Russia, China veto US resolution demanding immediate cease-fire in Gaza

A Palestinian man stands amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Israeli bombardment in Gaza City on March 3, 2024, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Hamas movement. (Photo by AFP) (Photo by -/AFP via Getty Images)

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S.-sponsored U.N. resolution calling for "an immediate and sustained cease-fire" in the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

The vote in the 15-member Security Council was 11 members in favor, three against and one abstention.

The resolution declared that a cease-fire is "imperative."

According to the Associated Press, the draft that was put to a vote made no direct link to the release of hostages taken during Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel, which was in the previous draft. But it supported efforts "to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages."

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The U.S. is taking criticism for not being tough enough against its ally Israel, whose ongoing military offensive has created a dire humanitarian crisis for the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza.

Before the vote, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow supports an immediate cease-fire, but he criticized the diluted language, which he called philosophical wording that does not belong in a U.N. resolution, the AP reported. 

He accused U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield of "deliberately misleading the international community."

China’s U.N. ambassador, Zhang Jun, said the U.S. proposal set preconditions and fell far short of expectations of council members and the broader international community.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield urged the U.N. council to adopt the resolution to push for an immediate cease-fire and the release of the hostages, as well as to address Gaza's humanitarian crisis and support ongoing diplomacy by the United States, Egypt and Qatar.

Following the vote, Thomas-Greenfield accused Russia and China of voting for "deeply cynical reasons,"alleging the countries couldn't bring themselves to condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7, which the resolution would have done for the first time, the AP reported. 

A key issue in the vote was the language related to a cease-fire. It said the Security Council "determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire," — not a straight-forward "demand" or "call."

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Moreover, the resolution did reflect a shift by the United States, which has found itself at odds with much of the world as even close allies push for an unconditional end to fighting.

Friday’s vote occurred as U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his sixth urgent mission to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war, discussing a deal for a cease-fire and hostage release, as well as post-war scenarios.

On Thursday, the U.S. introduced a resolution that went through changes during negotiations ahead of Friday’s vote. This draft would have supported a temporary cease-fire connected to the release of all hostages, and the previous version would have supported international efforts for a cease-fire as part of a hostage deal. 

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The Security Council previously adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none calling for a cease-fire. 

Additionally, the U.S. has vetoed three resolutions demanding a cease-fire, including an Arab-back measure supported by 13 council members on Feb. 20. 

The AP noted that the Health Ministry in Gaza raised the death toll in the territory Thursday to nearly 32,000 Palestinians, with the agency reporting women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  This story was reported from Washington, D.C.