Gaza conflict: United States blocks United Nations ceasefire resolution

The United States said today it opposes a proposed UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the conflict between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, reiterating that it could interfere with the Biden administration’s efforts to end the hostilities.

France drafted the resolution after the US blocked at least four attempts to have the council issue a press statement calling for an end to the violence, giving the same reason.

Diplomats said all other council members supported the statement.

A press statement requires agreement by all 15 council members, but a resolution requires only at least nine “yes” votes and no veto by the United States or any of the four other permanent members.

A French government spokesman had said “very intense discussions” were taking place with the United States today about the proposed resolution, which UN diplomats said calls for a ceasefire and humanitarian aid for Gaza.

But a spokesperson for the US Mission to the United Nations said later: “We’ve been clear and consistent that we are focused on intensive diplomatic efforts under way to bring an end to the violence and that we will not support actions that we believe undermine efforts to de-escalate.”

The White House said that in a phone call today President Joe Biden told Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu that he expected “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a cease-fire”. But Netanyahu said later he was “determined to continue this operation until its aim is met”.

It was not clear if, or when, France would circulate the draft resolution to all council members or call for a vote, which would likely lead to a US veto.

French President Emmanuel Macron and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi held talks in Paris earlier this week and they had a meeting yesterday with Jordan’s King Abdullah II via video conference on the Gaza conflict.

In a joint statement, France, Egypt and Jordan said they “called on the parties to immediately agree on a ceasefire” and would work with the UN and other partners to ensure humanitarian help for the population of Gaza.

The 193-member General Assembly scheduled an open meeting on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict tomorrow and about a dozen ministers were expected to attend in person.

Assembly spokesman Brenden Varma said today that dozens of countries were expected to speak during the day-long session, but no statement or resolution was expected.

Israel has launched hundreds of airstrikes that it says have targeted Hamas’ infrastructure, and Hamas and other militant groups embedded in residential areas have fired some 4,000 rockets at Israeli cities, with hundreds falling short and most of the rest intercepted or landing in open areas.

At least 227 Palestinians have been killed, including 64 children and 38 women, with 1,620 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which does not break the numbers down into fighters and civilians. Hamas and Islamic Jihad say at least 20 of their fighters have been killed, while Israel says the number is at least 130. Some 58,000 Palestinians have fled their homes.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy, a 16-year-old girl and a soldier, have been killed.

Since the fighting began, Gaza’s infrastructure, already weakened by a 14-year blockade, has rapidly deteriorated. Medical supplies, water and fuel for electricity are running low in the territory, on which Israel and Egypt imposed the blockade after Hamas gained power in 2007.

Israeli attacks have damaged at least 18 hospitals and clinics and destroyed one health facility, the World Health Organisation said. Nearly half of all essential drugs have run out.

Among the buildings levelled by Israeli airstrikes was one housing The Associated Press’ Gaza office and those of other media outlets.

The fighting, the worst since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas, has ignited protests around the world and inspired Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories to call a general strike yesterday. It was a rare collective action that spanned boundaries central to decades of failed peace efforts. Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and Gaza in the 1967 Mideast war, territories the Palestinians want for their future state.

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