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US hints it will oppose French Security Council resolution calling for ceasefire

Unlike previous drafts, Paris’s proposal condemns indiscriminate rocket fire at civilians; but US official highlights country’s own diplomatic efforts as solution to Gaza fighting

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)
The UN Security Council chambers in New York. (Norway Mission to the UN/Twitter)

The US indicated Wednesday that it intended to veto a UN Security Council resolution proposed by France calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, ending deadly fighting that has been ongoing since early last week.

The French proposal does not explicitly criticize either side for the fighting, but unlike previous drafts does include condemnation of “indiscriminate firing of rockets.”

Asked about the resolution, an official at the US mission told The Times of Israel on Wednesday: “We’ve been clear and consistent that we are focused on intensive diplomatic efforts underway to bring an end to the violence and that we will not support actions that we believe undermine efforts to de-escalate.”

The official declined to comment further.

In order to be passed, the resolution requires nine votes in favor by Security Council members and no vetos from the US or any of the other four permanent members.

The US mission has already blocked three joint statements calling for a ceasefire that were backed by 14 of the 15 Security Council members.

French President Emmanuel Macron attends a video-conference meeting with US President Joe Biden (on the screen), during 2021 Munich Security Conference at the Elysee Palace in Paris on February 19, 2021 amidst the coronavirus outbreak. (BENOIT TESSIER / POOL / AFP)

However, Washington is pressuring Israel to end the fighting, with US President Joe Biden telling Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in a Wednesday phone call that he expects “a significant de-escalation today on the path to a ceasefire.” Netanyahu said soon after that Israel was continuing its battle against Hamas in order to restore peace and security for Israel’s citizens.

On Thursday, the UN General Assembly will be meeting for the first time on the Israel-Hamas conflict and a majority of countries are expected to voice solidarity with the Palestinians, call for a ceasefire and criticize Israel.

Ninety-five missions and countries have requested to address the session. There is no expectation that the meeting will include an effort to pass a resolution on the matter, diplomats said.

The Times of Israel obtained a copy of the French Security Council draft resolution still being negotiated among members.

In its preamble, it states that the council “condemn[s] the indiscriminate firing of rockets against civilian areas.”

But one line that will likely upset Israel states that the council “stress[es] that the Gaza Strip constitutes an integral part of the territory occupied in 1967 and will be a part of the Palestinian state.”

The resolution also “recogniz[es] the vital role played by UNRWA in providing humanitarian and economic assistance within Gaza,” referring to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees and their descendants, which Israel claims is corrupt and helps perpetuate the conflict.

Palestinian municipal worker repair a broken water pipe after it was hit by an Israeli airstrike in the town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, May 19, 2021. (Yousef Masoud/AP)

The council further “express[es] grave concern at the escalation of violence, in particular, the resulting loss of civilian lives and casualties and recalling the necessity of a proportionate use of force, in line with international law,” in apparent criticism of Israel’s response to Hamas rocket fire.

Two other lines that appear to pan Israeli counterstrikes read as follows:

“Emphasizing that the Palestinian and Israeli civilian populations, including children, must be protected, in line with international humanitarian law and international human rights law and stressing the importance of the safety and well-being of all civilians.”

“Emphasizing that civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected.”

The eight-point resolution, as seen by The Times of Israel, reads that the UN Security Council:

“1. Demands an immediate cessation of hostilities;

2. Calls upon all parties to ensure full respect of international humanitarian law and international human right law, including the protection of civilian population;

3. Calls for the intensification of all efforts to de-escalate and to reach an immediate durable and fully respected ceasefire agreement;

4. Calls for the unimpeded provision and distribution throughout Gaza of humanitarian assistance and welcomes the first steps taken in this regard;

5. Calls on member states to support international efforts to alleviate the humanitarian and economic situation in Gaza, including through urgently needed additional contributions to UNRWA and through the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee;

6. Calls upon member states to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable ceasefire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening of the crossing points on the basis of the 2005 Agreement on Movement and Access between the Palestinian Authority and Israel;

7. Urges for the intensification and acceleration of diplomatic efforts and support for a negotiated two-state solution consistent with international law, and in line with relevant UN resolutions where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders;

8. Decides to remain seized of the matter.”

The resolution can still be amended and no date has been given for when it will be introduced.

Palestinians inspect the damage of a destroyed house that was hit by an Israeli airstrike in town of Khan Younis, southern Gaza Strip, May 19, 2021. (Yousef Masoud/AP)

A veto in the Security Council is likely something the Biden administration wants to avoid, since the US president has vowed to take a more multilateral approach to diplomacy and improve ties with longtime allies that were damaged by his predecessor Donald Trump.

Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have launched nearly 3,700 rockets at Israel since May 10, at times forcing people living near Gaza into bomb shelters around the clock.

Israel, in response, launched an extensive bombing campaign in the Strip. The humanitarian crisis has deepened in the impoverished strip, with the UN saying 72,000 Palestinians have been displaced.

Twelve people in Israel, including a 5-year-old boy and a 16-year-old girl, have been killed in rocket fire, and hundreds have been injured over the past ten days.

A woman and child take cover as a siren sounds a warning of incoming rockets fired from the Gaza strip in the city of Ashkelon, southern Israel, on May 19, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

On Wednesday, Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry updated the death toll in the Strip to 227, including more than 64 minors. It was not immediately clear if the ministry tally included all of those killed or if there were Hamas operatives not included in the count.

According to the IDF, more than 120 of those killed are members of Hamas and over 25 were members of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad as of Monday night. The IDF says some of the Gaza civilian fatalities were killed by the terror groups’ own rockets, falling short and exploding in Gaza.

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