It is a largely symbolic vote, but one which illustrates the divisions of the international community, as the war in the Gaza Strip intensifies. The UN General Assembly demanded Friday evening by a large majority an “immediate humanitarian truce”, on the 21st day of the war between Hamas and Israel, which castigated “infamy” when its army announced “ expand” its ground operations in Gaza. After four failures in ten days by the Security Council to act, the General Assembly took over on this issue which highlighted divisions, particularly among Westerners.
“As we witness a ground invasion of Israel as we speak, and in the absence of determined action from the Security Council, (the resolution) has a simple but vital objective, in line with reason to be United Nations: peace,” said Jordanian Ambassador Mahmoud Daifallah Hmoud, whose country drafted the text on behalf of the group of 22 Arab countries. The non-binding resolution, which “calls for an immediate, lasting and sustained humanitarian truce, leading to the cessation of hostilities”, received in New York to applause 120 votes for, 14 against (including Israel and the United States), and 45 abstentions, out of the 193 members of the UN.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour expressed his joy, thanking the General Assembly for its “courage” for saying “enough is enough, this war must stop, the carnage against our people must stop.” Also welcoming the resolution, Hamas called in a statement for “its immediate implementation in order to provide fuel and humanitarian aid to civilians.” The war between Israel and Hamas was sparked by the unprecedented attack by the Palestinian Islamist movement on October 7 on Israeli soil from the Gaza Strip.
In retaliation, the Israeli army has since relentlessly bombed territory controlled by Hamas, where some 2.4 million Palestinians are crowded. And it announced Friday evening to “expand” its land operations there. The resolution adopted Friday focuses largely on the humanitarian situation in Gaza, calling in particular for the "immediate" provision of water, food, fuel, electricity, and "unhindered" access to aid. The General Assembly also condemns "all acts of violence directed against Palestinian and Israeli civilians, including all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks", and says it is "deeply concerned by the latest escalation of violence since the attack of October 7,” but without mentioning Hamas.
Also read: “Extended” land offensive by the Israeli army in Gaza: “The bulk of the troops have not yet arrived”
“Shame on you!”, launched Israeli Ambassador to the UN Gilad Erdan, describing this resolution as “infamy”. “It is a dark day for the United Nations and for humanity,” he added, promising that Israel would continue to use “all means” at its disposal to “rid the world of the evil that represents Hamas. The United States, which had also denounced the absence of the words “Hamas” and “hostages” in the text, unsurprisingly voted against. The United Kingdom abstained. A Canadian amendment wanting to “categorically condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks” of October 7 and demand the “immediate and unconditional release” of the hostages was rejected, despite everything receiving 88 votes for, 55 against and 23 abstentions (two thirds of the votes cast were necessary to pass).
France, recognizing that “certain essential elements are missing in the text”, nevertheless supported the Jordanian resolution. “Because nothing can justify the suffering of civilians,” insisted French Ambassador Nicolas de Rivière. But if France, Spain, or Belgium voted for the text, Germany, Italy and Finland abstained, while Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary voted against. “A disaster for the EU's efforts to project a common position at the UN,” commented Richard Gowan of the International Crisis Group. More generally, “the fact that the vote comes just when Israel is promising to increase its ground operations gives the UN an image of impotence,” he added.
It remains to be seen whether the Security Council will be able to regain control and finally reach an agreement. “We will use the moral authority of the General Assembly and work in the Security Council on a proposal (from the 10 non-permanent members) to try to break the deadlock,” assured the Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates Lana Zaki Nusseibeh.
According to Israeli authorities, more than 1,400 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Israel during the attack by Hamas commandos, who kidnapped 229 hostages, Israeli, binational or foreign. Four women have been released to date. According to Hamas, 7,326 people, mostly civilians, have been killed by bombings on Gaza over the past three weeks, and nearly 19,000 have been injured.