THE United Nations Security Council has demanded an "immediate ceasefire" in Gaza. 

It is the body's first demand to halt fighting since the bombardment of Gaza began following Hamas' attacks on Israel on October 7. 

While the UK voted in favour, the United States abstained on the resolution, which called for a ceasefire during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which ends on April 9. 

The resolution also demanded the release of all hostages taken captive by Hamas. 

Because Ramadan ends early next month, the ceasefire demand would last for just two weeks, though the draft says the pause in fighting should lead “to a permanent sustainable ceasefire”.

The vote comes after Russia and China vetoed a US-sponsored resolution on Friday that would have supported “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israeli-Hamas conflict.

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The United States warned that the resolution approved on Monday could hurt negotiations – by the US, Egypt and Qatar – to halt hostilities.

The resolution, put forward by the 10 elected council members, is backed by Russia and China and the 22-nation Arab Group at the United Nations.

A statement issued on Friday night by the Arab Group appealed to all 15 council members “to act with unity and urgency” and vote for the resolution “to halt the bloodshed, preserve human lives and avert further human suffering and destruction”.

“It is long past time for a ceasefire,” the Arab Group said.

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Since the start of the war, the Security Council has adopted two resolutions on the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza, but none has called for a ceasefire.

The SNP's leader at Westminster, Stephen Flynn, said the UK Government should end all arms sales to Israel in the wake of the UN's decision. 

“Imminent famine coupled with the death and injury of 100,000 people appears to have finally forced the UK government to find a backbone and vote for an immediate ceasefire," he said.

"The resolution must now be implemented by applying maximum diplomatic pressure in the pursuit of peace.

“A failure to act now would be unforgivable but the fence-sitting of the US would suggest that Israel may well be free to continue to do as it pleases.

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“The best way to increase the diplomatic pressure for peace would be to back up our words with actions and immediately end all arms sales to Israel.

"The SNP has remained absolute in our calls for an immediate ceasefire, and are relieved to see most world leaders finally following suit."

More than 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza have been killed during the fighting, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The agency does not differentiate between civilians and combatants in its count but says women and children make up two-thirds of the dead.

Gaza also faces a dire humanitarian emergency, with a report from an international authority on hunger warning on March 18 that “famine is imminent” in northern Gaza and that escalation of the war could push half of the territory’s 2.3 million people to the brink of starvation.