The resolution also emphasised the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law and urged the unconditional release of all captive civilians as well as the unhindered supply of essential provisions to Gaza.
New Delhi: Even as heavy airstrikes accompanied Israel’s announcement of “expanded” ground operations in the Gaza strip and the number of Palestinians killed by the Israeli military crossed 7,000, India abstained on a resolution adopted by the UN General Assembly calling for a humanitarian truce, choosing not to back the international community’s demand that there be an immediate halt to the violence.
The resolution garnered 120 affirmative votes, while only 14 countries, including Israel, the United States, Hungary and five Pacific island states, voted against. India was among the 45 countries – most from the Western military bloc – that chose to abstain in the vote at an emergency session of the UNGA in New York on Friday afternoon.
India was the only stand out in South Asia, with all the other seven nations voting in favour of the resolution.
The Jordanian-proposed resolution called for a humanitarian “truce” and emphasized the importance of adhering to international humanitarian law. It urged the unconditional release of all captive civilians and unhindered supply of essential provisions to Gaza.
It was sponsored by many Arab and Islamic countries, including key states like Egypt, Oman and UAE. Russia also sponsored the resolution.
India was also among those countries which unsuccessfully voted in favour of a West-backed draft amendment that sought to explicitly condemn Hamas by name.
The Canadian proposed amendment, backed by the United States and the West, sought to introduce language specifically condemning Hamas and the taking of hostages. The amendment received 88 votes in favour, 55 against, and 23 abstentions. However, it was not adopted because it did not secure the necessary two-thirds majority of votes from the members ‘present and voting’. Nations who abstain are counted as not voting.
India voted in favour of the Canadian amendment, which was opposed by all the Arab nations, except Tunisia.
In its ‘explanation of vote’ on the main resolution, India’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Yojna Patel noted that “casualties in the ongoing conflict in Gaza are a telling, serious and continuing concern. Civilians, especially women and children are paying with their lives,” but did not actually say why India had abstained. She said that India is “deeply concerned at the deteriorating security situation and astounding loss of civilian lives in the ongoing conflict” and that “escalation of hostilities in the region will only exacerbate the humanitarian crisis” but confined her call to asking “all parties to display the utmost responsibility.”
Despite backing an amendment condemning Hamas by name, India’s representative chose not to name the organisation:
“The terror attacks in Israel on 7th October were shocking and deserve condemnation. Our thoughts are also with those taken hostages. We call for their immediate and unconditional release. Terrorism is a malignancy and knows no borders, nationality, or race. The world should not buy into any justification of terror acts. Let us keep aside differences, unite and adopt a zero-tolerance approach to terrorism.”
The emergency session was called under the “Uniting for Peace” mandate, allowing the 193-member General Assembly to take action when the UN Security Council is gridlocked due to the veto power exercised by its permanent members.
Mounting casualties, deadlock in Security Council
Over the past two weeks, the United States, China, and Russia have employed their veto authority to prevent the adoption of any resolution addressing the ongoing crisis in West Asia.
On October 18, the United States vetoed a draft resolution tabled by Brazil and the UAE in the Security Council, which called for a “humanitarian pause”. A Russian draft had already failed to get the requisite number of nine votes to be adopted.
A similar scenario unfolded a week later on Oct 25 when China and Russia vetoed a US-led draft resolution. Russia’s second attempt to secure the adoption of a resolution also fell short of the necessary votes.
The crisis in the West Asian region escalated when Hamas launched an incursion from Gaza into southern Israel, resulting in over 1200 casualties, including hundreds of civilians. Apart from capturing an unspecified number of Israeli soldiers, Hamas also abducted more than 220 Israeli and foreign nationals and took them back into Gaza – a violation of international humantarian law.
Since then, Israel has been conducting extensive airstrikes in Gaza, leading to 7,326 casualties (as of October 27), according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel has also imposed a blockade on the supply of food, fuel, electricity, medical supplies and water, with only a limited amount of food and medical aid reaching Gaza through a small number of trucks allowed in via the Rafah crossing on the border with Egypt.
India’s first response to the violence came in the form of a tweet by Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed “solidarity” with Israel on October 7. This was further reiterated by Modi in a phone call with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel.
More than a week later, he spoke with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas following the devastating explosion at the Al-Ahli Baptist Hospital in Gaza. India took the opportunity to reiterate its traditional support for the Palestinian cause and the two-state solution.
More than 400 civilians were killed, according to Palestinian health authorities. Israel has denied bombing the hospital but the video evidence it proffered to back its claim that the deadly explosion at Al-Ahli was the result of a misfired Palestinian rocket has been debunked by digital forensics and technical analysis.
This week, Modi had a conversation with Jordan’s King Abdullah. It was the first time that India referred to the need for an “early solution” to the humanitarian and security situation. India is one of the largest developing countries that has not called for a “ceasefire” or any halt to hostilities in the volatile region.
Just before the vote, Jordan’s permanent representative to the UN Mahmoud Daifallah Hamoud described Canada’s amendment to the draft resolution that addressed a humanitarian situation, as an attempt to perpetrate “whitewashing” of Israel’s atrocities against the Palestinian people. He reminded the UNGA that they were “witnessing a ground invasion by Israel as we speak”.
Naming Hamas and Israel
Canadian permanent representative Bob Rae contended that naming Hamas would be “fair” and “factual”, asserting that the amendment “names what has to be named”.
Pakistan’s envoy Munir Akram pointed out that the Canadian amendment should also name Israel as well for the retaliatory airstrikes. “Israel needs to be named too, if you are to be fair and equitable and just,” he said. Akram said that it would be better not to name any sides in a resolution that was just calling attention to the humanitarian crisis.
The Israeli ambassador Gilad Erdan said that the UN hold “not even one ounce of legitimacy”. “The only way to destroy Hamas is to root them out. Why are you not holding Hamas accountable,” he asked.
The Israeli envoy disputed statistics about casualties in Gaza, claiming that Hamas was propping up the numbers. “We know there is no humanitarian crisis in accordance with international humanitarian law,” he said.
While US President Joe Biden has also questioned the extent of civilian casualties in Gaza, the UN has vouched for the credibility of the death toll the Palestinian side has reported from Gaza in the past. On Thursday, the Palestinian health ministry in Gaza published the names and details of 6,747 Palestinians killed in Gaza since Israeli airstrikes started on October 7. The number of children killed was 2,655.
UNGA resolution condemned ‘terrorism and indiscriminate attacks’
Titled “Protection of civilians and upholding legal and humanitarian obligations”, the UNGA resolution condemned “all acts of violence against Palestinian and Israeli civilians including all acts of terrorism and indiscriminate attacks” and that all parties “immediately and fully comply” with obligations under international humanitarian and human rights laws, “particularly in regard to the protection of civilians and civilian objects.”
It also urged the protection of humanitarian personnel, the wounded, and humanitarian facilities and assets, and to enable and facilitate humanitarian access for essential supplies and services to reach all civilians in need in the Gaza Strip.
Furthermore, the resolution called for rescinding of the order by Israel, “the occupying Power”, for Palestinian civilians, UN staff and humanitarian workers to evacuate all areas in the Gaza Strip north of Wadi Gaza and relocate to the south.
‘Release all civilians’
The General Assembly also called for the “immediate and unconditional release” of all civilians being illegally held captive, demanding their safety, well-being and humane treatment in compliance with international law.
It also reaffirmed that a “just and lasting solution” to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be achieved by peaceful means, based on the relevant UN resolutions and in accordance with international law, and on the basis of the two-state solution.
India, in its explanation of vote, also reiterated its support for a negotiated solution to the problem:
“India has always supported a negotiated Two-State solution to the Israel-Palestine issue leading to the establishment of a sovereign, independent and viable State of Palestine living within secure and recognized borders, side-by-side in peace with Israel. For this, we urge the parties to de-escalate, eschew violence and work towards creating conditions for an early resumption of direct peace negotiations.”
(With inputs from news.un.org)