UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.N. General Assembly approved a nonbinding resolution Friday calling for a “humanitarian truce” in Gaza leading to a cessation of hostilities between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, the first United Nations response to the war.
The 193-member world body adopted the resolution by a vote of 120-14 with 45 abstentions after rejecting a Canadian amendment backed by the United States. It would have unequivocally condemned the Oct. 7 “terrorist attacks” by Hamas and demanded the immediate release of hostages taken by Hamas, which is not mentioned in the Arab-drafted resolution.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, called the General Assembly “more courageous, more principled” than the divided U.N. Security Council, which failed in four attempts during the past two weeks to reach agreement on a resolution. Two were vetoed and two failed to get the minimum nine “yes” votes required for approval.
Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan called it “a day that will go down in infamy,” saying after the vote: “Israel will not stop the operation until Hamas terror capabilities are destroyed and our hostages are returned. … And the only way to destroy Hamas is root them out of their tunnels and subterranean city of terror.”
Frustrated Arab nations went to the General Assembly, where there are no vetoes — just as Ukraine did after Russia's February 2022 invasion because of Moscow's Security Council veto power — to press for a U.N. response. And the United Arab Emirates Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh, the Arab representative on the Security Council, expressed delight at the result.
“120 votes in this kind of geopolitical environment is a very, very high signal of the support for international law, for proportionate use of force, and it is a rejection of the status quo that is currently happening on the ground,” she said.
The 14 countries that voted against the resolution include Israel and its closest ally, the United States, five Pacific island nations and four European countries — Austria, Croatia, Czechia and Hungary, all European Union members. Eight EU members voted in favor.
France's U.N. Ambassador Nicolas De Riviere said his country supported the resolution “because nothing could justify the suffering of civilians,” and he urged collective efforts to establish a humanitarian truce.
Mansour said the European votes indicate they can be “very helpful” in pursuing a Security Council resolution “or in maximizing pressure in Israel to stop this war.”
While the surprise Hamas attacks killed some 1,400 Israelis, more than 7,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s retaliatory airstrikes, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. The escalating death toll and destruction in Gaza heightened international support for “humanitarian truces” to get desperately needed food, water, medicine and fuel to the 2.3 million people in Gaza.
Unlike Security Council resolutions, General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but the UAE’s Nusseibeh told reporters “they carry incredible weight and moral authority.”
She said the 10 elected Security Council members, who serve two-year terms, will take the “moral authority” from the General Assembly and try to break the gridlock on a council resolution.
-The votes came part way through a list of 113 speakers at an emergency special session of the General Assembly on Israeli actions in occupied Palestinian territories.
Jordan’s U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud, speaking on behalf of the U.N.’s 22-nation Arab group, called for action on the resolution because of the urgency of the escalating situation on the ground.
Before the vote, Hmoud urged defeat of the Canadian amendment, saying “Israel is responsible for the atrocities that are being committed now, and that will be committed in the ground invasion of Gaza.”
Canada’s U.N. Ambassador Robert Rae countered that the resolution appears to forget that the events of Oct. 7 happened. The amendment would condemn Hamas, “which is responsible for one of the worst terrorist attacks in history,” he said.
Pakistan’s U.N. Ambassador Munir Akram drew loud applause when he said the Arab-drafted resolution deliberately didn’t condemn or mention Israel or name any other party. “If Canada was really equitable,” Akram said, “it would agree either to name everybody — both sides who are guilty of having committed crimes — or it would not name either as we chose.”
The vote on the Canadian amendment was 88-55 with 23 abstentions, but it failed to get a two-thirds majority of those voting for or against — abstentions didn't count. In the vote on the entire resolution that followed, Canada abstained.
The assembly’s emergency special session, which began Wednesday, continued Friday morning with U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield echoing Israel’s Erdan in calling the resolution “outrageous” for never mentioning Hamas and saying it is “detrimental” to the vision of a two-state solution.
She called it “a perilous moment for Israelis and Palestinians,” stressing that there is no justification for Hamas “terror,” that Palestinians are being used as human shields and that “the lives of innocent Palestinians must be protected.”
Oman, speaking on behalf of the Gulf Cooperation Council, condemned Israel’s “siege” of Gaza, starvation of its population and collective punishment of Palestinians. But it said the Palestinians won’t be deterred from demanding their “legitimate inalienable rights, chief among them the right to self- determination and the right to establish an independent Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital.”
In addition to calling for “an immediate, durable and sustained humanitarian truce leading to a cessation of hostilities,” the resolution adopted Friday demands that all parties immediately comply with their obligations under international humanitarian and human rights law requiring protection of civilians and the schools, hospitals and other infrastructure critical for their survival.
The resolution demands that essential supplies be allowed into the Gaza Strip and humanitarian workers have sustained access. And it calls on Israel to rescind its order for Gazans to evacuate the north and move to the south and “firmly rejects any attempts at the forced transfer of the Palestinian civilian population.”
The resolution also stresses the need “to urgently establish a mechanism to ensure the protection of the Palestinian civilian population.”
And it “emphasizes the importance of preventing further destabilization and escalation of violence in the region” and calls on all parties to exercise “maximum restraint” and on all those with influence to press them “to work toward this objective.”