Israel-Hamas war news: Bargaining delays UN vote on aid to Gaza

Israel-Hamas war news: Bargaining delays UN vote on aid to Gaza

The United States and Egypt were engaged Thursday in furious last-minute negotiations aimed at salvaging a United Nations Security Council resolution that would call for a pause in the war in the Gaza Strip and allow aid more urgent to enter the territory.

A U.S. official, speaking on condition of anonymity given the sensitivity of the negotiations, said that since Thursday morning, high-level negotiators from Washington and Cairo have been seeking common ground on how aid would be inspected for weapons and other contraband before entering Gaza.

The Security Council declared in A declaration As of Thursday evening, ambassadors were still negotiating the latest version of a UAE-drafted draft resolution calling for a “suspension” of the conflict to allow the safe and unhindered delivery of aid to civilians in the Strip. from Gaza.

The council, it says, is expected to meet behind closed doors Thursday evening, then in public session, although it is unclear whether a vote will take place.

This week, the Security Council repeatedly delayed voting on the resolution, with the United States concerned that allowing the UN to inspect aid to Gaza would leave Israel without a role in the process, making the system unusable. Other members, hoping to avoid a U.S. veto, returned to renegotiate the parameters.

A vote on the measure was initially scheduled for Monday but was repeatedly postponed as Security Council diplomats engaged in intense negotiations aimed at securing U.S. support. Other council members, including the United States’ European allies, grew increasingly frustrated with the United States, saying it was excluding it from talks between Cairo and Washington.

Egypt, which proposed the resolution with the United Arab Emirates, controls the main aid entry point into Gaza.

The United States, one of five permanent members of the Council with the ability to single-handedly derail the adoption of legally binding resolutions, has often been the only one to side with Israel, offering its close ally of the Middle East a protection against the opprobrium of the Council.

Boxes containing humanitarian aid were unloaded Thursday at the Rafah border crossing, used by trucks transporting goods from Israel or Egypt to the Gaza Strip.Credit…Mohammed Abed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The United States has vetoed two previous ceasefire resolutions, arguing that Israel has the right to defend itself following the deadly Hamas attack on October 7. Halting the Israeli offensive, the United States said, would allow Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, to regroup and plan more attacks.

Robert A. Wood, the U.S. representative to the Security Council, said Thursday that the United States was still in talks but was not yet ready to approve the resolution. Stéphane Dujarric, a spokesman for the UN secretary-general, told reporters the council was in “extensive discussions.”

“Clearly, what we would like to see is something that would facilitate the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian aid,” Dujarric told reporters at the UN. He added that “the most useful thing for the delivery of humanitarian aid in a sustained high volume context would be an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.”

The Biden administration recently called on Israel to limit civilian casualties in Gaza and reduce its attacks, amid international condemnation of the growing death toll and catastrophic humanitarian crisis in the territory.

A major sticking point for the United States has been the establishment of a system that would give the U.N. responsibility for inspecting aid entering Gaza, according to diplomats who spoke on condition of anonymity being given the sensitivity of the negotiations.

The United States has said Israel must participate in controlling arms shipments. The UAE and Egypt say U.N. inspections would speed up the process, ensuring more food, water, medicine and other essentials reach desperate Palestinians in Gaza.

Robert A. Wood, US representative to the UN Security Council, at UN headquarters this week. Mr. Wood said the United States was not yet ready to sign a resolution that would halt fighting to allow aid to Gaza.Credit…Charly Triballeau/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Supporters of the resolution say the UN monitors and provides humanitarian aid in many other conflict zones around the world. For example, the Security Council, with U.S. support, passed a resolution authorizing U.N. officials to visit northern Syria to inspect and deliver aid.

“The U.N. has done this kind of work before,” said Lana Nusseibeh, the UAE ambassador to the U.N., who helped lead negotiations on the resolution. “It is now up to us to ensure that he has strong support to respond to this catastrophe in Gaza. »

But Israelis are reluctant to hand over inspections to the UN or entrust their security to the UN. The Egypt-Gaza border has been a frequent location for arms smuggling in the past. And a U.N. peacekeeping force along the Israel-Lebanon border has failed to prevent frequent skirmishes between the Israeli army and Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Lebanese militia.

The Israelis, who say Hamas rejected a recent proposal to suspend fighting to allow the delivery of aid and the exchange of hostages, have previously said they would not stop their campaign unless no hostage deal is included.

The Security Council was trying to craft the resolution more than two months after Israel launched a military offensive to crush Hamas following the armed group’s October 7 attack, in which 1,200 people, most civilians, were killed and around 240 were taken hostage. according to Israeli officials.

Israeli troops in the Gaza Strip seen from southern Israel on Thursday.Credit…Ohad Zwigenberg/Associated Press

Gaza health authorities say around 20,000 people, mostly women and children, have been killed in the Israeli campaign, and the UN has warned of a humanitarian disaster as civilian and health infrastructure of the territory collapse.

U.N. officials said earlier this month that nearly 60 percent of Gaza’s population was on the brink of famine, and they issued a new warning Thursday that there was a “risk of starvation» in the territory within the next six months.

The United Arab Emirates, the only Arab country currently on the 15-member council, initially introduced a resolution calling for a “cessation of hostilities.” It was later reworked to call for “extended humanitarian pauses and corridors” to speed up the delivery of aid. The resolution also calls for the release of hostages in Gaza.

Israel has been under increased internal pressure to quickly reach a deal that could free the hostages still being held in Gaza, particularly after three of them were mistakenly shot dead by Israeli soldiers last week.

The three hostages, all Israelis, were unarmed and carried a makeshift white flag, according to the Israeli military, which said the shooting violated its rules of engagement. Israel says 129 hostages are still held by Hamas.

Working through Egyptian and Qatari mediators, Israel and Hamas engaged in fragile negotiations over a possible truce and hostage agreement.

But they have reached no agreement since a week-long truce broke down on December 1. During this temporary ceasefire, more than 100 people kidnapped in the October 7 attack were released in exchange for more than 200 Palestinians imprisoned or detained in Israel. The temporary truce also allowed more aid to arrive in Gaza.

Since then, humanitarian aid has flowed through Rafah, the main border crossing between Egypt and Gaza, after a complicated screening system in which trucks must first go to Israel for inspection, then return to Egypt and enter Gaza.

As the Council continued its internal debate, Israeli officials on Thursday sent mixed signals about their vision for the future of the Gaza Strip, suggesting that Israel might favor a reformed Palestinian Authority governing the territory, but saying later that the government’s position had been misinterpreted.

Questions surrounding the future governance of Gaza have fueled tensions between President Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Mr. Biden said the Palestinian Authority, which governs part of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, should also govern Gaza after the war, as part of a step toward Palestinian statehood. Mr. Netanyahu has repeatedly ruled out allowing authorities to control Gaza and said Israel must be responsible for security in Gaza for the foreseeable future.

Tzachi Hanegbi, Mr. Netanyahu’s national security adviser, appeared to soften that stance in an op-ed published Wednesday. in Elapha Saudi Arabian-language media outlet.

“Israel recognizes the desire of the international community and regional states to integrate the Palestinian Authority in the wake of Hamas,” he wrote. “We emphasize that this process will require fundamental reform of the Palestinian Authority.”

But at a press briefing later in the day, a senior Israeli official said the article had been misinterpreted and that the government’s view had not changed.

“We are aware that everyone would really like the Palestinian Authority to be part of the solution in Gaza tomorrow, but that is not possible as things stand,” the senior official said. ‘speaking on condition of anonymity. . He said the authority cannot be a partner because it does not “participate in a vision of reconciliation”.

Roni Caryn Rabin reports contributed.

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Eric D. Eilerman

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