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U.S. proposes new UN Security Council draft resolution supporting temporary ceasefire in Gaza

The United States has proposed a rival draft United Nations Security Council resolution that would underscore the body’s “support for a temporary ceasefire in Gaza as soon as practicable,” according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday. 

A ground offensive in Rafah ‘would have serious implications for regional peace and security,’ U.S. says.

Two people run away after an airstrike.

The United States has proposed an alternative draft United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a temporary ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and opposing a major Israeli ground offensive in Rafah in southern Gaza, according to the text seen by Reuters on Monday.

Washington has been averse to the word “ceasefire” in any UN action on the Israel-Hamas war, but the U.S. draft text echoes language that President Joe Biden said he used last week in conversations with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The U.S. draft text “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.”

Israel plans to storm Rafah, where more than one million of the 2.3 million Palestinians in Gaza have sought shelter, prompting international concern that such a move would sharply worsen the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

The draft U.S. resolution says such a move “would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances.”

Israel to launch Rafah attack unless hostages released by March 10: minister

For the first time, Israel is giving a potential timeline for its ground offensive into Rafah. Benny Gantz, a minister in the Israeli war cabinet, says that if all of the hostages are not released by March 10, Israel Defence Forces troops will move into Rafah.

It was not immediately clear when or if the draft resolution would be put to a vote in the 15-member council. A resolution needs at least nine votes in favour and no vetoes by the U.S., France, Britain, Russia or China to be adopted.

The U.S. put forward the text after Algeria on Saturday requested the council vote on Tuesday on its draft resolution, which would demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war. Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the UN, quickly signalled that it would be vetoed.

Rejects buffer zone

The Security Council is expected to vote Tuesday morning on the Arab-backed draft resolution circulated by Algeria, which represents the 22 Arab nations in the UN’s most powerful body.

In addition to a ceasefire, the final Algerian draft, obtained by The Associated Press, also demands the immediate release of all hostages kidnapped In Israel by Hamas, and reiterates council demands that Israel and Hamas “scrupulously comply” with international law, especially the protection of civilians, and rejects the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians.

Algeria put forward an initial draft resolution more than two weeks ago. But Thomas-Greenfield said the text could jeopardize “sensitive negotiations” on hostages. The U.S., Egypt, Israel and Qatar are seeking to negotiate a pause in the war and the release of hostages held by Hamas.

Washington traditionally shields its ally Israel from UN action and has twice vetoed council resolutions since Oct. 7, but it has also abstained twice, allowing the council to adopt resolutions that aimed to boost aid to Gaza and called for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses in fighting.

The draft U.S. text would condemn calls by some Israeli government ministers for Jewish settlers to move to Gaza and would reject any attempt at demographic or territorial change in Gaza that would violate international law.

The resolution would also reject “any actions by any party that reduce the territory of Gaza, on a temporary or permanent basis, including through the establishment officially or unofficially of so-called buffer zones, as well as the widespread, systematic demolition of civilian infrastructure.”

Reuters reported in December that Israel told several Arab states that it wants to carve out a buffer zone inside Gaza’s borders to prevent attacks as part of proposals for the enclave after the war ends.

The Algeria draft resolution also expresses “grave concern over the dire and urgently deteriorating humanitarian situation” in Gaza and reiterates the council’s call for unhindered humanitarian access throughout the territory, where UN officials say a quarter of the 2.3 million population are facing starvation.

But U.S. deputy ambassador to the UN Robert Wood told several reporters on Monday that the Algerian draft is not “an effective mechanism for trying to do the three things that we want to see happen — which is get hostages out, more aid in and a lengthy pause to this conflict.”

With the U.S. draft, “what we’re looking at is another possible option, and we’ll be discussing this with friends going forward,” Wood said. “I don’t think you can expect anything to happen tomorrow.”

Arab nations, supported by many of the 193 UN member countries, have been demanding a ceasefire for months as Israel’s military offensive in response to the Hamas attack has intensified.

The Arab Group chair this month, Tunisian UN Ambassador Tarek Ladeb, told UN reporters last Wednesday that some 1.5 million Palestinians who sought safety in Gaza’s southern city of Rafah face a “catastrophic scenario” if Netanyahu goes ahead with a potential evacuation of civilians and military offensive in the area bordering Egypt.

The war began when fighters from the Hamas militant group that runs Gaza attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing about 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages, according to Israeli tallies. In retaliation, Israel launched a military assault on Gaza that Palestinian health authorities say has killed more than 29,000 Palestinians.

In December, more than three-quarters of the UN General Assembly voted to demand an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. General Assembly resolutions are not binding but carry political weight, reflecting a global view on the war.

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres has long called for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. UN aid chief Martin Griffiths warned last week that military operations in Rafah “could lead to a slaughter.”

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