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Proposed US resolution would back global efforts for an immediate and sustained cease-fire in Gaza

Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United States circulated the final draft of a United Nations Security Council resolution late Thursday that would support international efforts to establish “an immediate and sustained cease-fire” in the Israel-Hamas war as part of a deal to release hostages taken captive during Hamas’ surprise attack on southern Israel on Oct. 7.

No time has been set for a vote, and the draft, obtained by The Associated Press, could still be changed.

The U.S. circulated the initial draft on Feb. 19, a day before it vetoed a widely supported Arab-backed resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in the war in the embattled Gaza Strip, saying it would interfere with negotiations on a deal to free the hostages.

It was the third U.S. veto of a Security Council resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza, and has put President Joe Biden’s administration at odds with much of the world, including many allies.

Diplomatic talks have stalled since efforts failed to produce a cease-fire before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan — an informal deadline that passed without any agreement.

The Israeli military said Wednesday it will go ahead with its planned offensive in the southern city of Rafah — where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought safety — and plans to move civilians toward “humanitarian islands” in the center of the territory.

The U.S. draft put “in blue” late Thursday — meaning it is in a form that can be voted on — is the fifth version of the text and makes some key changes.

The initial draft would have underscored that a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable” required the release of all hostages, and called for the lifting of all restrictions on the delivery of humanitarian aid. Both of these actions “would help to create the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” it said.

The final draft “unequivocally supports international diplomatic efforts to establish an immediate and sustained cease-fire as part of a deal that releases the hostages, and that allows the basis for a more durable peace to alleviate humanitarian suffering” — eliminating the word “temporary.”

It also says that “the window of opportunity created by any cease-fire” should be used to intensify diplomatic efforts to create conditions “for a sustainable cessation of hostilities and lasting peace.”

The initial draft said Israel’s planned major ground offensive into the southern Gaza city of Rafah “should not proceed under current circumstances.” That language disappeared in the final draft. Instead, in an introductory paragraph, the council would emphasize its concern that a ground offensive into Rafah “would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement, potentially into neighboring countries, and would have serious implications for regional peace and security.”

The final draft “rejects any forced displacement of the civilian population in Gaza in violation of international law.”

Since Oct. 7, more than 31,000 Palestinians have been killed in the Israeli offensive, according to the Gaza Health Ministry, which doesn’t distinguish between civilians and combatants but says about two-thirds of the victims were women and children.

The U.S. draft would demand that all parties comply with international law requiring protection of civilians and “civilian objects,” which include hospitals, schools and homes. The draft would also express the council’s “deep concern about the threat of conflict-inducted famine and epidemics presently facing the civilian population in Gaza, as well as the number of undernourished people,” and the “catastrophic” levels of hunger.

The council would reiterate its demand for “the full, immediate, safe, sustained and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip.” The draft says this should be facilitated by using all available routes, including border crossings.

If the resolution is approved, it would for the first time condemn “the Hamas-led attacks of Oct. 7, 2023, as well as its taking and killing of hostages, murder of civilians, and sexual violence including rape” and condemn “its use of civilian infrastructure for military purposes and to hold hostages.” It would also demand that Hamas and other armed groups immediately grant humanitarian access to all remaining hostages.

Article Topic Follows: AP National

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