U.N. Secretary-General Demands a Cease-Fire in Gaza

The U.N. secretary-general and most members of the Security Council called on Friday for the council to demand a permanent cease-fire in the Israel-Hamas war, saying that the humanitarian catastrophe in the enclave could threaten world stability.

The resolution submitted by the United Arab Emirates set up a showdown with the United States, which made clear it would once again block any efforts at a permanent cease-fire. “This would only plant the seeds for the next war,” said Robert A. Wood, representing the United States on the Security Council.

A vote is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. on Friday, and the United States, as one of the council’s five permanent members, is expected to use its veto power to block the resolution.

During the two months of war between Israel and Hamas, there have been several attempts at the Security Council to pass draft resolutions calling for cease-fires in the conflict. The United States blocked those attempts, arguing that Israel had the right to defend itself.

Last month, however, the United States abstained from voting on a resolution calling for humanitarian pauses in the war and scaled up delivery of aid to Gaza, marking the only time that Washington allowed a resolution related to the war to pass. Russia and China vetoed a resolution that the U.S. presented because it did not call for a cease-fire.

Friday’s effort had the backing of Secretary-General António Guterres, who invoked a rarely used tool in the U.N. Charter known as Article 99, which allows the secretary-general to ask the Council to intervene in a matter that threatens the stability and security of the world.

“There is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, which would have devastating consequences,” Mr. Guterres said in his address to the Council. “I fear the consequences could be devastating for the security of the entire region.”

On Wednesday, Mr. Guterres invoked Article 99 for the first time in his seven-year tenure at the helm of the U.N., arguing that it was necessary because of the immense suffering of the Palestinians in Gaza and because related conflicts were flaring in the West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.

Mohamed Abushahab, the U.A.E.’s deputy ambassador to the U.N., urged the Council to impose a cease-fire on humanitarian grounds. “There is no defensible, moral, political nor military justification for this carnage to continue,” he said.

Resolutions approved by the Security Council are legally binding and violations could invite other punishments, including sanctions. But Israel has signaled that it would ignore any such resolution.

Israel’s ambassador to the U.N., Gilad Erdan, told the Council that such a move would only allow Hamas to regroup and plan more attacks on the Jewish state. He said Israel would “continue with its mission, the elimination of Hamas’s terror capability and the return of all of the hostages.”

Over the past two months, the Council has been largely deadlocked in adopting a resolution that addressed a cease-fire, with the U.S., Russia and China mostly vetoing resolutions because of disagreements over wording.

Mr. Wood reiterated the Biden administration’s position that Israel must do all it can to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian laws. But he stopped short of supporting the resolution.

“We do not support calls for an immediate cease-fire,” he said.