UN Security Council passes resolution calling for Gaza ceasefire

The UN Security Council has called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after the US did not veto the measure in a shift from its previous position.

It also demanded the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

It is the first time the council has called for a ceasefire since the war began in October after several failed attempts.

The move by the US signals growing divergence between it and its ally Israel over Israel’s offensive in Gaza.

In an unusually strong rebuke, a statement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office said the US had “abandoned” its previous position which had directly linked a ceasefire to a hostage release.

“Regrettably, the United States did not veto the new resolution,” it said.

The statement said this harmed efforts to release hostages by giving Hamas hope it could use international pressure on Israel to achieve a ceasefire without freeing the captives.

It also said Mr Netanyahu had decided to cancel meetings between an Israeli delegation and US officials in Washington that were scheduled for this week.

Israel’s defence minister said Israel would not stop the war in Gaza while hostages were still being held there.

The Palestinian representative to the UN, Riyad Mansour, welcomed the resolution but said it was overdue.

“It has taken six months, over 100,000 Palestinians killed and maimed, two million displaced, and famine, for this council to finally demand an immediate ceasefire,” Mr Mansour said.

Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist group which governs Gaza and which triggered the war with an unprecedented attack on Israel on 7 October, also welcomed the resolution. It said it was ready “to engage in an immediate prisoner exchange process that leads to the release of prisoners on both sides”.

The group has made any hostage release conditional on the release by Israel of Palestinians held in Israeli prisons.

In the Security Council vote on Monday, the US abstained, while the remaining 14 members voted in favour.

The US had previously blocked resolutions calling for a ceasefire, saying such a move would be wrong while delicate negotiations for a truce and hostage releases were continuing between Israel and Hamas.

But on Thursday it tabled its own draft, which for the first time called for a ceasefire, marking a hardening of its stance towards Israel.

US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said the US’ decision to let the resolution pass did not mean a “shift in our policy”. He said the US backed a ceasefire but did not vote in favour of the resolution because the text did not condemn Hamas.

Speaking at a press briefing after the resolution was passed, Mr Kirby said: “We have been very clear, we have been very consistent in our support for a ceasefire as part of a hostage deal. That’s how the hostage deal is structured, and the resolution acknowledges the ongoing talks.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres said the resolution “must be implemented” to secure a ceasefire and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”.

Mark Lyall-Grant, who was the UK ambassador to the UN from 2009 to 2015, told BBC Radio’s 4 PM programme that the resolution meant Israel was now “under an obligation, essentially, to stop its military campaign for the next 15 days” – the duration of the remainder of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which the text stipulated for the ceasefire.

He added that the text was legally binding on Israel but not on Hamas, as the Palestinian group is not a state.

The US had previously been accused of using its power of veto to shield Israel at the UN.

However, it has become increasingly critical of Israel over the escalating death toll in Gaza, where more than 32,000 people – mainly women and children – have been killed by Israel’s bombardment, according to the territory’s Hamas-run health ministry.

The US has also pressed Israel to do more to get aid delivered to Gaza, where it says the entire population is suffering severe levels of acute food insecurity.

The UN has accused Israel of obstructing aid; Israel has blamed the UN, accusing it of failing to carry out distributions.

The current war broke out after Hamas gunmen burst through the border and attacked Israeli communities, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli tallies, and taking 253 into Gaza as hostages.

Of those taken, 130 remain unaccounted for following a series of releases, rescues and the recovery of bodies.

Despite Israel’s decision to cancel a planned visit by its delegation to Washington later this week in the wake of the Security Council resolution, Mr Kirby has said that scheduled meetings between Israeli defence minister Yoav Gallant and US national security adviser Jake Sullivan will continue as planned.

“We look forward to making it clear to the defence minister that the United States continues to stand with Israel as they fight Hamas,” he said at the press briefing on Monday.

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