The U.N. Security Council adopted a resolution on Friday calling for a surge in aid to desperate civilians in Gaza and pauses in the fighting to deliver that aid safely, ending nearly a week of intense diplomatic wrangling intended to ensure that the United States would not block the measure.
The vote was 13-0, with the United States and Russia abstaining. At U.S. insistence, the measure did not demand an immediate truce. Instead, it called for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” of unspecified timing and location, “to enable full, rapid, safe, and unhindered humanitarian access.”
The United States, under pressure from Jerusalem to preserve Israeli inspections of aid, delayed multiple scheduled votes on the resolution as negotiators tried to work out a compromise and avoid drawing a U.S. veto.
“The U.S. did manage to wriggle out of a pretty serious diplomatic mess this week,” said Richard Gowan, the U.N. director for the International Crisis Group. “I think a lot of U.N. members will be unhappy with the highly convoluted text the Council just passed, but they will also be relieved that the Council could agree to anything at all.”
It remained unclear how the resolution would affect the current fighting in Gaza, where health officials say about 20,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israeli airstrikes and ground operations, or if its demands for increased humanitarian aid deliveries by all available routes could be implemented. The resolution also calls for the immediate release of all hostages taken during the Hamas-led attacks on Israel on Oct. 7.
Security Council resolutions are legally binding on member states, but enforcing them, which requires consensus, can be difficult.
“We know this is not a perfect text,” said Lana Nusseibeh, the ambassador for the United Arab Emirates, who has been leading the negotiations. “We know only a cease-fire will stop the suffering.”
Before the final vote, Russia proposed an amendment that would have partially reverted to an earlier draft of the resolution, including a demand for the suspension of hostilities, but the United States vetoed that change.
One major sticking point had been the question of whether Israel would still inspect all aid shipments, which U.N. officials said had held up the delivery of food, fuel, medicine and other aid. Israel, however, fought to keep its oversight of aid going into Gaza.
“Just as this Council is committed to increasing aid, it should also be committed to blocking the smuggling and transfer of weapons to Hamas terrorists,” said Jonathan Miller, Israel’s deputy U.N. ambassador.
The first step under the resolution is for the U.N. secretary general to appoint a special coordinator responsible for “facilitating, coordinating, monitoring and verifying” that aid entering Gaza is humanitarian in nature, who is to be “consulting all relevant parties.”
The coordinator will be tasked with negotiating with all sides to streamline the delivery of aid, and is to give a progress report to the Council in 20 days.
Even though she abstained, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said that the resolution “speaks to the severity of the crisis and it calls on all of us to do more.” She added that the Council “must continue to support the resumption of humanitarian pauses.”
Ms. Thomas-Greenfield did not explain the U.S. abstention but said she was deeply disappointed that the resolution did not condemn Hamas’s Oct. 7 terrorist attacks on Israel.
Russia’s U.N. ambassador, Vasily Nebenzya, said that U.S. efforts to change the text to their liking were “cynical and shameful” and “not transparent.” He said the resolution had been diluted to the point that it gave “Israeli forces the greenlight to commit war crimes.” The only reason Russia did not veto the resolution, he said, was because it had the backing of Arab states.
The U.N. secretary general, António Guterres, said he hoped the resolution “makes people understand that a humanitarian cease-fire is indeed something that is needed if we want humanitarian aid to be effective.”
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. representative, delivered an emotional speech to the Council in which he recounted the story of a little girl who lost her parents, then died a few days later in a strike on a hospital. He accused Israel of disproportionate attacks on Gaza.
“This resolution is a step in the right direction,” Mr. Mansour said. “It must be implemented, and it must be accompanied with massive pressure for an immediate cease-fire.”