US vetoes UN resolution calling for Gaza ceasefire

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Saturday, 9th December 2023

The United States has vetoed a UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Thirteen countries, including Malta, voted in favour while Britain abstained. Supporters called it a terrible day and warned of more civilian deaths and destruction as the war goes into its third month.

The resolution, presented by the United Arab Emirates, had called for “an immediate humanitarian ceasefire” as well as “the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages” and “ensuring humanitarian access”. It was co-sponsored by 97 countries.

In a vain effort to press the Biden administration to drop its opposition to calling for a halt to the fighting, the foreign ministers of Egypt, Jordan, the Palestinian Authority, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey were all in Washington on Friday. However, their meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken took place only after the UN vote.  The United States had previously signaled disapproval of the draft text. One of the Council’s five permanent members with veto power, the US has repeatedly resisted calls for a “ceasefire”, emphasising Israel’s right to defend itself following Hamas’ 7th October attack.

During the Security Council debate, the Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, called it a “sad day”, citing the thousands killed or injured in Israel’s assault on Gaza, saying “enough is enough”. Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh later also condemned the US veto.

Israel’s envoy, Gilad Erdan, said a ceasefire would only extend the war, and that the only option for peace was to eliminate Hamas. He opened his remarks with a not-so-subtle jab at UN chief António Guterres for his invocation of the rarely used Article 99 of the UN charter to convene the vote, saying that despite wars in Ukraine, Yemen, and Syria in recent years, none had prompted the same response by the secretary general.

Photo: Reuters

Later, Erdan thanked the United States for vetoing the resolution. He thanked President Biden “for standing firm with us”. Criticising the draft resolution for “its lack of condemnation of Hamas”, Erdan said if it had been passed, it would “effectively allowed Hamas to continue its reign of terror in Gaza”.

The UK’s Mission to the United Nations said the country could not vote on a Gaza ceasefire resolution that “does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians on the 7th October”. At the same time, the UK added that it was “gravely concerned” about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and that civilian deaths and displacement in the Strip cannot continue.

Hamas has condemned the United States’ decision to veto the resolution, describing it as an “immoral and inhumane position”. Izzat Al-Rishq, a member of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement: “America’s obstruction of the issuance of a ceasefire resolution is a direct participation with the (Israeli) occupation in killing our people.”

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”. He said “history will judge Washington’s actions” in the face of what he called a “merciless Israeli bloodbath”.

Israel’s military campaign 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. “Every day we lose dozens of wounded due to the lack of care and the delay in getting them out of Gaza,” said spokesman Ashraf al-Qudra.

Photo: AP/Adel Hana

Human Rights Watch decried the United States’ veto decision. “By continuing to provide Israel with weapons and diplomatic cover as it commits atrocities, including collectively punishing the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, the US risks complicity in war crimes,” the UN director at HRW, Louis Charbonneau, said in a statement following the veto.

Abby Maxman, Oxfam America’s president and CEO, also criticised the decision, saying the veto “puts another nail in the coffin for US credibility on matters of human rights”.

Agnès Callamard, Amnesty International’s secretary general, said that by vetoing the resolution “the US has displayed a callous disregard for civilian suffering in the face of a staggering death toll, extensive destruction and an unprecedented humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza. Callamard also criticised the US for sending weapons to Israel. She said it is contributing to the destruction in the enclave.

The “inaction” of the UN Security Council amidst the humanitarian crisis in Gaza has made the organisation “complicit in the ongoing slaughter” in the Strip, according to Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF),  also known as Doctors Without Borders.

Israeli strikes continue

Israel’s military said it carried out strikes on about 450 targets over the past day, the highest number reported since the end of a truce with Hamas a week ago. Also, a video shows an Israeli flag raised in the middle of the symbolic Palestine Square in Gaza City.

Meanwhile, Israeli Defece Minister Yoav Gallant claimed Friday that he sees signs Hamas is at a breaking point in Gaza.  Addressing Israeli soldiers during a Hanukkah candle lighting event, Gallant did not elaborate further and did not provide any evidence to support his assessment. The minister’s remark comes as the Israeli forces intensify attacks in the northern and southern Gaza Strip. An Israeli government spokesperson told CNN Friday that the men depicted in images of mass Israeli detentions in Gaza were all “suspected terrorists”. Also, dozens of suspects who were arrested by Israel’s forces in Gaza over the past 48 hours have been taken to Israel for interrogation, IDF spokesperson rear Adm. Daniel Hagari said Friday. He said the Israeli military is in an “intensive stage” of its ground operation in Gaza. 

Photo: EPA

US embassy in Baghdad struck with seven mortars

About seven mortar rounds landed in the US Embassy compound in Baghdad during an attack on Friday, a US military official told Reuters, in what appeared to be the largest attack of its kind in recent memory. US forces in Iraq and Syria were also targeted with rockets and drones at least five more times on Friday; three times at separate bases in Syria, and twice at the Ain al-Asad airbase west of Baghdad, a different US defense official said. The attacks were the most recorded against US forces in the region in a single day since mid-October, when Iran-aligned militias started targeting US assets in Iraq and Syria over Washington’s backing of Israel in its war against Hamas in Gaza.

EU agrees ‘historic’ deal to regulate AI

The world’s first comprehensive laws to regulate artificial intelligence have been agreed in a landmark deal after a marathon 37-hour negotiation between the European Parliament and EU Member States. The agreement was described as “historic” by Thierry Breton, the European Commissioner responsible for a suite of laws in Europe that will also govern social media and search engines, covering giants such as X, TikTok, and Google. Breton said 100 people had been in a room for almost three days to seal the deal. He said it was “worth the few hours of sleep” to make the “historic” deal. France and Germany supported the text, amid reports that tech companies in those countries were fighting for a lighter touch approach to foster innovation among small companies.

A ChapGPT logo is seen on a monitor in West Chester, Pa., Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2023. Europe’s yearslong efforts to draw up AI guardrails have been bogged down by the recent emergence of generative AI systems like OpenAI’s ChatGPT, which have dazzled the world with their ability to produce human-like work but raised fears about the risks they pose. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

OPEC rallies members against fossil fuels phase out

The head of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has urged members to reject any COP28 agreement that “targets” fossil fuels, highlighting deep divisions as the UN climate conference in Dubai enters its final week. A new draft of the final agreement published on Friday includes a range of options, from agreeing to a “phase out of fossil fuels in line with best available science”, to phasing out “unabated fossil fuels”, to including no language on them at all. The 200 nations gathered in Dubai are now expected to focus on the issue of fossil fuels in the hope of reaching a consensus before the gathering’s scheduled end on 12th December.

Mob lynch Mexican drug gang

Eleven people – eight of whom were were linked to the Familia Michoacana cartel – were killed with machetes in the municipal football field in the town of Texcaltitlan, in central Mexico, by citizens tired of paying protection money. According to Mexican press reports, the inhabitants of the town had been summoned to the sports field to pay the weekly fee to the local criminals. After getting out of their pick-ups, the narcos were attacked by the crowd with stones, machete blows and fists. The police arrived at the scene of the massacre shortly afterwards and are reconstructing what happened through videos posted on social media.

Photo: Reuters

Six French students convicted in 2020 beheading of teacher

A French court has convicted six teenagers in connection with the 2020 beheading of history teacher Samuel Paty, whose murder shocked the country. The teacher had shown his pupils caricatures of the Prophet Mohammad in a class on freedom of expression, angering some Muslim parents. Most Muslims avoid depictions of prophets, considering them to be blasphemous. Paty, 47, was killed outside his school in a Paris suburb by an 18-year-old assailant of Chechen origin, who was shot dead by police soon after the attack. The court found those adolescents as guilty of having pointed out Paty to the murderer.

Photo: The New York Times

Ryan O’Neal dead at 82

The death has been announced in Los Angeles of American actor, Ray O’Neal, the 1970s Hollywood heartthrob who starred in such films as Love Story, What’s Up, Doc?, and Paper Moon, and whose tumultuous decade-long relationship with Farrah Fawcett made him the envy of millions. His son Patrick said on Instagram: “This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say, but here we are. My father died peacefully today, with his loving team at his side who support him and love him as he would us.” No cause of death was given, but in 2012 he had revealed that he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer, though he said then that his prognosis was good.

Photo: Getty

Main photo: Jessica Le Masurier, FRANCE 24

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