U.S. Vetoes Security Council Cease-Fire Resolution

The United States on Tuesday cast the sole vote against a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have called for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, saying it feared it could disrupt hostage negotiations.

It was the third time Washington wielded its veto to block a resolution demanding a stop to fighting in Gaza, underlining America’s isolation in its continued, forceful backing of Israel.

Over four months of war, Israel has come under increasing international pressure over the scope and intensity of its campaign against Hamas in Gaza, with many leaders decrying the high civilian death toll.

Algeria’s U.N. ambassador, Amar Bendjama, lashed out at the United States on Tuesday, telling the Council that the veto “implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted upon” the Palestinians. He said “silence is not a viable option, now is the time for action and the time for truth.”

The diplomatic maneuvering comes at a time when aid organizations are warning that urgent assistance is needed for a population suffering from severe malnutrition and the spread of infectious disease.

Thirteen Security Council members voted in favor of the resolution, which was drafted by Algeria, while Britain abstained.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that the resolution would jeopardize Washington’s continuing negotiation efforts with Qatar and Egypt to broker a deal that would release hostages from Gaza in exchange for a temporary humanitarian cease-fire. Those negotiations have stumbled, with neither Israel nor Hamas reaching a consensus on the terms for a deal.

“Any action the council takes right now should help not hinder these sensitive and ongoing negotiations,” Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said. “Demanding an immediate unconditional cease-fire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring endurable peace.”

Aid agencies were scathing in their criticism of the U.S. position. Avril Benoit, the executive director of Doctors Without Borders in the United States, called the repeated blocking of cease-fire resolutions by the United States “unconscionable.”

“The United States at the U.N. Security Council is effectively sabotaging all efforts to bring assistance,” she said at a panel on Tuesday with other leaders of aid organizations. “The statements are one thing, the actions are another. We see that a cease-fire is the only way to ensure the safe delivery of assistance to the people who need it most.”

Israeli and U.S. officials have argued that an immediate cease-fire would allow Hamas to regroup and fortify in Gaza, and reduce the pressure for making a deal to release hostages held in the territory.

The United States has drafted a rival resolution, which is still in early stages of negotiations, that calls for a temporary humanitarian cease-fire “as soon as practicable,” and the release of hostages. The draft resolution’s use of the term “cease-fire” would be a first for the United States since the war in Gaza began.

The draft also states that Israel’s army must not carry out an offensive in Rafah under the current conditions there.

With the United States expected to circulate its draft among Council members, two diplomats said that the resolution would be challenged, given the U.S. veto on Tuesday, and that Russia and China were expected to veto.

Waves of Palestinians have sought refuge in Rafah in recent months after Israeli ground forces pushed into the cities in northern Gaza, and then advanced southward. Israeli officials have said they are working on a plan to evacuate Rafah of civilians, and that they intend to destroy Hamas battalions there — one of Israel’s primary objectives since the Oct. 7 attacks that Hamas led into Israel, killing about 1,200 people, according to Israeli officials.

But in a sign that fighting remained active in the north despite four months of bombardment there, Israel’s military ordered two neighborhoods of Gaza City to evacuate on Tuesday. The U.N.’s World Food Program also said it was halting deliveries in the north on Tuesday, describing scenes of chaos as its teams faced looting, hungry crowds and gunfire in recent days.

While the fiercest fighting and most intense bombing has in recent weeks shifted further south, to areas around the city of Khan Younis, the evacuation order from Israel’s military on Tuesday for the Zaytoun and Turkoman neighborhoods of Gaza City highlighted the feeling expressed by many Gazans that nowhere is safe. More than 29,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel’s campaign began, according to the territory’s health officials.

World Food Program deliveries had been suspended for the past three weeks in the north because of safety concerns, and the agency was attempting to restart them on Sunday with an initial convoy. But the trucks were surrounded by “crowds of hungry people” while en route toward Gaza City and forced to fend off attempts to climb onto the vehicles, it said in a statement.

Another convoy on Monday “faced complete chaos and violence due to the collapse of civil order,” the statement added, saying that several trucks were looted and a driver was beaten.

The World Food Program pointed to a U.N. report published on Monday showing that acute malnutrition has surged in the northern part of the enclave, with one out of six children in the north of the territory suffering its effects.

In October, the United States vetoed a humanitarian resolution, put forth by Brazil, to deliver aid to Gaza at a time when Israel had placed the strip under a strict blockade of essential aid, saying it could undermine President Biden’s efforts with the government of Israel to win aid delivery to Gaza.

The vetoes by the United States have also allowed two countries often criticized for their own human rights abuses, Russia and China, to accuse Washington of being a major roadblock to preventing more death and suffering in Gaza. “It is not that the Security Council does not have an overwhelming consensus, but rather it is the exercise of the veto by the United States that has stifled the Council consensus,” said China’s ambassador, Zhang Jun.

And in a sign of the ubiquity of concern over the humanitarian situation in Gaza, Prince William, the heir to the British throne, on Tuesday issued a rare, if measured, public statement on the war.

“I remain deeply concerned about the terrible human cost of the conflict in the Middle East since the Hamas terrorist attack,” he said in comments issued by his office.

“I, like so many others, want to see an end to the fighting as soon as possible,” he added. “There is a desperate need for increased humanitarian support to Gaza. It’s critical that aid gets in and the hostages are released.”

Matthew Mpoke Bigg and Stephen Castle contributed reporting.