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US vetoes UN resolution calling for immediate ceasefire in Gaza after proposing a temporary halt in fighting

<i>Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images</i><br/>Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early on January 3
Said Khatib/AFP/Getty Images
Smoke billows during Israeli bombardment on Khan Yunis from Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip early on January 3

By Rob Picheta, Alex Marquardt and Richard Roth, CNN

(CNN) — The United States has vetoed a resolution at the United Nations calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, an anticipated move that, while supportive of Israel, comes amid signs of American frustration with Israel’s war.

The US had already signaled its intention to veto the Algerian resolution, but has grown increasingly critical of Israel’s conduct in Gaza and on Monday proposed its own Security Council draft resolution that for the first time calls for a “temporary ceasefire” in the conflict. It also pointedly warns Israel against launching an offensive of Rafah in southern Gaza.

For months, the administration had avoided using the term “ceasefire.” But President Joe Biden’s recent use of it, along with the latest US resolution, signal a shift, as the White House tries to help broker a deal between Israel and Hamas that would see Israeli hostages released and a longer pause in the fighting.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council the Algeria-proposed resolution would negatively impact those negotiations ongoing in the region.

“Proceeding with a vote today was wishful and irresponsible, and so while we cannot support a resolution that would put sensitive negotiations in jeopardy, we look forward to engaging on a text that we believe will address so many of the concerns we all share,” she said after the vote.

The US has become more alarmed and robust in its criticism of Israel’s campaign as an offensive against Rafah looms. Biden remarked earlier this month that the IDF’s conduct has been “over the top,” and subsequently told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that the military action in Rafah “should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of and support for the civilians,” according to a readout of a phone call between the two leaders.

Biden then told reporters at the White House on Friday that he had relayed to Netanyahu his position “that there has to be a temporary ceasefire” to secure the safe release of hostages still held by Hamas, a pointed use of a term his administration had previously resisted.

While critical of the Algerian resolution, the US recognized that much of the world wanted to see action at the United Nations, a US official told CNN on Tuesday, so the competing US resolution is intended to lay out an “affirmative vision.”

“We’re saying we hear the calls for UN Security Council action,” added the official.

It is unlikely that a vote on the US resolution takes place this week, the official told CNN, not wanting to hurry things given the ongoing talks with Egypt and Qatar that the Biden administration believes would be more effective at getting Israeli hostages out of Gaza, humanitarian aid in, and pausing the fighting.

“We just weren’t able to support a resolution today that was going to put sensitive negotiations in peril– and that’s what we believe this resolution would do,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday.

Tuesday’s vote on Algeria’s proposed measure came ahead of an anticipated Israeli offensive in Rafah, the southernmost city in Gaza where more than a million and a half Palestinians are crammed with no clear evacuation route.

“Under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries,” a draft of the American resolution reads, adding that “such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

The negotiations over a hostage release and humanitarian pause have failed to achieve a breakthrough, despite a top-level meeting in Cairo last week that included intelligence chiefs from the US, Israel, Egypt and the Qatari prime minister.

“We want a deal very much and we know we need to pay prices. But Hamas’ demands are disconnected from reality – delusional,” Israel’s Coordinator for the Captives and the Missing, Gal Hirsch, told CNN Saturday at the Munich Security Conference in Germany.

Hirsch said Israel wants to see proof that medicine that was sent to Gaza for the hostages has actually reached them, in order to prove that Hamas will deliver on what it agrees to.  

Hamas leaders based outside of Gaza went back to Cairo on Tuesday for more talks while White House Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk is traveling back to the Middle East.

McGurk is expected to be in Cairo on Wednesday and Israel on Thursday, according to a US official, and a large focus of the trip will be the hostage negotiations.

More than 29,000 people have died in Gaza since Israel declared war on Hamas on October 7, according to the Ministry of Health in the besieged enclave.

An increasingly dire humanitarian crisis has gripped the strip, where hospitals have stopped functioning and supplies of food, water, electricity and lifesaving medical care are running perilously low.

This story has been updated with additional reporting.

CNN’s Kevin Liptak and MJ Lee contributed to this report.

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