What's In Blue

The Middle East, including the Palestinian Question: Yesterday’s Adoption and Today’s Briefing and Consultations

This morning (26 March), the Security Council will convene for its regular monthly open briefing, followed by closed consultations, on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”. Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process Tor Wennesland is the expected briefer.

Yesterday morning (25 March), the Security Council adopted resolution 2728, demanding an immediate ceasefire for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which started on 10 March, leading to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. The resolution, which was put forward by the Council’s elected members (E10), also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain. Resolution 2728 emphasises the need to expand humanitarian assistance and reinforce the protection of civilians in the Gaza Strip. It also reiterates the Council’s demand to lift “all barriers to the provision of humanitarian assistance at scale”.


Following the 7 October 2023 large-scale attacks against Israel led by Hamas, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have carried out massive airstrikes on the Gaza Strip. On 27 October 2023, the IDF also launched a ground operation initially focused on northern Gaza and later extended to most other areas of the Gaza Strip. Figures provided by Palestinian officials in Gaza cited by OCHA indicate that, as at 25 March, at least 32,333 Palestinians had been killed. Large areas of Gaza have been bombed to the ground, with Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Martin Griffiths recently warning that over half a million people in Gaza are “on the brink of famine, and children are dying of hunger”. According to figures provided by Israeli authorities cited by OCHA, more than 1,200 Israelis and foreign nationals have been killed in Israel, the vast majority on 7 October 2023. As at 21 February, an estimated 134 Israelis and foreign nationals remain captive in Gaza. (For background, see the brief on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question” in our January Monthly Forecast.)

Resolution 2728

Yesterday’s adoption was the tenth time the Security Council voted on a draft resolution on the war between Israel and Hamas. Resolution 2728 is the first resolution demanding a ceasefire—albeit a time-limited one—to be adopted by the Council during the war. Only two of the draft resolutions previously voted on were adopted—resolution 2712 of 15 November 2023 and resolution 2720 of 22 December 2023—neither of which called for a ceasefire.

The US, which has provided Israel with political and military support throughout the war, has until recently opposed demands for an immediate ceasefire—including by vetoing two draft resolutions that called directly for this measure. While the US still opposes unconditional demands for an immediate ceasefire, it recently introduced a qualified use of this term during negotiations at the Security Council and in its political messaging. Nevertheless, the US has retained its position that any product adopted by the Council must not be in contradiction with the outcome that it seeks from the indirect talks between Hamas and Israel facilitated by Egypt, Qatar, and the US, namely, that a halt in the fighting be tied to the release of the hostages.

Negotiations on resolution 2728 proved difficult, and overlapped with the final stages and the voting on a draft resolution authored by the US that would have “determine[d] the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire”, and towards that end “unequivocally support[ed]” diplomatic efforts “to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages”. (For background on the US initiative, see our 22 March What’s in Blue story.)

It appears that, while diverging positions among the E10, as well as among the broader Council membership, characterised the negotiations on resolution 2728, these differences were eventually bridged through the compromise text tabled for adoption yesterday. It seems that, after a period of internal negotiations among the E10, Mozambique, as the E10 coordinator for the month of March, introduced the draft resolution to all Council members during the 18 March closed consultations on “The situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question”, which France requested in order to discuss next steps for the Council to address the crisis in Gaza.

The draft resolution featured—in two separate but consecutive paragraphs—a demand for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire during Ramadan leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire, and a demand for the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.

It seems that, among other issues, a minority of E10 members were concerned that putting forward a text that did not connect the two demands was likely to incur another US veto: these members were, therefore, not inclined to pursue action. Other members were apparently of the view that the Council should call for the two elements in their own right and avoid suggesting any conditionality, and were apparently ready to accept a US veto in pursuit of a draft resolution containing a clear call for a ceasefire.

On 21 March, the day before the vote on the US draft resolution, Mozambique placed the E10 draft text under silence procedure until 6 pm that evening. It seems that while silence was broken by the UK and the US, the draft resolution was put in blue unchanged later the same day. It appears that, due to continuing differences among E10 members, the E10 draft that was put in blue on 21 March was co-sponsored by only seven out of the ten elected members.

On Friday (22 March), the Security Council voted on the draft resolution submitted by the US. China and Russia vetoed the US draft, with Algeria also casting a negative vote. The draft text received 11 votes in favour and one abstention (Guyana). In its explanation of vote, the US indirectly referred to the elected members’ draft, saying that, “in its current form, that text fails to support sensitive diplomacy in the region”, and that it could give “Hamas an excuse to walk away from the deal on the table”. It seems, however, that engagement on the elected members’ draft resumed after the failure of the US draft. Although the Council was initially expected to vote on it on Friday afternoon, the vote was first postponed to Saturday morning (23 March), and then to yesterday, in order to allow further time for negotiations.

An apparent compromise was eventually reached by joining the two previously separate paragraphs, that demanded a ceasefire for Ramadan and the release of all hostages, into a single paragraph demanding “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a permanent sustainable ceasefire, and also demand[ing] the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, as well as ensuring humanitarian access to address their medical and other humanitarian needs”. The paragraph also demands that the parties comply with their international law obligations in relation to the people they detain. It seems that this arrangement, which was reflected in the draft in blue on 26 March, allowed members, including the US, to read into the text their different views of what the Council should demand of the conflict parties, with this version of the draft text being co-sponsored by all E10 members.

It seems, however, that shortly before the vote took place yesterday, and following a request by the US, the draft resolution in blue was further amended to replace the reference to a “permanent sustainable ceasefire”, with a reference to a “lasting sustainable ceasefire”. This led Russia to introduce an oral amendment before the vote on the whole draft resolution to replace the word “lasting” with the word “permanent” ahead of the reference to a sustainable ceasefire. The amendment failed to be adopted because it did not garner the required nine affirmative votes. The US voted against the amendment, while Algeria, China and Russia voted in favour. The remaining 11 Council members abstained. The Council then voted on the E10 draft text, which was adopted with 14 votes in favour and one abstention (US).

Today’s Briefing and Consultations

At today’s meeting, Wennesland is expected to provide an oral report on the implementation of resolution 2334 of 23 December 2016. Resolution 2334 stated that Israeli settlements constitute a “flagrant violation under international law” and demanded an end to all settlement activity. Resolution 2334 also called for immediate steps to prevent violence against civilians, including acts of terror, and called on both parties to refrain from provocative actions, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric. Today’s report on resolution 2334 is expected to cover developments in the past three months since the Secretary-General’s most recent report on resolution 2334, which covered the period from 20 September to 7 December 2023.

Wennesland and Council members are expected to welcome the adoption of resolution 2728 and call for its full implementation, as well as for compliance with resolutions previously adopted by the Security Council on the war, namely resolutions 2712 and 2720. In a 25 March statement posted on X (formerly Twitter) after the adoption of resolution 2728, Secretary-General António Guterres said that this resolution “must be implemented” and that failure to do so “would be unforgivable”.

Wennesland and Council members are also expected to express alarm at the dire humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip. The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report, which was issued on 18 March, said that famine is “imminent in the northern governorates of the Gaza Strip and projected to occur anytime between mid-March and May 2024”, with the entire population of Gaza facing high levels of acute food insecurity. In a 24 March post on X, UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) Commissioner-General Philippe Lazzarini said that Israeli authorities had informed the UN that they will no longer approve any UNRWA food convoys to northern Gaza, a situation which Lazzarini said would lead to the clock ticking “faster towards famine”. Today, Wennesland is likely to urge Israel to revoke this decision and underscore the need for safe and unhindered humanitarian access for UN humanitarian agencies and implementing partners. Consistent with recent messages from other senior UN officials, Wennesland may note that, while the opening on 12 March of a maritime corridor from Cyprus to Gaza is a welcome development, it should be seen as complementary and not as a substitute for land routes and entry points from Israel into Gaza.

Today, members are likely to condemn, and call for accountability for, all attacks against civilians and civilian objects. Members are also expected to reiterate their condemnations of the 7 October 2023 Hamas-led attacks and their rejection of any forcible displacement of Palestinians.

While the ongoing war in Gaza is likely to be a focus of today’s meeting, members are also expected to focus on the deteriorating situation in the West Bank. Wennesland and Council members are likely to urge Israel to cease all settlement activity and stress that settlements erode the possibility of achieving a two-state solution. Wennesland may reiterate his 7 March statement condemning the Israeli authorities’ reported advancement on 6 March of plans for over 3,400 housing units in settlements in the West Bank. Several members may also echo the EU’s  condemnation, on 24 March, of the 22 March announcement by Israeli Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich that over 800 hectares of land in the West Bank have been declared as “state lands”, a decision which is expected to set the ground for more settlement activity. Today, some participants may also condemn settler violence and refer to recent measures adopted by several states—including Council members France, the UK, and the US—imposing sanctions on settlers.

Today, Council members are also expected to stress the importance of upholding the historic status quo at the holy sites in Jerusalem and refraining from provocations, incitement, and inflammatory rhetoric.

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