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Britain abstains on UN vote demanding ceasefire in Gaza

Palestinians search for bodies following Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Adel Hana)
Palestinians search for bodies following Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

Britain chose to abstain on a United Nations resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza that was only blocked by the US.

Thirteen of the 15-member security council voted in favour, but the action was blocked because of Washington’s veto on Friday.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had warned of a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Gaza as he urged the nations to demand Israel stops the war.

He argued that Gaza is at “a breaking point”, that there is a serious threat of starvation and that there is a risk of “mass displacement into Egypt”.

Arab diplomats made direct appeals for Joe Biden’s administration to drop its opposition, but the US criticised the vote for failing to condemn Hamas’s bloodshed in Israel.

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.

Cop28 summit
Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres (Chris Jackson/PA)

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.

Ziad Issa, head of humanitarian policy at ActionAid UK, said: “It is devastating to see the UK miss this critical opportunity to vote to call for a permanent ceasefire and end the unbearable suffering of 2.3 million people in Gaza.

“With aid operations no longer able to meaningfully function anywhere in the territory and infrastructure on the brink of collapse, now is the moment for international action. The scenes in Gaza have rightfully been described as apocalyptic. How much more death and destruction will it take before leaders put humanity first and decide enough is enough?”