u n resolution on gaza passes but stops short of calling for cease fire

After a week of heated negotiations, the U.N. Security Council approved a measure that called on Israel and Hamas to pause the fighting to allow for the delivery of more humanitarian aid.

The United Nations Security Council on Friday adopted a resolution that would allow more aid to reach desperate civilians in the Gaza Strip, ending nearly a week of intense diplomatic wrangling intended to prevent the United States from blocking the measure. But the resolution stopped short of past attempts to impose a cease-fire.

The vote was 13 to 0, with the United States and Russia abstaining.

The resolution was adopted after diplomats repeatedly delayed the vote this week and reworked the measure in heated negotiations aimed at winning support from the United States, which previously vetoed two resolutions that called for a cease-fire in the war between Israel and Hamas.

The measure did not impose a legally binding cease-fire and instead called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days to enable full, rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access.”

It also dropped from earlier drafts demands for the “urgent suspension of hostilities,” replacing them with more watered-down language that recommended creating “the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

“We know this is not a perfect text,” Lana Zaki Nusseibeh, the U.N. ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, told the Security Council on Friday. “We know only a cease-fire will end the suffering.”

But she added, “The purpose of the text is very simple: It responds with action to the dire humanitarian situation on the ground for the Palestinian people bearing the brunt of this conflict, while protecting those who are trying to deliver lifesaving aid.”

The view from Rafah showing smoke billowing over a neighborhood in central Gaza on Wednesday.Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Even after the United States signaled that it would not veto the measure, sharp divisions persisted.

Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s ambassador to the United Nations, accused the United States of “shameful, cynical and irresponsible” conduct in the negotiations. He said the resolution had been diluted to the point that it gave “Israel the greenlight for war crimes.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said, “I’m not going to respond to Russia’s rant — a country that has also created conditions that they are complaining about now in their unprovoked war in Ukraine.”

The U.N. measure passed as Israeli forces pushed ahead with their offensive into Gaza on Friday and instructed residents in the central part of the enclave to immediately move farther south. The call to evacuate in Al Bureij — an area in central Gaza where Israel had not previously focused its offensive — came as the military was operating in the northern Gaza Strip and around the southern city of Khan Younis.

“Our forces continue to intensify ground operations in northern and southern Gaza,” Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the Israeli military’s chief spokesman, said on Thursday night.

In negotiations with the principal Arab countries promoting the resolution, the United States demanded the immediate release of all hostages abducted during the Hamas-led attack in Israel on Oct. 7 and a mechanism to give Israel some role in a United Nations program to inspect any aid entering Gaza.

But it remained to be seen how many parts of the resolution — including a pause in the fighting, the use of “all available routes” for aid deliveries and the release of all the hostages — would be carried out. Though Security Council resolutions are legally binding, parties often ignore them.

Residents of Bureij arriving in Deir al-Balah, in the central Gaza Strip, after an evacuation order on Friday.Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The resolution also lost some of the language of earlier drafts on inspections for aid entering Gaza and now allows for some Israeli involvement. It asks the U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, to appoint an official who would be “consulting all relevant parties” and responsible for “facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying” that aid cargo entering Gaza is humanitarian in nature.

Much of the world has lost patience with Israel’s war in Gaza, where a humanitarian crisis grows worse daily. The United Nations has been warning of the risk of famine in Gaza, where hunger and disease are spreading rapidly and 1.9 million people have been forced from their homes, with many pushed into squalid, overcrowded shelters in the south or forced to live outdoors.

Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said the resolution, which had been put forward by the United Arab Emirates, “speaks to the severity of the crisis, and it calls on all of us to do more.”

She did not explain why the United States had abstained but said she was deeply disappointed that the resolution did not condemn Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israel.

The remains of hundreds of burned cars from Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attack. Avishag Shaar-Yashuv for The New York Times

Mr. Guterres said he hoped that the resolution would help the U.N. and aid agencies deliver more food, water and medicine to people in Gaza, but said that the only way to truly address the crisis was to end the fighting.

“A humanitarian cease-fire is the only way to begin to meet the desperate needs of people in Gaza and end their ongoing nightmare,” he told reporters after the vote.

The Israeli ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, thanked President Biden and other U.S. officials for “standing on Israel’s side” throughout the negotiations and “maintaining defined red lines.”

“The resolution maintains Israel’s security authority to monitor and inspect aid entering Gaza,” Mr. Erdan said in a statement. He, too, criticized the Security Council for not condemning the Oct. 7 attack and added: “The U.N.’s focus only on the aid mechanisms for Gaza is unnecessary and disconnected from reality — Israel, in any case, allows the entry of aid on any necessary scale.”

Riyad H. Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the U.N., delivered an emotional speech to the Council, choking back tears while telling the story of a Palestinian girl who had lost her parents and two siblings in an Israeli airstrike on their house. She, too, was later killed in a strike on a hospital, he said.

“This resolution is a step in the right direction,” he said. “It must be implemented and must be accompanied by massive pressure for an immediate cease-fire — I repeat, immediate cease-fire.”

Currently, aid trucks that enter Gaza must travel from Egypt to Kerem Shalom in Israel for inspection, then return to Egypt and cross the border into Gaza — a process that U.N. officials said was cumbersome and untenable.

The United Arab Emirates and Egypt, which controls the Rafah border crossing, had wanted the U.N. to inspect aid shipments for weapons and other contraband, arguing it would streamline the process. But the United States argued that Israel must be involved in the inspection process for it to be workable.

Gazan health officials say about 20,000 people, many of them children and women, have been killed in Israel’s military offensive.

Palestinian medics transported a victim after an Israeli bombardment on Friday.Mahmud Hams/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

During the first six weeks of the war, Israel regularly used 2,000-pound bombs — some of its biggest and most destructive — in areas it had designated as safe for civilians, according to an analysis of visual evidence by The New York Times. While bombs of that size are used by several Western militaries, munitions experts say they are almost never dropped by U.S. forces in densely populated areas anymore.

Israel launched the campaign after Hamas, which controls Gaza, led the attack on Israel in October, in which 1,200 people were killed and about 240 abducted, Israeli officials say.

The Israeli military’s stated goal is to end Hamas’s rule in Gaza, destroy or degrade its military capabilities to the point that it no longer poses a threat to Israel and to bring back about 120 hostages who remain in Gaza.

But Hamas’s top leaders have evaded capture so far, and Gaza’s armed groups have continued to fire rockets into Israel, including two barrages that reached Tel Aviv and its environs this week.

Political commentators and some military experts have been lowering expectations for a quick and decisive Israeli victory.

“Nobody should imagine that there will be a situation where we put a flag on top of a hill and say, ‘OK, we won, and now Gaza will be peaceful and safe.’ It will not happen,” said Gabi Siboni, a colonel in the reserves and a fellow at the conservative-leaning Jerusalem Institute for Strategy and Security. “The reality is that we are going to be fighting in Gaza for years to come.”

Family and friends of an Israeli soldier, Lt. Yaacov Elian, at his funeral in a Tel Aviv cemetery on Friday.Oded Balilty/Associated Press

Isabel Kershner, Gaya Gupta and Abu Bakr Bashir contributed reporting.

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