(Bloomberg) -- The US blocked a United Nations Security Council resolution backing a cease-fire in Gaza as it pushes forward its own efforts to stop an Israeli assault on Rafah, where more than 1 million Palestinians have sought refuge.

Thirteen of 15 Security Council members voted in favor of the text proposed by Algeria, the only Arab nation currently sitting on the council. The US, which wields veto power, blocked the resolution, and the UK abstained. The draft demanded an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, warned about the forced displacement of Palestinians and called for the release of all hostages.

“The Security Council cannot afford passivity in face of the call for a cease-fire in Gaza,” Amar Bendjama, the Algerian envoy to the UN, said ahead of the vote Tuesday. “Silence and contempt is not a viable option. Now is the time for action and the time for truth.”


The US blocked the resolution after arguing it would interfere with efforts by President Joe Biden and his Qatari and Egyptian counterparts to broker a deal that would lead to the release of hostages held by Hamas, which is designated a terrorist organization by the US and European Union, and boost aid delivery into Gaza. Qatar said over the weekend that those negotiations have stalled.

Read more: US Warns Israel Against an Attack on Rafah in UN Draft

“Sometimes hard diplomacy takes more time than any of us might like,” US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said before the UN vote. “Any action this council takes right now should help, not hinder, these sensitive and ongoing negotiations. And we believe that the resolution on the table right now would, in fact, negatively impact those negotiations.”

The US alternative calls for a temporary cease-fire and the release of all hostages held by Hamas while also warning against an Israeli assault on Rafah unless arrangements are made for civilians there to be moved to relative safety. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that will be done without explaining how.

The decision to call for a truce “as soon as practicable” marks a shift in policy for Washington, which has voted against multiple texts that openly called for a cease-fire since the Oct. 7 attacks by Hamas.

The war with Hamas began when the militant group invaded southern Israel, carrying out attacks that left about 1,200 people dead and resulted in some 250 people being kidnapped. Since the fighting began, more than 29,000 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, according to health officials in the Hamas-run territory.

More than half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people fled to the Rafah area in recent months as Israel concentrated its military operations on areas farther north. Israel has now warned it will launch a ground offensive in the region as soon as March unless hostages still held by Hamas are released. 

The US, European Union and other key Israeli allies have voiced strong criticism of a potential assault on Rafah. The US text warns that a ground offensive in the area would lead to “further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security,” according to a draft reviewed by Bloomberg News. 

The text also condemns calls by Israeli ministers for the resettlement of Palestinians, rejecting “any attempt at demographic or territorial change in Gaza,” and endorses a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestine conflict. 

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