Almost six months after the start of the war, the UN Security Council called for an “immediate ceasefire” in the Gaza Strip for the first time. In addition, the most powerful body in the United Nations is demanding the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by the Islamist Hamas. The United States, the veto power, abstained from the vote, thereby enabling the resolution to be adopted. The 14 remaining members of the committee voted in favor.

The decision, which is binding under international law, further increases international pressure on the conflict parties Israel and Hamas. However, it is questionable whether or to what extent the resolution will have any influence on decisions made by the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu or Hamas regarding the further course of the war.

Efforts to get the UN Security Council to call for a ceasefire have so far failed, mainly due to resistance from the veto power, the USA. Since the war began in October last year, Washington, Israel’s closest ally, has opposed a ceasefire and vetoed resolutions three times. At best, US representatives called for shorter “ceasefires”.

The short text of the resolution adopted focuses on the call for “an immediate ceasefire for the (Islamic fasting month) of Ramadan, respected by all sides.” This should lead to a “permanent and sustainable ceasefire,” the text said. The draft resolution also calls for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and emphasizes the “great concern given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip.” Aid deliveries to the civilian population must be expanded.

The resolution was introduced by non-permanent members of the UN body. A first planned vote on Saturday was postponed at short notice in order to gain more time for negotiations. A diplomat explained in advance that intensive negotiations had taken place, particularly with the USA.

A resolution in the UN Security Council needs the votes of at least 9 of the 15 member states. In addition, there may be no veto from the permanent members USA, Russia, China, France or Great Britain. Security Council decisions are binding under international law. If an affected state ignores them, the body can impose sanctions – which is not seen as likely in the case of Israel because of the US’s veto power.

Top representatives of the European Union expressed their delight at the UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip and called for its implementation. “The implementation of this resolution is crucial for the protection of all civilians,” wrote EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on the social network X. EU Council President Charles Michel and Foreign Affairs Representative Josep Borrell also made similar statements.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres made a similar statement. He called for implementation of the UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza war and the release of all hostages. “Failure would be unforgivable,” warned Guterres on the platform X, formerly Twitter.

Israeli delegation does not travel to the USA

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has canceled the planned trip of an Israeli delegation to the USA. This was announced by the office of the head of government in Jerusalem. It is a reaction to the US abstention from a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip for the first time.

Strategic Affairs Minister Ron Dermer and National Security Adviser Zachi Hanegbi were scheduled to fly to the US to meet with senior government officials. They wanted to present the Israeli guests with alternatives to a ground offensive planned by Israel in the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which was rejected by the USA and other allies. Another topic of the talks would have been Washington’s proposals for expanding humanitarian aid for the suffering population in the Gaza Strip.

The US government was openly irritated by the cancellation of the visit to Washington. “I have to tell you, (…), we are quite perplexed,” said the National Security Council’s communications director, John Kirby, at the White House, referring to the cancellation by Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Kirby said the prime minister’s office seemed to indicate through its public statements that the U.S. side had changed course toward Israel. “We do not have that.” It also seems as if the Prime Minister’s Office wants to give the impression that there are differences when there is no need for that.

Negotiations on a ceasefire continue

Ramadan began around March 10th. Hopes that there could be an agreement between the conflicting parties on a ceasefire and the further release of hostages by the beginning of the fasting month, thanks to mediation efforts by Qatar, the USA and others, were not fulfilled.

US Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield said they were close to an agreement. Hamas must accept the current offer, she demanded. “A ceasefire can begin with the release of the first hostage. So we must now put pressure on Hamas to do the same,” she continued.

UNRWA reports: Too little help for people in Gaza

Despite urgent warnings of famine in the Gaza Strip, according to the United Nations, aid deliveries are no longer arriving in the embattled coastal strip. The UN Palestinian relief agency UNRWA said that an average of 157 trucks carrying aid supplies had driven into the Gaza Strip every day this month – up to and including March 23. “This is still far below the operational capabilities of both border crossings and the goal of 500 per day,” said the statement from the organization, against which Israel recently raised terrorism allegations.

Israeli authorities did not allow urgent food deliveries to the north of the Gaza Strip. UNRWA’s corresponding requests were all rejected. Aid organizations have repeatedly warned that hunger in the Gaza Strip has reached catastrophic proportions. According to the head of UNRWA, Israel no longer allows the aid agency to send humanitarian convoys to the north of the Gaza Strip. UNRWA is being prevented from bringing life-saving aid to northern Gaza, wrote Philippe Lazzarini on the platform X, formerly Twitter.

Germany supports UNRWA with millions

The federal government is supporting the UN Palestinian relief organization UNRWA with 45 million euros. The Federal Foreign Office and the Ministry for Economic Cooperation (BMZ) announced in Berlin that the money will be made available for the organization’s regional work in Jordan, Lebanon, Syria and the West Bank. The contributions are part of regular regional support for UNRWA.

According to the Foreign Office, it remains unclear whether UNRWA’s frozen support for the Gaza Strip will be resumed. The review is still ongoing here.

Of the total of 45 million euros, 23 million euros come from the Federal Foreign Office and 22 million euros from the BMZ. This provides 15 million euros to support basic health and education services for Palestine refugees in Jordan and Lebanon and 7 million euros for the “Cash for Work” program for Palestine refugees in Lebanon, both ministries said. The Foreign Office is financing aid for Palestine refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Syria as well as food aid in the West Bank.

UNRWA hit the headlines because Israel accused a dozen of its employees of being involved in the terrorist acts carried out by the Islamist Hamas on October 7th. Several Western countries initially stopped payments, including the two largest donors, the USA and Germany.

Guterres advocates a two-state solution

UN Secretary-General António Guterres has once again spoken out in favor of a two-state solution to the Middle East conflict. “Israelis must see their legitimate security needs realized and Palestinians must see their legitimate aspirations for a fully independent, viable and sovereign state realized,” he said in Jordan’s capital Amman. This is the only way to permanently end the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians.

Given the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip, Guterres called on the Israeli government to open more border crossings for aid deliveries. “But we have to face the facts. In a war as bloody as this one, there will be no sustainable humanitarian solution,” said Guterres at a meeting with Jordan’s Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi. This requires a humanitarian ceasefire. He acknowledged that nothing justifies the “heinous October 7 attacks and Hamas hostage-taking.” At the same time, he said: “Nothing justifies the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”