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US proposes UN resolution for temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, opposes Rafah invasion

The US has expressed concerns that a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement. Washington has been calling on Israel for some time to reduce civilian casualties and provide humanitarian aid to Palestinians.

Aveek Banerjee Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee New York Published on: February 20, 2024 12:18 IST
US, Israel Hamas war, UNSC, Ceasefire talks, Rafah
Image Source : AP Israeli female soldiers in the Gaza Strip.

New York: The United States has proposed a UN Security Council resolution for a temporary ceasefire between Israel and Hamas as the war escalates in Gaza, and Washington has urged Israel to not go ahead with a planned offensive in Rafah bordering Egypt, where most Palestinians are currently seeking shelter after being driven out of their homes due to continued fighting. The draft text marks the first time the US has explicitly backed a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas conflict.

The text, which calls for the temporary truce to begin "as soon as practicable", is an alternative provided by the Biden administration to the Algerian draft resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that is to be debated on Tuesday and which the US has promised to veto. The significance of the US proposal is likely that Washington is willing to go through the UN to pressure Israel, according to the Guardian.

The US draft resolution says the security council “determines that under current circumstances a major ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighbouring countries, which would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances”.

The US draft explicitly condemns Hamas for attacking southern Israel on October 7, specifically the “taking and killing of hostages, murder and sexual violence including rape”. Washington had previously complained that earlier Security Council resolutions had omitted explicit blame of Hamas. However, it has also called for the protection of civilians and the provision of humanitarian aid, although it did not mention the responsibility of Israeli forces.

It was not clear that the draft would be passed or even submitted to a vote. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the five permanent members – the US, France, Britain, Russia or China – in order to be adopted.

On the other hand, UK foreign secretary David Cameron also called for “a stop to the fighting right now” and moves towards a lasting peace rather than an offensive in Rafah. "We are calling for a stop to the fighting right now, we think that what we need is a pause in the fighting and the hostages to come out and aid to go in. That should happen straight away," he told mediapersons in the Falkland Islands on Monday.

The situation in Gaza

Israel’s assault in Gaza has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians since Oct. 7, the territory’s Health Ministry said Monday, marking another grim milestone in one of the deadliest and most destructive military campaigns in recent history. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to continue the offensive until “total victory” against Hamas after the militants’ Oct. 7 attack on Israeli communities.

Netanyahu as well as the Israeli military said their troops will move soon in the town of Rafah, where over half of Gaza’s 2.3 million people have sought refuge from fighting elsewhere. The US, Israel’s top ally, says it is still working with mediators Egypt and Qatar to try to broker another cease-fire and hostage release agreement.

On Sunday, Benny Gantz, a member of Netanyahu’s three-man War Cabinet, warned that the offensive would expand to Rafah if the hostages are not freed by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, expected around March 10. Israel has said it is developing plans to evacuate civilians from Rafah, but it’s not clear where they would go in the devastated territory.

The conflict has also brought near daily exchanges of fire between Israel and Lebanon’s Hezbollah militant group that frequently threaten to escalate. Israeli warplanes on Monday carried out at least two strikes near the southern port city of Sidon in one of the largest attacks near a major city, wounding 14 people, according to Lebanese media.

Perilous conditions of detained Palestinians

Meanwhile, thousands of Palestinians have been detained by Israel since the war began, and an Israeli human rights group said Palestinians face daily violence from guards, who enter cells and beat inmates with batons, kicks and fists without provocation, abuse it said could amount to torture.

Physicians for Human Rights—Israel said in a report that detainees reported guards urinating on them and forcing them to kiss the Israeli flag and to strip. Prisoners are also held in overcrowded cells and deprived of water for long periods, it added. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights expressed concern about hundreds of Palestinian women and girls in Israeli detention.

There are credible reports that at least two detainees were raped, and others “subjected to multiple forms of sexual assault,” including being stripped naked and searched by male officers and being photographed "in degrading circumstances", said the Commissioner. Israel claims to have killed over 10,000 Palestinian militants and lost 236 of its own soldiers.

Hamas insists on its demands for a complete end to Israel's assault, the withdrawal of its troops from Gaza and the release of hundreds of Palestinian prisoners. Netanyahu has rejected Hamas’ demands and called for pressure to be applied on Qatar, which played a key role in mediating last year’s cease-fire and hostage release deal, accusing it of financing Hamas.

Majed al-Ansari, Qatar’s foreign ministry spokesperson, dismissed Netanyahu’s remarks as “a new attempt to stall and prolong the war for reasons that have become obvious to everyone,” alluding to the Israeli leader’s domestic political troubles. Qatar denies funding Hamas and says its provision of aid to Gaza in recent years was carried out in full coordination with Israel, the US and other parties.

(with inputs from AP)

ALSO READ | Israel-Hamas war: Over 29,000 Palestinians killed in Gaza as Netanyahu vows 'total victory'

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