U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres addresses the Security Council meeting on Friday during its debate over a resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The resolution failed due to a veto by the United States. UN Photo/Loey Felipe
Dec. 9 (UPI) -- The United States has vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling on Israel to implement an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza, producing a backlash from Arab states.
The resolution, introduced two days after U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres invoked the rarely-used Article 99 of the United Nations Charter, called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza to "avert a humanitarian catastrophe that could have ramifications for peace and security in the region and beyond."
The push came after intense ground fighting between Israeli Defense Force and Hamas militants continued Friday in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, where the IDF has encountered some of the toughest Hamas resistance yet and Palestinian health officials said the civilian death toll in the conflict has risen to more than 17,000.
The 15-member Security Council, however, failed to adopt the cease-fire resolution late on Friday due to a veto cast by the United States -- the only vote against it. The resolution was supported by 13 council members, including three permanent members (China, France and Russia), with another permanent member (Britain) abstaining.
Before the vote, U.S. representative Robert Wood argued the resolution was "unbalanced" in that it failed to acknowledge Israel's right to self-defense in accordance with international law, didn't address Israeli hostages held by Hamas and failed to condemn the Palestinian group's unprecedented attack on Israel on Oct. 7 in which 1,200 Israelis died.
"The resolution retains a call for an unconditional cease-fire -- this is not only unrealistic but dangerous [and] it will simply leave Hamas in place, able to regroup and repeat what it did on 7 October," Wood said. "As long as Hamas clings to its ideology of destruction, any cease-fire is at best temporary."
United Arab Emirates representative Mohamed Issa Abushahab, who tabled the resolution, spoke for nearly 100 international co-sponsors in calling the humanitarian situation in Gaza dire after 63 consecutive days of Israeli attacks.
"The imperative right now must supersede every other consideration," he said.
Guterres invoked Article 99 of the U.N. Charter for the first time in his seven-year tenure on Wednesday in a bid to bring the issue of the humanitarian cease-fire to the attention of the Security Council, saying the situation in Gaza is "making it impossible for meaningful humanitarian operations to be conducted."
On Friday he told the council there is a "high risk" of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in the Gaza Strip.
"The people of Gaza are being told to move like human pinballs -- ricocheting between ever-smaller slivers of the south, without any of the basics for survival -- but nowhere in Gaza is safe," he said, citing World Food Program assessments that the Palestinians are at serious risk of starvation and famine while health care is collapsing.
The U.S. veto quickly drew condemnation from Arab leaders.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said the veto serves "as a new license for the Israeli occupation to continue its genocide of Palestinians" and called for the delivery of "desperately needed humanitarian aid, including food, medicine, and fuel, to restore the lifeline back to the Gaza Strip after two months of relentless Israeli aggression."
A delegation of Arab and Islamic foreign ministers meeting in Washington said after Friday's vote that an immediate cease-fire is needed in the Gaza Strip in order to protect "innocent civilians from the killing machine of the Israeli occupation forces," adding that any talk about the future of Gaza and the Palestinian question must come after the cease-fire and end of the "unjustified" military escalation.
A cease-fire, they said, is the top priority of Arab and Islamic states and "also must be a priority for the international community, especially the permanent members of the Security Council."
Displaced Palestinians who fled from Khan Younis, put together a makeshift shelter in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip near the border with Egypt, on December 4, 2023. Photo by Ismael Mohamad/UPI | License Photo