No let-up in Gaza war despite UN ceasefire resolution

AFP , Tuesday 26 Mar 2024

Israeli troops persisted in the assault on the Gaza Strip on Tuesday, with no sign of a let-up in the war despite a UN Security Council resolution demanding an "immediate ceasefire".

Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to Al Aqsa hospital in
Palestinians wounded in the Israeli bombardment of the Gaza Strip are brought to Al Aqsa hospital in Deir al Balah, Gaza Strip, Monday, March 25, 2024. AP


The resolution was adopted Monday after Israel's closest ally the United States abstained.

It demands an "immediate ceasefire" for the ongoing holy month of Ramadan, leading to a "lasting" truce.

It also demands that Hamas and other resistance groups release captives they took during the October 7 Al-Aqsa Flood operation on Israel, though it does not directly link the release to a truce.

After the vote, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres led calls for the resolution to be implemented.

"Failure would be unforgivable," he wrote on social media platform X.

Israel reacted furiously to the US abstention, as it allowed the resolution to go through with all the other 14 Security Council members voting yes.

The resolution is the first since the Israeli war on Gaza erupted, six months ago, to demand an immediate halt in the fighting.

Washington insisted that its abstention, which followed numerous vetoes, did not mark a shift in policy towards Tel Aviv, although it has taken an increasingly tougher line with Israel in recent weeks.

Enraged by the United States' abstention, it canceled the visit of a delegation to Washington.

It said that the abstention "hurts" both its war effort and attempts to release captives, while Netanyahu's office described it as "a clear retreat from the consistent position of the US".

Hamas welcomed the Security Council resolution and reaffirmed its readiness to negotiate the release of captives in exchange for Palestinian detainees and prisoners held by Israel.

In a statement, the resistance group accused Israel of thwarting the latest round of talks hosted by mediator Qatar.

Hamas said Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his cabinet were "entirely responsible for the failure of negotiation efforts and for preventing an agreement from being reached up until now".

On the ground, the fighting raged on unabated.

Israel's bombardment and ground offensive in Gaza has since killed more than 32,300 Palestinians, mainly women and children, according to the health ministry in the Palestinian territory.

Seventy people were killed early Tuesday, including 13 in Israeli air strikes around the south Gazan city of Rafah, a key flashpoint in the war.

In Rafah, witnesses said Israeli jets pummelled the city on Tuesday.

While Rafah, like other areas around the Gaza Strip, has come under frequent Israeli strikes, it is the only part of the territory where Israel has not sent in ground troops.

It borders Egypt, and 1.5 million Palestinians fleeing the rest of the devastated territory have sought refuge there.

Netanyahu's determination to launch a ground operation in Rafah, the city on Gaza's southern border where most of the territory's population is sheltering, has become a key point of contention between Israel and the United States.

According to the Israeli occupation army, anti-rocket sirens sounded in Israeli areas around the Gaza Strip.


'Obscene distortion'

In Rafah, Palestinians welcomed the UN vote and called for the United States to use its influence on Israel to secure a ceasefire.

Bilal Awad, 63, said Washington must "stand against an attack on Rafah, and support the return of the displaced to their cities".

Ihab al-Assar, 60, expressed hope that "Israel will comply" with the Security Council.

Israel has labeled its operations "precise operational activities" and said it has taken care to avoid harm to civilians, but aid agencies have voiced alarm about non-combatants caught up in the fighting.

Elsewhere in the Gaza Strip, the Israeli army said Monday it was battling resistance around two hospitals.

Palestinians living near Al-Shifa, the territory's main hospital, have reported corpses in the streets, constant bombardment, and the rounding up of men who are stripped to their underwear and questioned.

The fighting came as an independent UN-appointed expert, Francesca Albanese, said there were "reasonable grounds to believe" Israel's actions in Gaza had met the threshold for "acts of genocide".

Like all previous condemnations, Israel rejected Albanese's report, due to be presented to the UN's Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

* This story has been edited by Ahram Online.

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