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Thursday, February 29, 2024

UN General Assembly votes by large majority for immediate humanitarian ceasefire during emergency session

The UN General Assembly met on Tuesday afternoon in Emergency Special Session on the decades long Israel-Palestine conflict and as the ongoing crisis in Gaza shows no signs of abating.  

“immediate humanitarian ceasefire”, the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and well as “ensuring humanitarian access”.

It passed with a large majority of 153 in favour and 10 against, with 23 abstentions.

The resolution also reiterated the General Assembly’s demand that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, “notably with regard to the protection of civilians”.

Prior to the resolution, two amendments making specific reference to extremist group Hamas were voted down by members

For: 153

Against: 10

Abstaining: 23

The resolution has passed by a large majority, securing the needed two-thirds of members. Widespread applause rings out around the General Assembly Hall.

Text of the adopted resolution


Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations 

The General Assembly, 

Guided by the purposes and principles of the Charter of the United Nations,

Recalling its resolutions regarding the question of Palestine,

Recalling also all relevant Security Council resolutions,

Taking note of the letter dated 6 December 2023 from the Secretary-General, under Article 99 of the Charter of the United Nations, addressed to the President of the Security Council,

Taking note also of the letter dated 7 December 2023 from the CommissionerGeneral of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East addressed to the President of the General Assembly,

Expressing grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population, and emphasizing that the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations must be protected in accordance with international humanitarian law,

1. Demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire;

2. Reiterates its demand that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, notably with regard to the protection of civilians;

3. Demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access;

4. Decides to adjourn the tenth emergency special session temporarily and to authorize the President of the General Assembly at its most recent session to resume its meeting upon request from Member States.

Amendments fail to pass

The second draft amendment from the US sees 84 in favour, 62 against and 25 abstaining. Again, the amendment fails.

The first draft amendment has secured 89 for, 61 against and 20 abstentions. This means the Austrian amendment fails under the two-thirds rule.

A two-thirds majority is required for an adoption of the resolution. The voting process is about to begin, and that rule applies to the amendments as well, explains General Assembly President Francis.

‘One singular priority’: Assembly President

General Assembly President Dennis Francis addresses the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session meeting on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
General Assembly President Dennis Francis addresses the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session meeting on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe
General Assembly President Dennis Francis addresses the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session meeting on the situation in the Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Declaring the 10th Emergency Special Session open once more, Assembly President Dennis Francis highlighted the new request to meet once again in light of the worsening humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Mr. Francis opened his statement, saying there was now “an onslaught on civilians, the breakdown of humanitarian systems and profound disrespect for international law and international humanitarian law” being shown by combatants.

Even war has rules and we must not deviate from core principles and values, he said.

It is high time for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, he said.

Assembly President Francis underscored the urgency to bring to an end the suffering of innocent civilians.

He reiterated the demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

“We have one singular priority – only one – to save lives,” he stressed.

“Stop this violence now”, he said.

A wide view of the 45th plenary meeting of the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
A wide view of the 45th plenary meeting of the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”.
A wide view of the 45th plenary meeting of the resumed 10th Emergency Special Session of the General Assembly on “Illegal Israeli actions in occupied East Jerusalem and the rest of the Occupied Palestinian Territory”. UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The key points in common, include an immediate humanitarian ceasefire; demanding that all parties comply with their obligations under international law, notably regarding protection of civilians; and a demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access.

Internally displaced people rest at a camp near the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.
Internally displaced people rest at a camp near the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza.
Internally displaced people rest at a camp near the Nasser Hospital in Khan Younis, in southern Gaza. © UNFPA/Bisan Ouda
The amendments

Austria has proposed an amendment, that inserts the phrase, “held by Hamas and other groups” in relation to the hostages still being held by Palestinian militants in Gaza, as well as inserting the word “immediate” in reference to ensuring humanitarian access.

The US amendment reflects its continued point of contention regarding Hamas, which it designates as a terrorist group, calling for wording to be inserted “unequivocally” rejecting and condemning “the heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas that took place in Israel starting 7 October 2023 and the taking of hostages” as the first operative paragraph.

Not binding, but influential

Resolutions by the General Assembly, though not legally binding on nations, do carry immense moral weight, representing the collective resolve of the UN membership on a matter of grave importance.

These resolutions also lead to key legal frameworks and standards, such as the over 60 human rights instruments underpinning the international rights regime, which emanate from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

The Declaration was proclaimed by the General Assembly in 1948, and by itself is not binding.

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