UN Security Council calls for Gaza ceasefire, U.S. abstains

STORY: A crucial vote at the UN Security Council on Monday laid bare the friction between the U.S. and its ally Israel over the war in Gaza.

Previously, the United States had vetoed three Security Council resolutions over the fighting in Gaza as Israel pressed its offensive against Hamas militants in the Palestinian enclave.

But as civilian deaths continued to climb and the humanitarian situation deepened into deadly famine, U.S. President Joe Biden began to press Israel to reach a truce that would allow food and medicine to reach the more than two million civilians trapped in Gaza.

When the latest resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire went before the Security Council, the U.S. envoy didn’t vote ‘no.’ She abstained. The chamber erupted into applause as the measure passed.

The reverberations were immediate. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cancelled a planned delegation to Washington that had been requested by the White House.

A statement from his office read, “in light of the change in the American position, Prime Minister Netanyahu decided the delegation would not leave.”

The Biden Administration had asked to meet with Israeli security officials about a planned offensive in the city of Rafah, where Netanyahu has pledged to eliminate remaining Hamas brigades.

More than one million civilians have sought shelter in Rafah, and humanitarian groups have warned turning the city into a war zone would turn a humanitarian disaster into an even greater catastrophe.

White House spokesperson John Kirby called the cancellation disappointing, but added that senior U.S. officials would still meet for separate talks with Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant, who is currently in Washington.

The diplomatic dust-up between Washington and Jerusalem comes as Israel on Monday announced it would no longer cooperate with UNRWA, the United Nations agency tasked with delivering aid and social services to Palestinians in Gaza.

Israeli spokesperson David Mercer accused UNRWA of being “part of the problem.”

That move was met with unvarnished outrage from UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres.

Speaking in Amman, Jordan on Monday he said blocking UNRWA risked exacerbating what he called “dramatic starvation.”

Israel has asserted its operation in Gaza is defensive, after Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people in an Oct. 7 rampage in Israel and took more than 200 hostages. Palestinian health officials say more than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in five months of war.

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