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How UNSC may be trying to avoid US veto on Gaza ceasefire

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UN Security Council members were in intense negotiations Tuesday on an Arab-sponsored resolution to spur desperately needed humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza during some kind of a halt in the fighting, trying to avoid another veto by the United States.

A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment (AFP)
A picture taken from Rafah shows smoke billowing over Khan Yunis in the southern Gaza Strip during Israeli bombardment (AFP)

The vote, initially scheduled for Monday afternoon, was postponed until Tuesday to try to get the U.S. to support the resolution or abstain. The vote had been expected to take place by early afternoon, but diplomats said it was pushed back until later in the day because the United States asked for more time. They spoke on condition of anonymity because the negotiations have been private.

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State Department spokesman Matt Miller said the U.S. is still “engaging constructively” with other members of the council on the text, without giving any details.

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The draft resolution on the table Monday morning called for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities,” but this language is expected to be watered down in a final draft, possibly to a “suspension” of hostilities or something weaker to get U.S. support, diplomats said.

A new draft circulated early Tuesday “calls for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

The U.S. on Dec. 8 vetoed a Security Council resolution backed by almost all other council members and dozens of other nations demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The 193-member General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution on Dec. 12 by a vote of 153-10, with 23 abstentions.

In its first unified action on Nov. 15, with the U.S. abstaining, the Security Council adopted a resolution calling for “urgent and extended humanitarian pauses” in the fighting, unhindered aid deliveries to civilians and the unconditional release of all hostages.

Israeli President Isaac Herzog said during a briefing with ambassadors that Israel is “ready for another humanitarian pause and additional humanitarian aid in order to enable the release of hostages.”

But Ambassador Lana Nusseibeh of the United Arab Emirates, the Arab representative on the 15-member council, said Tuesday a new resolution had to go “a little bit further” than the Nov. 15 resolution.

Security Council resolutions are important because they are legally binding, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding, though they are a significant barometer of world opinion.

Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Gaza Health Ministry since Israel declared war on Hamas following its surprise attacks in southern Israel on Oct. 7. The Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people — mostly civilians — and took about 240 hostages back to Gaza.

Hamas controls the Gaza Strip, and its Health Ministry does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths. Thousands more Palestinians lie buried under the rubble of Gaza, the U.N. estimates.

The draft resolution circulated early Tuesday expresses “deep concern at the dire and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip and its grave impact on the civilian population.”

The draft recognizes that civilians in Gaza don’t have access to sufficient food, water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications and medical services “essential for their survival.” And it reaffirms the council’s “strong concern for the disproportionate effect that the conflict is having on the lives and well-being of children, women and other civilians in vulnerable situations.”

The proposed resolution demands that parties to the conflict — Israel and Hamas, who are not named — facilitate aid deliveries by land, sea and air throughout the Gaza Strip, including through the border crossing at Karem Shalom. It calls for the U.N. to establish a mechanism for monitoring the aid deliveries.

The latest draft also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and adherence to international humanitarian law, which requires the protection of civilians and the homes, schools, hospitals and other infrastructure essential for their survival.

It reiterates the Security Council’s “unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-state solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders … and in this regard stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

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