General Assembly Adopts Resolution Demanding Immediate Humanitarian Ceasefire in Gaza, Parties’ Compliance with International Law, Release of All Hostages

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12 DECEMBER 2023. Demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza, the General Assembly today adopted a resolution reiterating its insistence that parties to the conflict there comply with international law, all hostages be released immediately and without conditions, and humanitarian access be ensured.

The Assembly adopted the resolution titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations” (document A/ES-10/L.27) by a recorded vote of 153 in favour to 10 against (Austria, Czech Republic, Guatemala, Israel, Liberia, Federated States of Micronesia, Nauru, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, United States), with 23 abstentions, during a resumption of its tenth Emergency Special Session on Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Prior to adopting the resolution, the Assembly failed, by a recorded vote of 89 in favour to 61 against, with 20 abstentions, to adopt an amendment introduced by Austria, which inserted “held by Hamas and other groups” after “hostages” and “immediate” after “ensuring” (document A/ES-10/L.28).  The Assembly also failed, by a recorded vote of 84 in favour to 62 against, with 25 abstentions, to adopt an amendment introduced by the United States, which added an unequivocal condemnation of heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting 7 October and the taking of hostages (document A/ES-10/L.29).

In opening remarks, Dennis Francis (Trinidad and Tobago), President of the General Assembly, said it is incumbent upon the United Nations to bring an immediate end to the suffering of innocent civilians.  “Right now, what we are seeing is an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems and profound disrespect for both international law and international humanitarian law,” he said.  “The carnage must stop.”

The representative of Egypt, speaking for the Arab Group, introduced draft resolution “L.27”, describing it as simple, clear and explicit.  Israeli aggression has destroyed Gaza’s public health system, he said, characterizing the argument about the right of Israel, the occupying Power, to defend itself as a pretext.  Israel is not above international humanitarian law, he said.  By the text, the Assembly demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and reiterates its demand that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably regarding the protection of civilians.  Through the text, the resolution also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and ensuring of humanitarian access.

Introducing “L.28”, the representative of Austria welcomed recent humanitarian pauses that enabled the release of some hostages and provision of urgently needed humanitarian aid.  Recognizing the right of Israel to defend its citizens in line with international law and international humanitarian law, he said his country’s amendment is based on agreed language from Security Council resolution 2712 (2023).

The representative of the United States, introducing “L.29”, said the last two months have been nothing short of devastating.  “Devastating for Palestinians who have lost their homes and their loved ones because of a conflict that Hamas set into motion; and devastating for Israelis who still face a barrage of rocket fire, even as they continue to reel from Hamas’ barbaric attacks on 7 October,” she said, adding that the humanitarian situation in Gaza is dire and requires urgent and sustained attention.

Civilians desperately need food, water, shelter and medical care, she said, noting that a distressing number of innocent people have been killed and expressing support for the release of all hostages, immediately and unconditionally.  She said Member States should speak out with one voice to condemn Hamas for the terrorist attacks on 7 October.  “Why is that so hard?”, she asked.  “It should not be that difficult.”

Israel’s delegate, speaking after the vote, said the adopted resolution will prolong death and destruction.  On 6 October there was a ceasefire, and it was violated by the Hamas attack.  “What would your country do if it were in Israel’s shoes?  What would Moscow do?  What would Beijing do?”, he asked.  Hamas is refusing to release hostages or give the Red Cross access to the hostages, he said, adding that Israel has allowed the entry of aid into Gaza, but that United Nations bodies are refusing to solve logistical difficulties to allow its entry.

A ceasefire will only benefit Hamas, he said.  “What will happen the day after the ceasefire?”, he asked.  By voting in favour of the resolution, Member States are supporting terrorists and the exploitation of Palestinians, he said.  The time has come to put the blame where it belongs.  The resolution does not even mention Hamas by name or condemn Hamas.  If States want a real ceasefire, they should call Hamas leaders and ask for a release of the Israeli hostages.  This disgraceful resolution only allows Hamas to continue its reign of terror, he said, adding that Israel believes in life and peace.

“Israel has dropped 25,000 tons of explosives on Gaza, nearly the equivalent of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki,” said Pakistan’s delegate.  “Israel’s goal is to erase […] the entire idea of Palestine,” he added, noting his country’s support of the adopted draft resolution.

Syria’s representative noted the Security Council on Friday failed to adopt a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza because of the United States’ veto.  “The United States insists on giving Israel the green light to continue its brutal aggression in Gaza,” he said.

Tunisia’s delegate echoed concerns about such inaction.  “The Council is clearly unable to shoulder its responsibilities, both moral and legal,” he said.  His delegation voted for the draft resolution, as it calls for a humanitarian ceasefire and end to the barbaric aggression against Palestinian civilians.  “These attacks have led to unprecedented humanitarian tragedies,” he said.

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