US Vetoes UN Humanitarian Resolution on Israel-Hamas Conflict

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
October 18, 2023US News
US Vetoes UN Humanitarian Resolution on Israel-Hamas Conflict
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield (center) speaks during a U.N. Security Council emergency meeting in New York on March 11, 2022. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

The United States vetoed a United Nations Security Council (UNSC) resolution on Wednesday that would have called for “humanitarian pauses” with the intention of allowing for lifesaving supplies to flow into the Gaza Strip.

Israel has vowed to take out Hamas in the Gaza Strip, while the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Monday claimed that Hamas was “ready” to release all of its hostages held captive in the Gaza Strip if Israel agreed to end its campaign of airstrikes on the coastal enclave.

Sponsored by the Brazilian delegation, 12 of the 15 members on the UNSC voted in favor of the resolution. Linda Thomas Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, was the only member of the council to directly vote against the measure. Russia and the United Kingdom abstained from the vote.

The United States, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom are the five permanent members of the UNSC and each has veto power over any resolution brought before the 15-member body. Ms. Greenfield’s singular no vote in effect stopped the “humanitarian pause” resolution from moving forward.

In a press statement explaining her vote, Ms. Greenfield said the text of the resolution failed to clearly affirm Israel’s right of self-defense.

“The United States is disappointed this resolution made no mention of Israel’s right of self-defense. Like every nation in the world, Israel has the inherent right of self-defense, as reflected in Article 51 of the UN Charter. Following previous terrorist attacks by groups such as al-Qaida and ISIS, this Council reaffirmed that right. This text should have done the same,” Ms. Greenfield said.

The calls for a “humanitarian pause” come as Israeli military forces have carried out retaliatory airstrikes across Gaza, after Hamas gunmen breached the Israel-Gaza barrier and killed hundreds of civilians throughout southern Israel on Oct. 7. Israel has restricted the flow of food, water, electricity, and fuel into the Gaza Strip, tying an end of such restrictions to Hamas’s immediate release of 199 hostages kidnapped from Israel.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has expressed “grave fears” about civilian casualties in Gaza and “indications of violations of the laws of war and international human rights law.” On Tuesday, the OHCHR estimated more than a million people have also been displaced in the ongoing fighting after the Israeli military urged Gazans in the north of the strip to evacuate south ahead of the planned military operations against Hamas.

“Let’s be clear: Hamas’ own actions have brought this on—this severe humanitarian crisis in Gaza. And Hamas has caused so much needless suffering, death, and destruction,” Ms. Greenfield said on Wednesday. “Every Member State should condemn Hamas’ terrorism and cruelty. And every Member State should call on Hamas to cease its endless barrage of rockets against Israel. This is not complicated. It’s not controversial. This is the bare minimum.”

Wednesday’s vote on the “humanitarian pause” resolution came one day after the Baptist-backed Al Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza was rocked by an explosion.

Hamas has attributed the blast at Al-Ahli hospital in Gaza on Tuesday to an Israeli airstrike, while the Israeli government has said the hospital was struck by a failed rocket launched by Palestinian extremists, Islamic Jihad.

During his visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that according to his administration’s independent analysis of the blast, the United States believes Israel was not at fault, stating, “It appears as though it was done by the other team.”

Ms. Greenfield expressed condolences for the victims of the hospital bombing in her statement on Wednesday.

“The United States is horrified and saddened by yesterday’s explosion at the Ahli Arab Hospital in Gaza. We mourn this tragic, tragic loss of life,” she said.

US at Odds With Russia on Humanitarian Votes

Wednesday’s vote marks the second time this week that Ms. Greenfield has vetoed a humanitarian resolution at the UNSC pertaining the ongoing Israel-Hamas conflict.

The Russian delegation brought their own resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire, but that resolution only received support from China, Gabon, Mozambique, and the United Arab Emirates when it came up for a vote on Monday. Representatives from France, the United Kingdom, and Japan joined Ms. Greenfield in opposing the resolution, while the six remaining UNSC members abstained from voting.

“Russia’s resolution, put forward without any consultations, makes no mention of Hamas—none. By failing to condemn Hamas, Russia is giving cover to a terrorist group that brutalizes innocent civilians. It is outrageous, it is hypocritical, and it is indefensible,” Ms. Greenfield said on Monday.

Ms. Greenfield argued that the absence of a clear condemnation of Hamas in Russia’s resolution “dishonors victims” of Hamas’s murderous Oct. 7 attacks across Israel.

Explaining his decision to abstain from Wednesday’s vote, Russian Ambassador to Vassily Nebenzia said the second resolution does not include clear terms for a ceasefire. He also faulted the Brazilian resolution for “condemning one side” while not sending a strong enough message to the “other side” about its deadly strikes that have impacted civilians in Gaza.

In remarks to his colleagues at Wednesday’s UNSC meeting, Mr. Nebenzia said that incidents like the strike at the Al Ahli hospital are the “price” to be expected for not supporting a ceasefire.

“The Council did not send a clear, strong, and collective message calling for an immediate, sustainable, and respected humanitarian ceasefire,” he said. “Today, we are reaping the bitter fruits of this delay.”

Biden, Netanyahu Agree on Humanitarian Plan

While the United States has now opposed two separate UNSC humanitarian resolutions on the Israel-Hamas conflict, President Joe Biden said he addressed the humanitarian concerns in Gaza while meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet on Wednesday.

“The people of Gaza need food, water, medicine, shelter. Today, I asked the Israeli cabinet—who I met with for some time this morning—to agree to the delivery of lifesaving humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza,” President Biden said during remarks in Tel Aviv on Wednesday.

“Based on the understanding that there will be inspections and that the aid should go to civilians, not to Hamas, Israel agreed that humanitarian assistance can begin to move from Egypt to Gaza.”

President Biden said he is working with the Egyptian government, as well as various United Nations relief agencies to support the humanitarian efforts in Gaza. He also said the United States will provide more than $100 million in humanitarian assistance for both Gaza and the West Bank.

“Let me be clear: If Hamas diverts or steals the assistance, they will have demonstrated once again that they have no concern for the welfare of the Palestinian people and it will end,” President Biden added. “As a practical matter, it will stop the international community from being able to provide this aid.”

In a separate statement, Mr. Netanyahu confirmed Israel had agreed to allow Egypt to send humanitarian aid into the Gaza Strip, “as long as it is only food, water, and medicine for the civilian population located in the southern Gaza Strip or which is evacuating to there, and as long as these supplies do not reach Hamas.”

He said any humanitarian aid that goes to Hamas “will be prevented.” He also said no humanitarian aid may flow from the Israeli side into Gaza until the hostages taken by Hamas are released.

ntd newsletter icon
Sign up for NTD Daily
What you need to know, summarized in one email.
Stay informed with accurate news you can trust.
By registering for the newsletter, you agree to the Privacy Policy.