon as Friday afternoon.

The draft resolution, obtained by Reuters, demands an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the release of all hostages, and emphasizes the need to expand the flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

China's ambassador to the U.N. said the text proposed by the United States was unbalanced and criticized it for both linking a ceasefire to the hostages and not clearly stating its opposition to any military operation by Israel in Rafah, which he said could lead to severe consequences.

"The U.S. draft ... sets up preconditions for a ceasefire, which is no different from giving a green light to continued killings, which is unacceptable," the ambassador, Zhang Jun, said after the vote.

He said if the United States was serious about a ceasefire, it would not have vetoed multiple previous Security Council resolutions.

During the war, Washington has vetoed three draft resolutions, two of which would have demanded an immediate ceasefire. The United States had justified its veto by saying such council action could jeopardize ceasefire talks.

The United States has wanted any Security Council support for a ceasefire to be linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Hamas attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.

Israel's offensive has killed almost 32,000 Palestinians, according to health authorities in Hamas-ruled Gaza.

The United States traditionally shields Israel at the U.N. But it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions on increasing aid and calling for extended pauses in fighting.