US blocks UAE-backed deal for Gaza ceasefire

Smoke rises above building during an Israeli strike in northern Gaza
Israel continued to hammer the Gaza Strip on Friday, with some observers believing the attacks are peaking - JACK GUEZ/AFP

The United States blocked a UAE-backed demand for a ceasefire on Friday as fighting further intensified inside Gaza.

Washington vetoed a vote on a UN Security Council resolution, submitted by Abu Dhabi and backed by Arab leaders pushing to halt the invasion.

“The undeniable reality is if Israel laid down its arms today, Hamas would continue to hold hostages,” Robert Wood, the US deputy ambassador to the UN, said ahead of the vote.

“That is not a threat that any of our governments would continue to allow,” he added.

It comes as the US has increased its pressure on Israel to avoid human casualties, and Lord Cameron, the British Foreign Secretary, said that the county “must behave differently” in southern Gaza.

Israel almost doubled its air strikes on the Gaza Strip on Friday, as observers predicted the military operation to destroy Hamas may be “peaking”.

The UN Security Council voted on a ceasefire after Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary-General, triggered the rarely-use Article 99 to bring the humanitarian situation in Gaza to the council’s attention.

The vote had been delayed by several hours to give Arab leaders more time to try to persuade the United States, which holds a veto, to abstain.

Ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Qatar, the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia, as well as Turkey, met with Antony Blinken, the US secretary of state, to apply pressure in Washington.

Ayman Safadi, the Jordanian foreign minister, warned that if the UN resolution failed, it would be tantamount to granting Israel licence “to continue with its massacre”.

The resolution was co-sponsored by at least 97 member states, according to the UN representative for the UAE.

But it was nixed by the United States, which enjoys veto-wielding power as a permanent member of the UN Security Council.

The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1 after Britain abstained.

Mr Wood criticised the council after the vote, calling the resolution “divorced from reality” and declaring that it “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground”.

Western opinion splits

Calls for a ceasefire have split opinion in the West, with Josep Borrell, a top EU diplomat, instructing EU member states to support UN calls, while the UK opposes an end to Israel’s offensive.

“If you stop now with Hamas in charge of even part of Gaza there can never be a two-state solution,” Lord Cameron said during a visit to Washington on Thursday.

UK ambassador to the UN Dame Barbara Woodward said Britain backs “further and longer pauses” to get aid to Palestinians and to allow the release of Israeli hostages.

But she argued to the council that “we cannot vote in favour of a resolution which does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians” on October 7.

“Calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage,” she added, in explaining why Britain abstained.

France, another veto-wielding security council member, had also warned against rushing to a vote but ultimately backed the resolution.

An Israeli army helicopter firing on a target in northern Gaza
An Israeli army helicopter firing on a target in northern Gaza. Yoav Gallant, Israel's defence minister, told troops that it looked like Hamas ‘is beginning to break in Gaza’ - JACK GUEZ/AFP

Meanwhile, Israeli military sources described the fighting in Gaza as “peaking” as air strikes in the south intensified and troops pushed into the Hamas stronghold of Khan Younis.

The twin “clocks” of international pressure and socio-economic pressure within Israel mean the time for fighting is probably limited to weeks rather than months, said one military observer.

Although there is no sign of a let-up in the fighting, the capture or killing of Hamas’s top leadership – most notably Yahya Sinwar, the brains behind the Oct 7 massacre – may provide domestic political cover enough to stop the offensive.

On Friday, Yoav Gallant, the Israeli defence minister, told troops that he sees “signs that indicate” the terrorist group “is beginning to break in Gaza”.

Ultimately, however, it will take more than decapitating Hamas in Gaza to end the conflict.

Israelis will not allow their leaders to pull out of Gaza until the remaining hostages have returned or their fate is known.

Before the UN vote, the White House said that “more can be done” by Israel to reduce civilian casualties in Gaza.

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