US drafts UN resolution for “immediate” Gaza ceasefire

"immediate" Gaza

The US circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an “immediate” Gaza ceasefire on March 20th, according to AFP.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the resolution stresses “the need for an immediate and durable ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, enable the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, and alleviate suffering… in conjunction with the release of hostages still held.”

“Of course, we stand with Israel and its right to defend itself,” he added, “but at the same time, it’s imperative that the civilians who are in harm’s way and who are suffering so terribly — that we focus on them, that we make them a priority, protecting the civilians, getting them humanitarian assistance.”

Blinken made the announcement from Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during the first leg of his sixth regional tour since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war on October 7th, 2023.

The tour will include visits to Egypt and Israel in the coming days and runs parallel to talks in Qatar, where mediators met for a third day on March 20th with little indication of an agreement as to an imminent ceasefire.

Upon his arrival, Riyadh announced that it would donate $40 million to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), which plays a crucial role in Gazan aid operations but, as-of-late, has faced massive funding cuts and Israel-led calls for its abolition.

A key ally of Israel, the US has vetoed several previous UN Security Council votes on the nearly six-month-old Israel-Gaza war, most recently objecting to the use of the word “immediate” in a draft submitted by Algeria on February 22nd.

READ: Algeria at UN says Israel’s “impunity” is over

The objection was purportedly based on concerns that Algeria’s resolution could have jeopardized talks between the US, Egypt, Israel, and Qatar, regarding a hostage release deal, according to Reuters.

In recent weeks, however, Washington has increased pressure on Tel Aviv as Israeli forces prepare for an assault on Rafah, the southernmost settlement in the besieged enclave. Rafah now hosts an estimated 1.5 million people, most of them internally displaced Gazans fleeing the devastated northern settlements.

Washington wants Israel to refrain from a full-scale ground assault on the settlement, but Israel’s President Benjamin Netanyahu has repeatedly claimed such an assault is the only way to eradicate Hamas.

Israeli forces have continued to bombard the city and claimed to have “eliminated senior Hamas operatives” there on March 20th.

Netanyahu’s office said an Israeli delegation would visit Washington at “the request of US President Joe Biden” to discuss the planned assault, in the coming weeks.

On October 7th, Hamas are believed to have killed 1,200 people in an attack on southern Israel, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures. Militants also seized around 250 hostages, with 93 believed to remain alive in Gaza.

In a documentary released on March 20th, Al Jazeera’s I-Unit presented a forensic analysis of the events of October 7th. While the evidence confirmed Hamas fighters’ atrocities, it suggested that many of the most graphic stories propagated by Israel’s government and western media were unsubstantiated, and that numerous Israeli civilians were killed by Israeli fire.

Almost six months into Israel’s retaliatory bombardment and invasion of the Gaza enclave, at least 31,000 Palestinians are believed to have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza health ministry.

UN agencies have warned that Gaza’s 2.4 million people face an impending famine, amid claims from UN rights chief Volker Türk that Israel may be using “starvation as a method of war,” and a warning from UNRWA head Philippe Lazzarini that “siege, hunger and diseases will soon become the main killer in Gaza.”

READ: UN accuses Israel of “starvation campaign” in Gaza

In an assault on Gaza City’s Al-Shifa Hospital beginning March 18th, the Israeli army claim to have apprehended “over 300 suspects,” including “dozens of senior terrorists and those with key positions.”

Israel’s army chief, Herzi Halevi, said the assault on the hospital complex, crowded with patients and people seeking refuge, was intended “not to allow such a place to be controlled” by Hamas.

Halevi claimed that “approximately 90 terrorists,” were killed in the operation, while Hamas condemned the Israeli “crimes,” citing the “executions of dozens of displaced persons, patients, and staff.”

AFP / Reuters / Al Jazeera

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