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The United States was looking increasingly isolated on the world stage on Tuesday after a resounding vote at the UN general assembly calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.

Cheers and clapping echoed around the general assembly chamber in New York as the emergency vote was announced. A thumping 153 member states out of the 193 total membership backed the resolution, with only 10 including the US, Israel and Austria voting against, and 23 – including the UK and Germany – abstaining.

The Palestinians had been hoping for an emphatic result as a demonstration of the unequivocal global desire for an end to Israel’s bombardment of Gaza – and they got it. By contrast, the previous UN resolution calling for a “humanitarian truce” on 27 October attracted 120 votes in favor, 14 against, with 45 abstentions.

The vote highlighted the stiffening consensus around the world for the need for a stop to Israel’s relentless assault on Gaza which has left more than 18,000 Palestinians dead. Reports indicate that up to 70% of the fatalities have been women and children.

Tuesday’s adopted resolution expressed “grave concern over the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and the suffering of the Palestinian civilian population”. It called for protection for both Israeli and Palestinian civilians under international law and demanded the immediate release of all hostages.

An almost identically-worded resolution proposed at the UN security council on Friday was vetoed by the US, underlining the growing isolation of the Biden administration. The US president has extended staunch support for Israel in the wake of the 7 October Hamas attack that killed nearly 1,200 people, mainly civilians, to a degree that now leaves him exposed internationally.

Two earlier proposed amendments, one from the US injecting condemnation of the “heinous terrorist attacks by Hamas” and another from Austria specifying that the hostages were “held by Hamas and other groups”, both failed to receive the necessary two-thirds support.

There were signs before the vote was called that Biden might be tentatively moving towards a more critical posture towards Israel. At a 2024 re-election campaign fundraiser in Washington he warned the Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he was losing international support for the war on Hamas – a danger that paradoxically now equally applies to Biden himself.

The Palestinian envoy to the UN, Riyad Mansour, described the general assembly vote as an expression of public sentiment which the US could not afford to ignore.

UN general assembly adopts resolution demanding immediate ceasefire in Gaza. Photograph: Anadolu/Getty Images

“It is our collective duty to continue on this path until we see an end to this aggression against our people, to see this war stopping against our people. It is our duty to save lives,” he told reporters.

Egypt, which co-sponsored the resolution on behalf of the 22-member Arab group of nations, gave a stark warning of the consequences of continuing military action in Gaza. The Egyptian ambassador to the UN, Osama Mahmoud Abdelkhalek Mahmoud, said that perpetration of the war could lead to “full-fledged catastrophe” and would mean that “genocide will be used as a tool for war”.

Munir Akram, the UN ambassador for Pakistan, decried the war as “one-sided slaughter” and said Israel was more to blame for the conflagration than Hamas. “When you deny people freedom and dignity, when you humiliate and trap them in an open-air prison, where you kill them as if they were beasts, they become very angry and they do to others what was done to them,” he said.

Gilad Erdan, the Israeli UN representative, denounced the resolution for failing even to mention Hamas. He called the group that attacked civilians on 7 October “Hamas Nazis”, and said a vote for the ceasefire resolution was a vote for the “survival of Jihadist terror and the continued suffering of the people of Gaza”.

Coming face to face with a world largely united in opposition to its stance, the US delegation attempted to strike a balance between support for Israel and concern for Palestinian civilians. “Israel, like every single country on earth, has the right and the responsibility to defend its people from acts of terrorism,” said the US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

She went on: “Israel must avoid mass displacement of civilians in the south of Gaza, and it must ensure sufficient humanitarian assistance to those who have fled violence.”

Source: Ed Pilkington