Algeria says US draft resolution on 'ceasefire in Gaza' did not convey a 'clear message of peace' - as it happened

Ahram Online , Friday 22 Mar 2024

Ahram Online provided coverage of the Israeli war on Gaza on its 168th day.

On International Water Day, which falls on 22 March, Palestinians in Gaza struggle to secure drinking water amid an Israeli blockade on the strip. In this recent image, Children line up to fill containers with water in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip AFP


19:30 Speaking to reporters before leaving Tel Aviv, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that he had a candid conversation with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu on the release of hostages, increasing Humanitarian assistance to Gaza and the Rafah issue.

The US shares Israel's goal of defeating Hamas and ensuring Israel’s long-term security but a major ground offensive in Rafah is not the way to achieve this, Blinken said he told PM Netanyahu.

A major ground operation in Rafah risks more killing of innocent civilians; risks creating greater havoc on the humanitarian situation in the strip; risks increasing  Israeli isolation around the world; and risks Israeli security and integration in the region, the top US diplomat told reporters.

“We also talked about post-war plans for Gaza,” Blinken told reporters.

The US is determined Israel comes out of this stronger and that an attack on Israel like the 7 October attack would never happen again, he said.

The US has a team of negotiators in Doha who are working with the Qataris, Egyptians and Israelis to reach an agreement on a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel and the release of hostages, added Blinken.

The negotiations in Doha are close to the goal line - but the closer to the goal line the harder things get to hash out final details, he added.

18:00 Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday that Israel intended to carry out an offensive in Rafah, in the south of the Gaza Strip, even if the United States were not to support it.

"I said that we did not have the possibility of defeating Hamas without entering Rafah and without eliminating the battalions that remained there," Netanyahu said in a statement after his meeting in Tel Aviv with the top US diplomat.

"I told him that I hoped to do it with the support of the United States. But if we have to - we will do it alone," he said.

"I told him that I appreciated the fact that we had been united in the war against Hamas for over five months."

16:30 Russia and China have vetoed a US draft resolution in the United Nations Security Council which would have "declared" that a ceasefire in the Gaza war was "imperative" but did not demand an immediate cessation of hostilities.

The vote on the US resolution garnered 11 votes for, three votes against - Russia, China and Algeria - and one abstention by Guyana.

Russia's ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzia said that the United States was doing nothing to rein in Israel, mocking Washington for speaking of a ceasefire after "Gaza has been virtually wiped off the face of the Earth."

"We have observed a typical hypocritical spectacle," he said.

"The American product is exceedingly politicized, with the sole purpose being to play to voters and throw them a bone in the form of some kind of a mention of a ceasefire in Gaza," he said.

The resolution will "ensure the impunity of Israel, whose crimes are not even assessed in the draft," he added.

"The resolution gives Israel a green light for a ground operation against Rafah," Nebenzia said.

Following the vote, the US ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield called the Russian and Chinese vetoes "not just cynical" but also "petty."

"Russia and China simply did not want to vote for a resolution that was penned by the United States," she said.

"Let's be honest -- for all the fiery rhetoric, we all know that Russia and China are not doing anything diplomatically to advance a lasting peace or to meaningfully contribute to the humanitarian response effort," she said.


US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a UNSC meeting at the UN headquarters on March 22, 2024, in New York City. AFP


After vetoing the draft resolution, the Permanent Representative of China to the UN Zhang Jun said the US draft resolution evades the most essential concern and need for an immediate and permanent cessation of hostilities and allows Israel to continue killing Palestinians.

He thanked Egypt and Qatar for ongoing efforts to reach a truce and prisoner swap deal between Israel and Hamas.

Algeria, a non-permanent member of the UNSC, voted with Russia and China against the resolution.

Permanent Representative of Algeria to the UN Amar Bendjama said the US resolution did not address the core concerns of Arab countries in "the urgency of an immediate ceasefire to prevent the loss of more lives and the immediate cessation of hostilities."

"Regrettably, the draft resolution falls short of our expectations and does not convey a clear message of peace," he said.

Read a full report on the vote and reactions here


Palestinians perform the Friday noon prayers amidst the ruins of the Al-Faruq Mosque that was destroyed during the Israeli bombardment, in Rafah on the southern Gaza Strip, during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan on March 22, 2024. AFP


15:00 China said Friday it supported steps by the UN Security Council to end fighting in Gaza, while not saying whether Beijing, a permanent council member with veto power, would support a US draft resolution on the need for an immediate ceasefire.

"China supports the Security Council in taking further responsible and meaningful actions as soon as possible to make unremitting efforts to end the fighting in Gaza at an early date," Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lin Jian said.

The United States, which has repeatedly blocked calls for a truce in Gaza, will submit for a vote on Friday a draft to the Security Council on the need for "an immediate ceasefire."

Since the start of the Israeli war on Gaza on 7 October, the United States has repeatedly used its UN Security Council veto to block the world body from calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

Following their last veto at the end of February, US officials have been negotiating an alternative text focusing on support for diplomatic efforts on the ground for a six-week truce in exchange for the release of hostages.

The latest version, seen by AFP, notes the necessity for "an immediate and sustained ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, allow for the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance, and alleviate humanitarian suffering."

It thereby supports "diplomatic efforts to secure such a ceasefire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages."

However, the text does not explicitly use the word "call," instead stating that a ceasefire is imperative, which Russia says is too weak.

Asked Friday whether it supported the resolution, Beijing demurred.

"The international community expects the Security Council to earnestly fulfil its responsibilities," Lin said.

"On the Palestinian-Israeli issue, we must respect history and facts, listen to and respect the position and voice of the majority of Arab countries, realise a ceasefire and end of fighting as soon as possible," he added.

"This is the yardstick by which we measure the Security Council's actions and decisions," he said.


Palestinians mourn over the bodies of their relatives killed in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip, in Khan Younis, Friday, March 22, 2024. AP


14:00 Israel reported Friday the seizure of 800 hectares (1,977 acres) of land in the occupied West Bank, which activists called the largest action of its kind in decades.

Israel's Finance Minister Bezalel Smotrich declared as "state lands" the area in the northern Jordan Valley, as US Secretary of State Antony Blinken arrived in Israel for Gaza war talks.

Israeli settlement watchdog Peace Now said the size of the seized area is the largest since 1993's Oslo Accords, and that "2024 marks a peak in the extent of declarations of state land."

Israel captured the West Bank, east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.

"While there are those in Israel and the world who seek to undermine our right over the Judea and Samaria area and the country in general, we are promoting settlement through hard work and in a strategic manner all over the country," Smotrich said, using Israel's term for the West Bank.

Settlements in the Palestinian territories are illegal under international law.

Smotrich, who heads the extreme-right Religious Zionism party, lives in a settlement.

Despite opposition abroad, Israel has in recent decades built dozens of settlements across the West Bank.

They are now home to more than 490,000 Israelis, who live in settlements among three million Palestinians in the occupied territory.

The United Nations human rights chief has reported a drastic acceleration in illegal settlement building since Israel's war on Gaza began six months ago, stressing this risks eliminating any likelihood of a viable Palestinian state.

Blinken has described settlement expansion as "counterproductive to reaching enduring peace" with the Palestinians.


File Photo: The Israeli settlement of Ariel in the West Bank. AFP


13:00 The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is set to vote on a United States-sponsored resolution declaring that “an immediate and sustained ceasefire” in the Israeli war on Gaza is “imperative” to protect civilians and enable humanitarian aid to be delivered to more than 2 million hungry Palestinians.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said she was optimistic that the new, tougher draft resolution would be approved Friday by the 15-member council.

The draft being put to a vote “determines” — which is a council order — “the imperative of an immediate and sustained ceasefire,” with no direct link to the release of captives taken, which was in the previous draft.

But it would unequivocally support diplomatic efforts “to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

Russia’s deputy UN ambassador Dmitry Polyansky said Moscow will not be satisfied “with anything that doesn’t call for an immediate ceasefire,” saying it’s what US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is pressing for and what "everybody” wants.

Polyansky questioned the wording of the draft, asking, “What’s an imperative? I have an imperative to give you $100, but … it’s only an imperative, not $100.”

“So, somebody’s fooling around, I think, (with the) international community,” the Russian envoy said.

12:00 US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken landed in Tel Aviv Friday ahead of Gaza war talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Blinken arrived from Cairo for the last stop of his latest Middle East tour and is expected to speak to the Israeli government on humanitarian aid distribution in the besieged Gaza Strip and to urge Israel not to launch a ground operation in Rafah, where around 1.5 million people are sheltering.

Aid deliveries are now a vital issue since so little food has been allowed into Gaza that up to 60 percent of children under 5 are now malnourished, compared with fewer than 1 percent before the war began, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said Thursday.

On Thursday, during a joint press conference with Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry following his meeting with Arab officials in Cairo on Thursday, Blinken reiterated the United States’ rejection of any forced displacement of Palestinians in Gaza or the re-occupation of the strip.

Blinken said any Israeli military operation in Rafah would worsen the situation, given that there are currently one and a half million displaced Palestinians in the Gaza border city.

"There is no place for the civilians amassed in Rafah to get out of harm's way," said Blinken.

He refused, however, to comment on a question about the United States' position in case Israel invades Rafah and whether it will continue to supply it with weapons, considering such a question to be about future matters that he refuses to comment on.

He said that 100 percent of the population in Gaza is experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity, calling unacceptable the death of children from malnutrition.

“We can’t and we must not allow that to continue,” the US secretary of state said in a joint press conference with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry following his meeting with Arab officials.

He added that though there has been some improvement in the entry of human assistance to the strip in the past two weeks, the amount of aid entering Gaza was still far from enough.

Blinken said that the United States has been working with Egypt, Qatar, and Israel to put forward a strong proposal and that Hamas has responded to the US ceasefire proposal, with efforts being made to overcome the obstacles.

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