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Saturday, May 25, 2024

UN General Assembly Demands Ceasefire in Gaza

The UN General Assembly's historic vote demanding a Gaza ceasefire challenges the US-Israel stance, emphasizing the urgent need for humanitarian action and global support amid a three-month conflict.

The United Nations General Assembly voted overwhelmingly to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war-torn Gaza Strip. The resolution, passed during an emergency special session, received support from 153 nations, while 10 voted against, and 23 abstained. This marks a significant rebuke to the United States, which had previously blocked similar calls in the UN Security Council.

While the General Assembly’s vote carries political significance, it is nonbinding, unlike Security Council resolutions. Last week, the U.S. vetoed a ceasefire resolution in the Security Council, despite approval from the majority of the 15-member body. The current resolution, notably stronger in language, calls for a ceasefire, adherence to international law by all parties, and the immediate and unconditional release of hostages.

The situation in Gaza has reached a critical point, with over 18,000 casualties reported since the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its third month. Palestinian Ambassador to the UN, Riyad Mansour, emphasized that the resolution doesn’t merely ‘call for’ or ‘urge’ but explicitly ‘demands,’ vowing to ensure Israel’s compliance to facilitate much-needed humanitarian assistance for Gaza’s besieged civilians.

US and Israel Face Growing Isolation as Ceasefire Resolution Passes

Ahead of the General Assembly vote, Israel’s UN Ambassador, Gilad Erdan, criticized the resolution as a “disgraceful” attempt to restrict Israel’s actions in Gaza. He asserted that continuing the military operation is the only way to secure the release of hostages. Israel, along with the United States and several other nations, voted against the resolution.

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In contrast, General Assembly President Dennis Francis emphasized a singular priority: saving lives. He highlighted the imperative of preventing deviations from principles and values, even in times of war. With vital infrastructure in Gaza destroyed and limited access to essentials like water, medicine, and food, UN officials warned that diseases might become a greater threat than direct conflict, with hunger emerging as a pressing issue.

The isolation of the United States and Israel became evident as the General Assembly overwhelmingly supported the ceasefire resolution. Ambassadors and diplomats applauded as the final vote displayed 153 in favor, 10 against, and 23 abstentions. The vote reflects the global community’s stance against the prolonged conflict and its commitment to ending the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

International Responses Vary as Canada Breaks Ranks

In a break from its southern neighbor, Canada cast its vote in support of the resolution, emphasizing urgent international efforts for a sustainable ceasefire. Prime Minister Justin Trudeau issued a joint statement with the leaders of Australia and New Zealand, aligning with “like-minded countries” to address the dire situation.

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Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong underscored the importance of democracies complying with international humanitarian law. Canada’s ambassador to the UN, Bob Rae, called on Hamas to lay down its weapons, emphasizing that the price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of Palestinian civilians. The vote offered an opportunity for countries to illustrate their commitment to peace and sensitivity to the suffering of the most vulnerable, as expressed by South Africa’s representative, Mathu Joyini.

Global Support for Ceasefire Grows Amid Worsening Humanitarian Crisis

The General Assembly’s overwhelming vote sends a powerful message of global support for ending the indiscriminate killing of Palestinian civilians by Israel and a demand for a humanitarian ceasefire. The resolution is nonbinding but holds political weight, reflecting the sentiment of the international community. With the conflict escalating and the humanitarian situation deteriorating, the urgent need for a ceasefire is underscored.

While the United States had supported components of the resolution, it proposed an amendment to condemn Hamas, which did not pass. U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, argued that an immediate ceasefire would be temporary at best and dangerous at worst. The U.S. and Israel have objected to a ceasefire, advocating instead for pauses in fighting to protect civilians, deliver humanitarian aid, and secure the release of hostages.