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U.N. approves aid, stops short of calling for Gaza cease-fire due to U.S. opposition

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

The U.N. Security Council finally approved a resolution about the 11-week-long conflict in Gaza after much negotiation. It stopped short of urging a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas. Instead, it calls for more humanitarian assistance to reach the area. NPR diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen joins us. Michele, thanks for being with us.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Nice to be here, Scott.

SIMON: Maybe the news here is what this resolution does not call for, which is a cease-fire. Can you tell us why?

KELEMEN: Yeah, I mean, the U.S. opposes it. Before this vote, it had actually vetoed U.N. calls for a cease-fire. And U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield says diplomats worked hard all week to get this latest draft to a place where the U.S. could abstain and let it go through. Take a listen to what she had to say to reporters after the resolution was adopted.

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LINDA THOMAS-GREENFIELD: The resolution is not perfect. We were appalled that some council members still refuse to condemn Hamas' horrific terrorist attack on October 7, which set so much heartbreak and suffering in motion.

KELEMEN: You know, Scott, while she says the U.S. doesn't support a cease-fire because Israel has the right to go after Hamas, she says Israel is willing to pause fighting, as it did for a week last month, if Hamas releases more hostages. That's diplomacy that's going on outside of the chambers of the U.N. Security Council. But inside the chamber, the U.S. has gotten a lot of flak for its position on this situation, both, you know, around the world but also here in the United States.

SIMON: What's the resolution actually do?

KELEMEN: So it calls for urgent steps to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access across Gaza. And it talks about creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities. That's kind of the broad language in there. The ambassador from the United Arab Emirates, Lana Nusseibeh, says she thinks it will make a difference on the ground, and it will help to get more aid into Gaza, which she says is urgent. But it definitely falls short of what she had hoped to get. Here's what she said after the vote.

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LANA NUSSEIBEH: It is not lost on us that while today we start building a humanitarian architecture that responds to an intolerable situation, we are still unable to stop the war. It is not lost on us that despite the incalculable damage visited upon them with impunity, Palestinians are asked to accept that diplomacy is the art of what is possible.

KELEMEN: The art of what's possible - so getting this resolution through, which doesn't call for a cease-fire but does, she says, offer a glimmer of hope for Palestinians right now.

SIMON: And, Michele, please tell us about the U.N. sounding more alerts about the dire conditions there in Gaza.

KELEMEN: Yeah. I mean, the U.N. has been warning that about a quarter of the population - that's half a million people - face hunger and starvation. The U.N. secretary general says the health system is on its knees. Hospitals in the north are barely operating, and those in the south are over capacity. And, you know, he said that humanitarian workers who have served in war zones all over the world are telling him that they have just never seen anything like this.

SIMON: Let's look ahead at events just over the horizon. Are there going to be more efforts to try to get the United Nations more involved in Gaza?

KELEMEN: Well, that's the idea - to have a U.N. coordinator overseeing the aid operation and then reporting back to the Security Council. So there will likely be more debates and probably more pressure on the U.S. to change its stance.

SIMON: NPR's diplomatic correspondent Michele Kelemen, thanks so much.

KELEMEN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Michele Kelemen has been with NPR for two decades, starting as NPR's Moscow bureau chief and now covering the State Department and Washington's diplomatic corps. Her reports can be heard on all NPR News programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.