Adopting Resolution 2712 (2023), Security Council Calls for ‘Urgent and Extended’ Humanitarian Pauses in Gaza, Immediate Release of Hostages
In a late-breaking meeting today, the Security Council adopted resolution 2712 (2023) by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States), by which it called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors through the Gaza Strip to facilitate the provision of essential goods and services.
Further to the text, the Council called for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children, and urged the parties to refrain from depriving the civilians in Gaza of life-saving services and humanitarian assistance.
Prior to the adoption, the Russian Federation’s delegate introduced an amendment, which he described as the “lowest common denominator, lower than which the Council cannot allow itself to fall”. The language, he said, repeats the General Assembly’s resolution, adopted by a majority on 26 October.
The amendment was defeated by a vote of 5 in favour (Brazil, China, Mozambique, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates) to 1 against (United States), with 9 abstentions (Albania, Gabon, Ghana, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom).
Malta’s representative, introducing the resolution, said it focuses on the plight of children trapped and of those being held hostage. Its passage would enable urgent rescue and recovery efforts and the medical evacuation of sick or injured children and their caregivers, she said.
Following the vote, Council members weighed in on their positions, with Brazil’s representative noting that the Council’s response, commensurate with the gravity of the situation, was urgent since day one. He hoped that, if truly and urgently implemented, the text will at least mitigate the dreadful situation.
The representative of the United Arab Emirates, recognizing that the resolution was adopted through difficult negotiations and compromises on all sides, commended Malta’s leadership. Emphasizing that what emerges from the ruins of Gaza may be the last chance of the Council members to save it, she said that it will need everyone to work together.
China’s representative, noting his support for the text, welcomed any initiative to protect civilians and ease the humanitarian crisis. He, however, was concerned about the siege of the Al-Shifa Hospital and urged Israel to cease its military operations against civilian facilities. The Council should stand on the side of justice, he concluded.
Among the three abstentions to the resolution was the United States, whose representative said she could not vote yes on a text that did not condemn Hamas, which set the conflict in motion. Stressing that the adoption of the resolution will not save lives, she added that to do that, “we all need to support the heroic efforts of the UN and other humanitarian workers in Gaza”.
The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine emphasized that the Council should have called for a ceasefire a long time ago, stressing that millions of lives hang in the balance. Urging those present to stop the killing and forced displacements and allow humanitarian aid, he said, "These should not be words in a resolution, but a reality on the ground.”
Israel’s representative said that the text focuses solely on the humanitarian situation and makes no mention of what led up to this moment. Underscoring that his country will continue to do whatever it takes to bring the hostages home, he said “should Hamas choose to lay down their arms, turn themselves in, and hand over the hostages unscathed, this war would end immediately”.
VASSILY A. NEBENZIA (Russian Federation), speaking before the vote, proposed an oral amendment to the operative paragraph 3bis. He said that the text repeats operative paragraph 1 of the General Assembly resolution “Illegal Israeli actions in Occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory” (document A/ES-10/L.25), adopted on 26 October by an overwhelming majority of votes. “Our proposal does not contain anything unexpected for you,” he stressed, recalling that from the beginning of the crisis, Moscow has been emphasizing the main aim is to achieve ceasefire and end violence. If this provision is not included in the text, it can make an impression that the Council is “happy to make do exclusively with Israel’s provision of humanitarian pauses at its discretion”.
Expressing regret that the United States has consistently blocked any — even the weakest — reference to this aim, he addressed its representative, saying, “During work on Malta’s draft, you struck out anything that could in any way indicate the need for a cessation of hostilities. Does this mean that you are in favour of the war in the Middle East continuing indefinitely?” He said the amendment presented is the “lowest common denominator, lower than which the Council cannot allow itself to fall”. He added, “Our duty is to save the lives of civilians who have a lethal threat hanging above them.” He recalled that most of the Council’s delegations supported the proposed text in the General Assembly.
The oral amendment was defeated by a vote of 5 in favour (Brazil, China, Mozambique, Russian Federation, United Arab Emirates) to 1 against (United States), with 9 abstentions (Albania, Gabon, Ghana, Ecuador, France, Japan, Malta, Switzerland, United Kingdom).
VANESSA FRAZIER (Malta), presenting the draft resolution, said that the humanitarian crisis unfolding in Gaza, ever since the horrific terror attacks of 7 October, is deeply troubling. On that day, children were killed and taken hostage. Since then, more than 4,600 are reported to have been killed in Gaza, and some 1,500 are deemed missing. Many are likely trapped beneath the rubble. The lives of newborn and premature babies at Al-Shifa Hospital are in grave and imminent danger. More than 1 million people are displaced, and more than half are children.
The draft resolution aims to ensure respite from the current nightmare in Gaza and give hope to the families of all victims, she said. It focuses on the plight of children trapped and of those being held hostage. Over the past week, in an effort to achieve a “balanced and operational” text, Malta held extensive consultations with Council members, interested parties, countries in the region and humanitarian organizations. The text is focused and humanitarian in scope. It provides for the establishment of urgent humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for “a sufficient number” of days. Such measures would facilitate the continuous and unhindered provision of essential goods and services, which are important to the well-being of civilians, especially children.
Its passage also would enable urgent rescue and recovery efforts, including for missing children in damaged and destroyed buildings, and the medical evacuation of sick or injured children and their caregivers, she said. The text underlines and reiterates children’s special vulnerable status. It calls for the safe and unconditional release of hostages, especially children, that are being held by Hamas and other groups. This too, is a clear humanitarian imperative which cannot be ignored. International humanitarian law provides general protection for children as persons taking no part in hostilities. They enjoy special protection as persons who are particularly vulnerable. “Our votes today translate into real human lives, the lives of thousands of children, civilians and heroic humanitarian workers,” she stressed.
LANA ZAKI NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates), speaking in explanation of position before the vote, said since the start of the conflict the Council has been unable to produce anything that would alleviate the suffering of the people of Gaza and that outside the UN building it looks indifferent to this suffering. Today, the Council has an opportunity to begin changing that perception; it can come together under one aim — the plight of children, which has been the North Star of the Council during this conflict. It can come together for the Palestinian children and other Palestinians sheltering, the Israeli children and other Israelis still hostage, and UN and humanitarian workers trying to alleviate suffering on the ground.
She added that the text is what humanitarian workers have been calling for as the bare minimum to do their work. She highlighted that the resolution will also allow rescue missions for those trapped under rubble and will mean sick and injured children can be evacuated. She noted that the text is unequivocal that all parties comply with their obligations under international law. It also rejects the forced displacement of Palestinians. Many are already refugees, and recently 80 per cent of Gazans have been uprooted again, she added. The monitoring mechanisms provided for in the text can create space for humanitarian actors to do their work. She said that this is an “important and overdue step” by the Council. The United Arab Emirates will vote for the resolution. But a lasting humanitarian ceasefire is still needed, she said.
The Council then adopted resolution 2712 (2023) by a vote of 12 in favour to none against, with 3 abstentions (Russian Federation, United Kingdom, United States).
LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD (United States), speaking after the vote, said the world has watched with understandable frustration and increasing concern as the Security Council has been unable to speak out on this pressing matter of international peace and security. “Honestly, I think many have given up hope that we would ever speak on this conflict. But that’s exactly what we just did. We got this done because most of us worked constructively, in good faith, to adopt a resolution.” However, she is horrified that a few Council members still cannot bring themselves to condemn the barbaric terrorist attack that Hamas carried out against Israel on 7 October. “What are they afraid of?” she asked. “Let’s be crystal clear: Hamas set this conflict in motion.”
The United States could not vote yes on a text that did not condemn Hamas or reaffirm the rights of all Member States to protect their citizens from terrorist attacks and will continue to urge the Council to condemn Hamas’ actions. However, the United States did support many of the important provisions, she said, pointing out it is the first adopted text that mentions Hamas. She fully supports the resolution’s call for the immediate and unconditional release of hostages held by Hamas and other groups. The United States has also advocated for humanitarian pauses to allow for full, rapid, safe and unhindered access to civilians in Gaza.
She said her country has clearly stated its expectation that parties to the conflict will abide by their international law obligations. “We’ve been clear at the highest levels: Hamas’ actions do not lessen Israel’s responsibility to protect innocent people in Gaza,” she said. “As Israel exercises its right and indeed its responsibility to protect its people from acts of terror, it must do so in a way that is consistent with the laws of war. I want to be clear: The United States does not want to see firefights in any hospitals.” Ultimately, this resolution is a step forward, but its adoption alone will not save lives, she said. “To save lives, we all need to support the heroic efforts of the UN and other humanitarian workers in Gaza,” she added.
EDWIGE KOUMBY MISSAMBO (Gabon) said that she voted in favour of the draft resolution, adding: “I am delighted that our Council has been able to reach consensus, thus, foregrounding the best interest of these two peoples.” Noting that the text ensures general protection of children — as persons not participating in hostilities — and their special protection as particularly vulnerable persons, she underscored that her country wants to contribute to improving the plight of children. Recognizing that the text does not take into account all the legitimate concerns, she said it nevertheless represents major progress that could make a difference on the ground. In this regard, she encouraged Member States to show greater engagement to silence the guns and establish responsibility.
BARBARA WOODWARD (United Kingdom) said that it is “right” that the Council is calling for a humanitarian pause for a period of days long enough to get life-saving aid to those who need it. “This will save lives,” she stressed. For its part, the United Kingdom has doubled its aid to help civilians in Gaza. All parties must give civilians the protection that is their right under international law. This includes respecting the sanctity of hospitals. She welcomed the resolution’s call for the immediate and unconditional release of Israeli hostages. “It is unconscionable that Hamas continues to hold men, women and children, causing terrible fear and suffering for their families,” she said. This resolution is necessary, though the United Kingdom regrets that it could not clearly condemn Hamas’ terrorist attacks of 7 October. “The barbarity of those attacks should be clear to us all,” she said. That is why the United Kingdom abstained today.
NICOLAS DE RIVIÈRE (France) said his country supported the resolution because the humanitarian situation in Gaza is “already catastrophic”. France is fully mobilized to respond to the urgency of the situation. The resolution mentions several essential needs: food, water, fuel, and medicines, which must be delivered to the Gazan civilians. He called for lasting, unhindered humanitarian access for their delivery in sufficient quantities and for the mobilization of adequate resources.
However, he regretted that several essential messages are not included in the resolution. The Council must continue to work to achieve a broader expression, including condemnation of the Hamas attack, the recall of Israel’s right to defend itself and its population with absolute respect of international humanitarian law, a call for an immediate and lasting truce that could lead to a ceasefire, as well as a call for avoiding regional spillover. There is a need for a decisive relaunching of negotiations on agreed parameters for a two-State solution. “This Council must not remain silent on these elements; it must be demanding and up to what is at stake,” he said.
ANDRÉS EFREN MONTALVO SOSA (Ecuador) said his country voted in favour of the resolution because of its urgent and relevant elements, among them, the obligation to uphold international law and the establishment of safe, unhindered humanitarian access. The draft just adopted focuses on urgent humanitarian needs due to the grave conflict in Gaza that was unleashed following the attacks by Hamas on 7 October. “It is an essential first step by the Council,” he said, noting that the general text is a valuable starting point. “But our work must continue,” he added. Ecuador abstained on the amendment because the draft, which was the outcome of a negotiation process in which all Council members participated, should be preserved, he said, thanking Malta for its leadership. He also acknowledged that some States avoided exercising what would have been a damaging veto.
ISHIKANE KIMIHIRO (Japan), noting that for nearly six weeks the Council remained silent as the conflict worsened to an unprecedented degree, said, “today, at last, we were able to act”. Stating that he voted in favour of the draft resolution, he expressed appreciation for the ongoing diplomatic efforts made by key actors, including the United States. “This is just the beginning,” he said, emphasizing that the Council needs to continue its engagement on this file to protect civilians — women, persons with disabilities, and children. It must prevent the conflict from spreading and bring peace to the region.
PASCALE BAERISWYL (Switzerland) said that this first step by the Council comes belatedly. She emphasized the plight of the victims affected by the Hamas terrorist attacks, highlighting the tragic loss of thousands of civilians in Israel and throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory since 7 October. Switzerland recognizes Israel's right to ensure its defence and security. “We call for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages,” she said. Their captivity in Gaza in appalling conditions for more than a month is unjustifiable, as were the acts of terror and indiscriminate attacks perpetrated by Hamas against Israeli civilians since 7 October. Switzerland most firmly condemns these terrorist attacks. “We will continue to work towards pursuing the Council's work on the draft resolution of the 10 elected members which addresses the situation as a whole and to which much effort has been devoted in recent weeks,” she added.
DOMINGOS ESTÊVÃO FERNANDES (Mozambique) said his country is convinced this resolution is an important step towards mitigating the suffering of the Gazan people, but it does not address the fundamentals of the humanitarian crisis in Gaza. Mozambique associates itself with the collective efforts to protect civilians, especially children, in full compliance with human rights law and international humanitarian law. He called for an immediate, durable and sustained cessation of hostilities and a return to dialogue. Israel and Palestine can only resolve their differences through peace and dialogue, he added.
FERIT HOXHA (Albania) said supporting peace efforts is the Security Council’s raison d'être and that when civilians are harmed anywhere in the world, the Council cannot stand idle. Its inability to act in the last six weeks has been particularly distressing, he said. “The world has been watching and waiting and hoping,” he said. For that reason, Albania welcomed the adoption of the resolution, imperfect as it is. “It is a strong message of hope and solidarity with those suffering,” he said, though he expressed regret it contained no clear and strong condemnation of Hamas. “We need to face the truth: the death toll among Palestinians civilians, including children and women, is unbearable and unjustified. This death toll spiral must stop.” It is important not to lose sight of the fact that Hamas is directly responsible for this situation, he said.
NORBERTO MORETTI (Brazil), welcoming the adoption of the draft resolution, said, “It was long overdue. A response by this body commensurate with the gravity of the situation was urgent since day one — that is more than five weeks ago.” Noting that its passage has been a “long and painful process”, he recalled that before the text adopted today, more comprehensive and timely resolutions have been attempted, including one presented by Brazil. Successive vetoes, the spectre of “pocket vetoes” or the lack of a real negotiating process have prevented them. As the Council failed repeatedly, the General Assembly acted on 27 October. Echoing the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian ceasefire, he expressed regret that the draft resolution adopted falls short of bold and necessary steps. “We do hope that if truly and urgently implemented, today’s decision will at least mitigate the dreadful situation we have before us,” he added.
Mr. NEBENZYA (Russian Federation) said that his delegation abstained during the vote on the draft resolution. Without supplies of fuel and in the next few hours, according to estimates by United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), Gaza will be without any communication, without Internet and completely isolated from the outside world. Meanwhile, the Israeli army is storming the Al-Shifa Hospital. “We're hearing worrisome reports about executions of medical personnel,” he said. Humanitarian pauses are not and cannot be a replacement for a ceasefire, or even a truce. People who will be evacuated will find themselves under new shelling, he said.
From the very beginning of the current escalation in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the delegation of the United States has sabotaged any attempts to develop a balanced and depoliticized document aimed at adopting realistic and urgent steps to de-escalate the situation, he said. The United States justifies the collective punishment of Palestinians. Washington, D.C. has consistently rejected draft resolutions that have demanded a humanitarian ceasefire. The United States today expressed outrage that the Council cannot condemn the Hamas attack of 7 October and criticized those who have prevented this. “It was the United States on 18 October that vetoed the draft resolution of Brazil that specifically condemned that act,” he said.
The language of today’s resolution has been hollowed out, he went on to say, adding that it is a “disgrace” that the Council, which has a uniquely powerful toolbox, could only “squeeze out such a weak call”. The Russian Federation is “extremely disappointed” that its amendment to the resolution was not adopted. Some are not concerned about the effectiveness of the Council. “The main thing is to say that the Council, so-to-speak, adopted something humanitarian,” he said, expressing concern that the resolution will not be implemented on the ground. “Who will give approval for humanitarian pauses, who will monitor and verify them and what will be the consequences of them not being complied with?” he asked. The document adopted will not contribute to overcoming the humanitarian crisis that the Gaza Strip finds itself in and its population is suffering.
Ms. NUSSEIBEH (United Arab Emirates) welcomed the adoption of the resolution, saying it is crucial that the Council has come together around the urgent need to protect civilians, especially children. She recognized that its adoption was only possible through difficult negotiations and compromises on all sides, and she recognized Malta’s leadership and the commitment of each Council member on this, across their geographical divides. She believes lives will be saved because of this work, but it only begins the Council’s response to this war and this crisis. “Too much time has passed, too many people have been killed and too much destruction has been wrought.” Where Hamas is not operating, Palestinians are also losing their lives on land internationally recognized as part of their future State. During the past 40 days, almost 200 Palestinians have been killed in the occupied West Bank due to settler violence and raids. This must stop and Israel must hold accountable those responsible.
She said Member States now need to use this resolution. Her country will receive 1,000 Palestinian children and their families for medical treatment, with the first group hopefully arriving this week. It hopes to establish an emergency field hospital in the Gaza Strip. She called for Member States to now scale up assistance and for the Council to resolve the conflict. “What emerges from the ruins of Gaza may be our last chance to save it,” she said, adding, however, that it will need everyone to work together. The fate of peace and security in the Middle East is a shared responsibility, she said, adding that Israel’s lasting security will remain elusive if it is built on the continued denial of Palestinians’ inalienable right to self-determination.
ZHANG JUN (China) said his country has always supported efforts to promote a ceasefire, an end to fighting and the restoration of peace. He welcomed any initiative to protect civilians and ease the humanitarian crisis, which is why China voted in favour of the resolution. The Council should have adopted a more comprehensive and robust resolution much earlier. But for reasons known to all, in particular, the repeated obstruction of a Permanent member, this resolution can serve as only a first step, based on minimum consensus. Nonetheless, the resolution is of positive significance as an initial step towards a ceasefire, averting a greater humanitarian catastrophe, he added.
China looks forward to the immediate realization of durable humanitarian pauses, as called for in the text, to allow UN humanitarian agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross and others to carry out full-scale humanitarian operations, to urgently search for and rescue missing children, to transfer and treat the critically injured, and to rehabilitate critical infrastructure. He expressed grave concern and strong opposition to the clear violations of international humanitarian law taking place in Gaza, including the siege of the Al-Shifa Hospital. He urged Israel to immediately cease its military operations against civilian facilities, including hospitals, and restore water and fuel and other basic supplies. “The Security Council must stand on the side of justice,” he said, adding that China will continue to work with all parties.
Ms. FRAZIER (Malta), taking the floor again, said that with the adoption of resolution 2712 (2023), the Council reaffirmed its responsibility and commitment to the safeguarding of civilian lives, especially those of children. “What we have achieved today is an important first step,” she stressed, emphasizing that her country — throughout its term as an elected member of the Council — will remain steadfast in its commitment to the protection of civilians and the plight of children in armed conflict.
RIYAD H. MANSOUR, Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine, said that the Security Council should have called for a ceasefire a long time ago. “Gaza bleeds. Death, devastation, destruction everywhere. No one was spared,” he said. The Council should have been convinced that there is no military solution, especially one that relies on the commission of atrocities, and it should have advanced political ones. Pointing to the condemnations missing from the humanitarian resolution focused on children, he emphasized the killing by Israel of 11,000 Palestinians, including 5,000 children; indiscriminate attacks; assaults on hospitals and schools; killing of United Nations staff, journalists and doctors; as well as the racist Israeli propaganda methods.
Operative paragraph 1 of the text demands all parties to comply with international law, he said, asking whether Israel has ever been held accountable for continuously committing crimes against the Palestinian people and dismissing decades of calls for respecting the law. “Are you going to hold Israel accountable for rejecting the resolution you adopted this afternoon,” he asked. The bombings and incursions must stop now. Humanitarian aid must come in now. Fuel must come in. Stressing that millions of lives hang in the balance, he added: “This madness must be brought to an end.” Ceasing the bombing will facilitate the delivery of humanitarian aid, rescue operations for those trapped under the rubble, including children, proper burials for the deceased and the release of those held in captivity.
Civilians, who are protected under international law, suffer the most in Gaza, he said, describing the situation as “a failure of humanity of terrifying magnitude.” Stop the killing, stop the forced displacement, allow humanitarian aid in and protect civilians and civilian infrastructure, he urged. These should not be words in a resolution, but a reality on the ground. He went on to warn against allowing Israel’s narrative — which justifies killing of Palestinians without accountability — to dominate. “There is an alternative reality in which Palestinians are free and no Palestinian and no Israeli is killed. It is time for it to prevail. It is time for peace,” he concluded.
BRETT JONATHAN MILLER (Israel) commended the Council for calling for an immediate release of the 239 hostages. However, the resolution will sadly “fall on deaf ears” when it comes to Hamas. On 7 October, Hamas terrorists launched a barbaric invasion into Israel, murdering, raping, and brutalizing innocent civilians. Since then, the Council has convened on the matter almost 10 times and still has not succeeded in condemning Hamas’ 7 October massacre. Today’s resolution focuses solely on the humanitarian situation in Gaza. “It makes no mention of what led up to this moment,” he said. Hamas has made it clear that given the chance, it will commit its atrocities again. “They have shown the world that the genocidal rhetoric is not hyperbole, but an oath to annihilate Israel by any means,” he said.
“This is not about retaliation, or revenge for Hamas’ violence, it is Israel upholding the right to self-defence, ensuring that such horrors are never repeated,” he emphasized. Hamas is a jihadist organization “hell-bent” on Israel's destruction through the targeting of Israeli civilians, and the use of Gazan civilians as human shields. Despite this Council's intentions Hamas “does not care for your resolutions, or your demands”. Israel has already implemented humanitarian pauses during which Gazan civilians can temporarily evacuate the active war zone. Hamas, on the other hand, murders Gazans as they try to evacuate. Israel has approved the entry of nearly 1,400 trucks with thousands of tons worth of aid. Meanwhile, Hamas is holding food, fuel, and medical supplies for its terror machine.
Yesterday, Israel supplied neonatal incubators and medical supplies to Al-Shifa Hospital, he said. Just two days ago, Israel handed over 300 litres of fuel to Al-Shifa Hospital. Hamas prevented the hospital staff from accepting it. Hamas’ goal is to intensify and deteriorate the humanitarian situation in Gaza to broadcast Palestinian hardship to the world, and by doing so, exploit this very body to tie Israel's hands. Bringing the hostages home is Israel’s top priority. Israel will continue to do whatever it takes to accomplish this goal. “Should Hamas choose to lay down their arms, turn themselves in, and hand over the hostages unscathed, this war would end immediately,” he said.