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Updated Dec 22, 2023, 12:47pm EST
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US abstains on UN vote, allowing Gaza aid resolution to pass

Insights from Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle, and NPR

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Gaza Strip
Israel Defense Forces/Handout via REUTERS
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The News

The U.S. refrained from blocking a watered-down U.N. Security Council resolution Friday to increase aid into Gaza after days of delays, amid a deepening humanitarian crisis in the war-stricken territory.

The resolution, sponsored by Arab states, called for a major increase in aid to desperate civilians in the Gaza Strip, dropping calls from an earlier version for a suspension of hostilities.

The U.S. did not vote in favor of the resolution, but rather abstained, allowing it to pass. As a permanent member of the council, the U.S. has veto power, and a “no” vote would have killed the measure.

It comes as Israel’s war against Hamas intensifies, with hundreds killed in the past 48 hours and more than half a million people facing starvation, according to the U.N., in what has been described as one of the deadliest campaigns in military history.

The vote had been delayed amid intense diplomatic wrangling over the wording of the resolution, which was sponsored by Arab states, moving from calling for a ceasefire to only creating the conditions for a truce.

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Precise wording of the resolution was a sticking point

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Sources:  
Al Jazeera, Deutsche Welle

Amid prolonged talks between the U.S. and Arab negotiators over the resolution, a demand for a “cessation” in fighting was changed to a call for “urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” But even that “very tepid” text wasn’t OK for the U.S. because it mentioned a “cessation,” according to Al Jazeera. Washington has repeatedly said it opposes a ceasefire, arguing like Israel that it would only strengthen Hamas.

UN vote comes amid intensifying military offensive

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Sources:  
Reuters, AP

The U.N. vote came as Israel made a new push into central Gaza this week, with reports of air strikes, artillery bombardments, and fighting across the enclave. More than 20,000 Gazans killed, while more than 50,000 have been wounded over the course of the offensive, according to Gaza’s health ministry. The fallout from the war has left a quarter of Gaza’s population starving, a proportion that has eclipsed crises in Afghanistan and Yemen, the U.N. said. “I have never seen something at the scale that is happening in Gaza,” the World Food Programme’s chief economist said.

An isolated US could risk diplomatic blowback

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Sources:  
The Washington Post, NPR, Semafor

Analysts and government officials have argued in recent days that the U.S. could pay the price on the world stage for being in the minority in its support of Israel, while the death toll grows in Gaza. “It makes it harder to win support on issues we care about,” one anonymous U.S. official told The Washington Post. But it remains to be seen whether criticism from other countries will lead to tangible consequences against Washington. A U.K.-based international relations professor pointed out that some of the U.S.‘s harshest critics in the Middle East are too dependent on it to “really challenge American foreign policy.”

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