The United States on Friday vetoed a UN Security Council resolution demanding immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.
The resolution, drafted by the United Arab Emirates and backed by more than 100 countries, gained support from 13 of the 15 Security Council members, with Britain abstaining.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter to urge the organization's most powerful body to call for a ceasefire.
Article 99 states, "The secretary general may bring to the attention of the Security Council any matter which in his opinion may threaten the maintenance of international peace and security."
The text of the resolution called for an immediate halt of fighting between Hamas and Israel and the protection of both Israeli and Palestinian civilians under international humanitarian law. It also demanded the "immediate and unconditional release of all hostages."
Palestine's ambassador to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, told the council that the result of the vote was "disastrous," adding: "Millions of Palestinian lives hang in the balance. Every single one of them is sacred, worth saving."
He stated that it was "beyond regrettable" that the Security Council was hindered from fulfilling its duties — via a newly adopted resolution — amidst the crisis.
Rather than enabling the council to execute its charge by at least issuing a definitive appeal, after two months of mass killings and atrocities, "the war criminals are given more time to perpetrate their crimes," Mansour remarked.
"How can this be justified? How can anyone justify the slaughter of an entire people?" he added.
Speaking after the vote, U.S. deputy permanent representative to the United Nations Robert Wood said the resolution was "rushed" and "unrealistic."
Explaining Britain's abstention from the draft resolution, Barbara Woodward, the British permanent representative to the United Nations, said her country could not vote in favor of a resolution that fails to condemn the atrocities Hamas committed on innocent Israeli civilians on Oct. 7.
French permanent representative to the United Nations Nicolas de Riviere said the UN chief was correct to raise the alarm over the humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Gaza.
"It is for this reason that France voted in favor of this resolution and it is for that reason that we plead for an immediate and lasting humanitarian truce," he added.
At the Security Council's emergency meeting Friday morning on the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question, Guterres issued a stark warning that "the conditions for the effective delivery of humanitarian aid no longer exist."
According to the UN chief, more than 17,000 Palestinians have reportedly been killed since the start of Israel's military operations, including more than 4,000 women and 7,000 children. Tens of thousands are reported to have been injured, and many are missing, presumably under the rubble.
Guterres also warned that Gazans are running out of food. He cited the World Food Programme as saying that there is "a serious risk of starvation and famine."
The top UN official also warned that "Gaza's health system is collapsing while needs are escalating."
"The eyes of the world — and the eyes of history — are watching," demanding that the international community "do everything possible" to end the ordeal of the people of Gaza, he said.