UN delays vote on cease-fire resolution


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Seeking to avoid another veto by the United States, the United Nations Security Council delayed a vote to Tuesday on a resolution calling for a cessation of hostilities in Gaza to allow unhindered access to deliver humanitarian aid. 

Diplomats said negotiations were in motion to get the United States to either abstain or vote in favor of the Arab-sponsored resolution, which noted civilians in Gaza have scarce access to food, water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications, and medical services “essential for their survival,” according to The Associated Press.

The draft resolution considered Monday demanded the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas, and would express the council’s “strong concern for the disproportionate effect that the conflict is having on the lives and well-being of children, women, and other civilians in vulnerable situations,” according to the AP.

Earlier this month, the U.S. vetoed a Security Council resolution supported by almost all council members and many other nations that called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire in Gaza. The General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution on Dec. 12 in a 153-10 vote with 23 abstentions.

Unlike in the General Assembly, resolutions passed by the 15-member Security Council are legally binding. While the larger body’s resolutions do not carry the same legal weight, they serve as an indicator of world opinion. 

Developments:

∎ The White House says it’s “deeply concerned” over recent Israeli strikes against the Lebanese army, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said. Israel says rockets from Lebanon have been hitting Israeli cities. The Biden administration has stressed the need to keep the war from spreading to other countries in the Middle East.

∎ The Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll has surpassed 19,000 since the war began Oct. 7, when Hamas militants crashed across the Israeli border and killed 1,200 people before seizing more than 240 as hostages. More than half the hostages remain in the custody of militants.

∎ Four more Israeli troops were killed in combat Sunday and another soldier died of his wounds, the army announced Monday. That raised the military death toll for the war to 127.

∎ The Israeli military said it uncovered a cache of guns and suitcases with more than $1.3 million in the northern Gaza home of a senior Hamas official.

∎ Airlines in the Lufthansa Group will resume flights to and from Ben Gurion International Airport in Tel Aviv on Jan. 8, 2024, Airways Magazine reported. The company suspended flights to and from the airport on Oct. 9 in response to Hamas’ attack two days earlier.

Outraged family buries hostage: IDF killed captive; family vows to ‘shake the country’

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Monday amid growing international pressure on Israel to curb civilian deaths in its devastating military campaign in the Gaza Strip.

Austin, speaking at a briefing with Gallant, reiterated the Biden administration’s position that U.S. commitment to Israel is “unshakeable.” And he said the U.S. was leaving the timeline for the war to Israel. But he also said civilians in Gaza must be protected and more humanitarian assistance must be provided to the nearly 2 million displaced people there.

“Protecting the Palestinian people in Gaza is both a moral duty and a strategic imperative,” Austin said.

Austin said the talks also focused on Iran-backed threats across the region and the shared commitment of Israel and the U.S. to counter this “aggression.” Netanyahu, in a joint statement with Austin, said Israel was fighting a war pitting “civilization against barbarism.”

Netanyahu and Gallant both thanked the U.S. for its support and reiterated Israel’s commitment to achieve “total victory” against Hamas.

“The United States and Israel have never been more determined and aligned in our shared values, our shared interests and our shared goals,” Gallant said.

Austin announced on Monday a multinational initiative to bolster security in the Red Sea amid escalating attacks from militant Houthi rebels since the Israel-Hamas war began.

The U.S. is joining forces with the United Kingdom, Bahrain, Canada, France, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Seychelles and Spain to address security concerns in the southern Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, Austin said, “with the goal of ensuring freedom of navigation for all countries and bolstering regional security and prosperity.”

Operation Prosperity Guardian will be established under the umbrella of the Combined Maritime Forces and leadership of its Task Force 153, which focuses on the Red Sea, Austin said.

The announcement comes as oil giant BP became the latest company to say it would pause shipments routed through the Red Sea in response to attacks from militant Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Iranian-backed group started to target ships passing through the region in response to the escalation of tensions between Israel and Gaza.

Earlier this month, the Navy destroyer USS Carney shot down three drones launched by Houthi rebels during ballistic missile attacks on three commercial ships in the Red Sea. Austin said Houthis have attacked merchant vessels from many countries passing through.

Osama Hamdan, a senior Hamas official, held a press briefing in Beirut shortly after Austin spoke in Tel Aviv. Hamdan played a video showing Hamas fighters targeting Israeli troops and disabled Israeli military bulldozers being towed away through Gaza. The “sands of Gaza will swallow” the Israeli invaders, he said.

Hamdan was dismissive of the help the U.S. was providing Israel.

“We are asking what experience the American secretary of defense is sharing with Israel?” Hamdan said in a translation by Al Jazeera. “Are we talking about the victories in Vietnam? Or their victory in Afghanistan after 20 years? The only experience to be shared is killing women and children, and destroying hospitals, houses and schools.”

CIA Director William Burns met in Warsaw with the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency and the prime minister of Qatar on Monday, reportedly for talks aimed at obtaining the release of more hostages held by Hamas militants, multiple media outlets in the U.S. and Israel reported.

It was the first known meeting involving the three nations since the end of a weeklong cease-fire last month that resulted in freedom for more than 100 hostages. More than 100 remain under militant control, but no deal for a cease-fire and release of the hostages is imminent, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said Monday. Hamas reaffirmed its stance not to conduct any such talks until the “Zionist aggression against our people” is halted.

The Israeli government is committing a war crime by deliberately starving Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip, Human Rights Watch said in a report issued Monday. The international advocacy group accused Israeli forces of intentionally blocking the delivery of food, water and fuel while “willfully impeding” distribution of humanitarian aid. The report calls on the Israeli government to halt attacks on infrastructure necessary for the survival of the civilian population, to lift its blockade of Gaza and to restore power and water to the battered enclave.

Netanyahu and the Israeli military have repeatedly defended the attacks on apparently civilian targets by accusing Hamas of hiding among the civilian population and using people as human shields.

“World leaders should be speaking out against this abhorrent war crime, which has devastating effects on Gaza’s population,” said Omar Shakir, Israel and Palestine director at Human Rights Watch.

More world leaders are joining that chorus almost daily. The foreign ministers of France, Germany and the United Kingdom on Sunday called for a “sustainable” cease-fire, saying too many civilians have been killed.

Hamas leaders called on the U.N. and other international organizations to protect health facilities in Gaza from “brutal war crimes” and provide them with the tools to continue functioning. The militants said Nassar Hospital was targeted by Israel bombs late Sunday and Al-Shifa Hospital early Monday, in both cases resulting in the death of civilians. Hamas called on the international community to hold Israel accountable for “horrific crimes against civilians and the medical sector, which is exposed to systematic bombing around the clock.”



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