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ConflictsMiddle East

Israel-Hamas war: US vetoes Gaza cease-fire vote at UN

Published February 20, 2024last updated February 20, 2024

The US has said the proposed resolution "would not achieve lasting peace." Meanwhile, UN agencies warn Gaza is on the verge of an "explosion" in preventable child deaths. Follow DW for more.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield raises her hand at the UN
The US ambassador to the UN vetoes a Gaza cease-fire vote at the UN Security CouncilImage: Seth Wenig/AP Photo/picture alliance
Skip next section What you need to know

What you need to know

  • The US has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for immediate cease-fire in Gaza 
  • UN agencies warn of a potential 'explosion' in Gaza child deaths
  • US counterproposal pushes for UN to support 'temporary' Gaza cease-fire linked to hostage release
  • Brazilian President Lula declared 'persona non grata' in Israel over Holocaust remark
Skip next section Israel says cease-fire 'not a magical solution' to region's problems
February 20, 2024

Israel says cease-fire 'not a magical solution' to region's problems

Israel's UN ambassador, Gilad Erdan, said that UN resolutions calling for a cease-fire were flawed and would not be a "silver bullet or a magical solution to all the region's problems."

"Will a cease-fire bring home the hostages ... will it eliminate Hamas?" Erdan told a meeting of the UN Security Council on Tuesday, during which a new resolution calling for a cease-fire in Gaza was vetoed by the US. 

"A cease-fire achieves one thing, the survival of Hamas," he added. 

He said a cease-fire was a "death sentence" for many more Israelis and Gazans. 

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian ambassador to the UN, said the Palestinian people in Gaza are facing a "grave situation" as Israel carries on with it war against Hamas militants launched in response to the terror attacks on October 7. Hamas is classified as a terrorist organization by many governments, including the US, Germany and the EU. 

Mansour said a cease-fire needs to be implemented now and is the only way to save the lives of "1.5 million Palestinians in the Rafah district."

He said Palestinians were faced with "death and destruction, torment of starvation and repeated force displacement" on a daily basis.

Israel has said it will launch an offensive in Rafah by the start of Ramadan on March 10 if Hamas refuses to release the more than 100 hostages it continues to hold. The US, UN and Germany have all warned against a full scale attack on Rafah. 

Israeli airstrikes kill dozens across Gaza

Skip next section US vetoes UN Security Council cease-fire resolution
February 20, 2024

US vetoes UN Security Council cease-fire resolution

The US on Tuesday vetoed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. 

Thirteen council members voted in favor of the text, while the UK abstained. 

The resolution would not "achieve the goal of a sustainable peace and may in fact run counter to it," US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the council after the vote concluded. 

She added that the cease-fire in the form that was called for "was wishful and irresponsible" and said the US would not support a resolution that would put "sensitive negotiations in jeopardy."

Nicolas de Riviere, the permanent representative of France to the UN, said it was regrettable that the resolution was not adopted "given the disastrous situation" on the ground in Gaza. 

He said there was "extreme urgency" to conclude an agreement on a cease-fire that would finally guarantee the protection of all civilians and a massive delivery of emergency aid. The French representative added that it was "incomprehensible and unacceptable" that the UNSC "still has not condemned the terrorist attacks" by Hamas. We "strongly deplore the situation."

The UK's representative, Barbara Woodward, urged that fighting in Gaza end "as soon as possible in a way that never again allows Hamas" to carry out appalling attacks.

Both the UK and France are among the five permanent members of the UN Security Council that hold veto power. 

The draft resolution put forth by Algeria, the Arab representative on the council, demanded an immediate cease-fire and called for Israel and Hamas militants to "scrupulously comply" with international law especially the protection of civilians and reject the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield had already said in a statement the US would not vote for the resolution because the US had been working on a hostage deal for months and the resolution "may run counter" to that objective.

The US proposed a draft resolution instead, calling for a "temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable," which falls short of the wishes of most other Security Council members who want an immediate cease-fire.

In the draft counter-resolution, the US also warned against a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians displaced by the war have sought refuge.

Offensive on Rafah a 'humanitarian disaster in the making': Annalena Baerbock

Skip next section South Africa urges ICJ to deem Israeli occupation 'illegal'
February 20, 2024

South Africa urges ICJ to deem Israeli occupation 'illegal'

South Africa testified at the International Court of Justice on Tuesday, urging the World Court to deem Israel's occupation of the Palestinian territories as "illegal" in a non-binding legal opinion the court is considering.

The UN's top court on Monday opened a week of hearings on the legal consequences of Israel's occupation of Palestinian territories.

"A clear legal characterization of the nature of Israel's regime over the Palestinian people can only assist in remedying the ongoing delay and achieving a just settlement," Vusimuzi Madonsela, South Africa's ambassador to the Netherlands, told the judges.

He said South Africa had a "special obligation" to call out "apartheid" wherever it occurs and ensure it is "brought to an immediate end."

"We as South Africans sense, see, hear and feel to our core the inhumane discriminatory policies and practices of the Israeli regime as an even more extreme form of the apartheid that was institutionalized against black people in my country," Madonsela added.

Hearings on Israel's Palestinian territory occupation begin

Some 52 countries are scheduled to testify at the ICJ in the case brought about after the UN General Assembly requested in 2022 that the court provide advisory opinion on Israeli practices in the Palestinian territories.

Israel is not attending the hearings but sent a written statement. It argued that an advisory opinion would be harmful to achieving a negotiated settlement with the Palestinians.

The advisory opinion will not be legally binding.

This week's hearings are separate from a case filed by South Africa at the ICJ against Israel for allegedly violating the 1948 Genocide Convention in its military operations in the Gaza Strip.

Skip next section WHO says 32 'critical patients' transferred from Nasser Hospital
February 20, 2024

WHO says 32 'critical patients' transferred from Nasser Hospital

The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday that its staff had led two "life-saving missions" to successfully transfer 32 critical patients from southern Gaza's Nasser Hospital, the enclave's second-largest hospital.

The transfers were conducted on February 18 and 19 in partnership with the Palestinian Red Crescent and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in the occupied Palestinian territory, the WHO said in a statement.

Those transferred included two children, it said.

The WHO said the patients were moved to the European Gaza Hospital in Khan Younis, Al-Aqsa Hospital in Gaza's central area, and the International Medical Corps, UAE and Indonesia field hospitals in Rafah in the south.

The transfers were conducted in response to calls by hospital staff after the facility became non-functional amid an Israeli military raid.

The WHO said an estimated 130 sick and injured patients and at least 15 medical staff remain inside the facility. The organization expressed fears for their safety and well-being, adding that it was working toward facilitating the transfer of more patients.

"The dismantling and degradation of the Nasser Medical Complex is a massive blow to Gaza's health system," the WHO said. "Facilities in the south are already operating well beyond maximum capacity and are barely able to receive more patients."

Hospitals in the Palestinian territory have been a focal point of the war between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which controls the Gaza Strip.

Israel has raided medical facilities, saying that Hamas uses them to store weapons and hold hostages. Hamas denies those allegations.

Hospitals have special protections under international humanitarian law, although they can lose that protection if used to cause military harm to the other side. 

The United States and the European Union, among others, have listed Hamas as a terrorist organization.

Skip next section Nearly 29,200 killed so far in Gaza, Hamas-run health authorities say
February 20, 2024

Nearly 29,200 killed so far in Gaza, Hamas-run health authorities say

The ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip has thus far killed 29,195 people, the Hamas-run Health Ministry said on Tuesday.

Some 69,170 more people have been injured since the conflict erupted on October 7 last year.

In the past 24 hours alone, 103 Palestinians were killed, and 142 were injured, the ministry added.

The United Nations and multiple humanitarian organizations consider the death toll and casualty numbers provided by Gaza's Health Ministry to be broadly reliable.

Though the ministry does not differentiate between civilian and militant deaths, around half of Gaza's 2.3 million inhabitants are children, and the UN says the majority of civilians killed have been women and children.

Israeli airstrikes kill dozens across Gaza

Skip next section Hamas leader Haniyeh in Cairo for talks
February 20, 2024

Hamas leader Haniyeh in Cairo for talks

Ismail Haniyeh, the top political leader of the Palestinian militant group Hamas, arrived in Cairo on Tuesday for talks with Egyptian officials, the group said.

In a statement, Hamas said Haniyeh was visiting the Egyptian capital with a delegation from the group. Talks are due to involve the political situation and conditions on the ground amid the ongoing conflict in Gaza.

Egypt, alongside Qatar and the US, has been working to secure a new truce that could pause the fighting and lead to the release of more hostages.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist group in several countries.

Skip next section Israel orders new evacuations in Gaza City
February 20, 2024

Israel orders new evacuations in Gaza City

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday ordered residents of two districts in Gaza City in the northern part of the strip to evacuate "immediately."

IDF spokesperson Avichay Adraee said in a social media statement written in Arabic the evacuation calls were "for your safety." 

Residents of Gaza City's Zaytoun and Turkoman districts were asked to make their way to the Israel-designated humanitarian zone in al-Mawasi, which lies on the strip's western Mediterranean coast north of Rafah.

The Israeli military had earlier reported that northern Gaza was largely cleared of Hamas militants.

Hamas is designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the US, Germany and several other countries.

Skip next section Dozens of Hamas militants killed near Khan Younis — Israeli military
February 20, 2024

Dozens of Hamas militants killed near Khan Younis — Israeli military

The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) on Tuesday said that its soldiers had killed dozens of Hamas militants in fighting west of Khan Younis.

The IDF said warplanes conducted an aerial strike on a Hamas munitions warehouse, which it said led to "sub-explosions." 

The IDF also reported confrontations with Hamas fighters involving tanks and sniper fire.

The information provided by the IDF cannot be independently verified.

The ongoing war in Gaza began after Hamas and other affiliated groups launched a large-scale terror attack in southern Israel on October 7. More than 1,200 people were killed, and around 240 others were taken hostage, though nearly half of those taken captive were released during a November truce.

Israel's leaders have vowed to destroy the Islamist Hamas militant group, which is designated as a terrorist organization by the US, the EU and other governments.

Israel's military responded to the terror attack by launching airstrikes and a ground operation in the Palestinian territory. 

The Hamas-run Health Ministry in Gaza says that over 29,000 Palestinians have been killed since the war began. The ministry does not differentiate between civilians and combatants.

Skip next section US proposes UN resolution supporting 'temporary cease-fire,' opposing Rafah offensive
February 20, 2024

US proposes UN resolution supporting 'temporary cease-fire,' opposing Rafah offensive

The United States has proposed a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for a temporary cease-fire in the Gaza Strip and opposing a major Israeli ground offensive in the southern city of Rafah.

The proposal comes after Washington vowed to veto an Algerian-drafted proposal that demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The US cited concerns that the resolution could undermine talks between the US, Egypt, Israel and Qatar over the potential release of hostages held by Hamas and cessation of hostilities.

The US-backed text would see the Security Council "underscore its support for a temporary cease-fire in Gaza as soon as practicable, based on the formula of all hostages being released, and calls for lifting all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale."

It also "determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries."

Around a million of the 2.3 million people in the Gaza Strip have sought shelter in Rafah. The UN has warned that a major Israeli offensive in the city "could lead to a slaughter."

Washington has previously opposed Security Council resolutions using the word "cease-fire," instead backing texts that called for "humanitarian pauses."

In order to pass, the resolution would need at least 9 votes and no vetoes from any of the five permanent Security Council members — the US, France, the UK, Russia and China.

Why Israeli protesters are blocking humanitarian aid to Gaza

Skip next section UN warns of more Gaza child deaths
February 20, 2024

UN warns of more Gaza child deaths

A lack of food and safe water, as well as malnutrition and disease, could lead to a spike in child deaths in Gaza, United Nations officials warned. 

In a joint statement, the UN children's agency UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization (WHO) said at least 90% of children under five in Gaza are affected by one or more infectious diseases.

Data collected in January showed 70% of children had had diarrhea two weeks before the assessment.

"The Gaza Strip is poised to witness an explosion in preventable child deaths which would compound the already unbearable level of child deaths in Gaza," Ted Chaibans, UNICEF deputy executive director for humanitarian action and supply operations, said.

One in six children under the age of two were acutely malnourished, according to surveys in the region's north.

"Hunger and disease are a deadly combination," WHO emergencies director Mike Ryan said.

The WHO found that 95% of households "are limiting meals and portion sizes," and 64% of households eat only one meal daily.

More than 95% of households also said they had restricted the amount of food adults ate in order to ensure small children had food, the WHO said. 

Diapers prove hard to find in war-torn Gaza

Skip next section Brazil-Israel row over Lula's comments escalates
February 20, 2024

Brazil-Israel row over Lula's comments escalates

The diplomatic fallout over Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's comparison of Israel's military campaign in Gaza to the Holocaust has intensified.

Israel declared Lula "persona non grata," and Brazil recalled its envoy on Monday. 

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Lula had "crossed a red line," and Foreign Minister Israel Katz said the Brazilian president is "persona non grata in the state of Israel so long as he doesn't retract his remarks and apologize."

On Monday, Katz summoned Brazilian Ambassador Frederico Meyer to Israel's National Holocaust Museum in Jerusalem for a meeting.

"The things that Lula said when he compared the righteous war of the State of Israel against Hamas, which murdered and massacred the Jews, and Hitler and the Nazis is shameful and unacceptable," Katz said.

In a tit-for-tat move, Brazil's Foreign Affairs Ministry said in a statement that it had also summoned the Israeli ambassador, Daniel Zonshine, "in light of the seriousness of this morning's statements by the Israeli government." 

Brazil has recalled Meyer from Tel Aviv for consultations.

On Sunday, Lula da Silva said that "what is happening in the Gaza Strip and to the Palestinian people hasn't been seen in any other moment in history. Actually, it did when Hitler decided to kill the Jews." 

Lula made the comments while addressing the media at the African Union summit in Ethiopia.