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At least 17,487 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since October 7 in Israeli bombardment of the beseiged city.
Meanwhie, the United States Friday vetoed a United Nations resolution backed by almost all other Security Council members and many other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. Supporters called it a terrible day and warned of more civilian deaths and destruction as the war goes into its third month.
US deputy ambassador Robert Wood criticized the council after the vote for its failure to condemn Hamas' October 7 attack on Israel or to acknowledge Israel's right to defend itself. He declared that halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and "only plant the seeds for the next war."
Palestinian officials slam the US veto of a UN Security Council resolution urging an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza as “disastrous” and “a disgrace”.
The vote came after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres made a rare move on Wednesday to formally warn the 15-member council of a global threat from the two-month-long war.
“While the US strongly supports a durable peace in which both Israel and Palestine can live in peace and security, we do not support calls for an immediate ceasefire. This would only plant the seeds for the next war, because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a two-state solution,” said Robert Wood, deputy US ambassador to the UN.
Israel's bombardment has killed more than 17,400 people in Gaza 70 per cent of them women and children and wounded more than 46,000, according to the Palestinian territory's Health Ministry, which says many others are trapped under rubble.
In a vain effort to press the Biden administration to drop its opposition to a cease-fire, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday. But their meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken took place only after the UN vote.
United Arab Emirates deputy ambassador Mohamed Abushahab said before the vote that the resolution, which his country sponsored, had garnered nearly 100 co-sponsors in less than 24 hours, a reflection of global support for efforts to end the war and save Palestinian lives.
After the vote, he expressed deep disappointment at the US veto and warned that the Security Council is growing isolated and "appears untethered" from its mandate to ensure international peace and security.
"What is the message we are sending Palestinians if we cannot unite behind a call to halt the relentless bombardment of Gaza?" Abushahab asked. "Indeed, what is the message we are sending civilians across the world who may find themselves in similar situations?"
Russia's deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky called the vote "one of the darkest days in the history of the Middle East" and accused the United States of issuing "a death sentence to thousands, if not tens of thousands more civilians in Palestine and Israel, including women and children."
The council called the emergency meeting to hear from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, who for the first time invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which enables a UN chief to raise threats he sees to international peace and security. He warned of an "humanitarian catastrophe" in Gaza and urged the council to demand a humanitarian cease-fire.
Guterres said he raised Article 99 which hadn't been used at the UN since 1971 because "there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza." The UN anticipates this would result in "a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt," he warned.
The UN chief detailed the "humanitarian nightmare" Gaza is facing, citing intense, widespread and ongoing Israeli attacks from air, land and sea that reportedly have hit 339 education facilities, 26 hospitals, 56 health care facilities, 88 mosques and three churches. Over 60 per cent of Gaza's housing has reportedly been destroyed or damaged, some 85 per cent of the population has been forced from their homes, the health system is collapsing, and "nowhere in Gaza is safe," Guterres said.