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19 Feb, 2024 23:14

US changes position on Gaza ceasefire – Reuters

Washington has reportedly proposed a UN resolution opposing Israel’s planned Rafah offensive
US changes position on Gaza ceasefire – Reuters

US President Joe Biden’s administration has reportedly dropped its opposition to a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and proposed a UN resolution calling on Israel to cancel its planned military offensive in the Palestinian enclave’s last refuge for displaced civilians.

The draft resolution noted that the planned storming of Rafah would harm civilians and displace more Gaza residents, potentially pushing many into Egypt, Reuters reported on Monday, citing a copy of the text.

Israel’s Rafah operation – targeting the last Hamas stronghold in the besieged enclave – “would have serious implications for regional peace and security, and therefore underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances,” according to the proposed resolution.

Washington’s UN delegation has previously opposed making demands for a ceasefire in the Israel-Hamas war and has twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions since the conflict began in October 2023. Its new proposal comes in response to a draft resolution from the Algerian delegation, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire.

US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield has said the Algerian resolution could undermine “sensitive negotiations” to broker a pause in the fighting. She indicated on Saturday that the US would veto the resolution if it came up for a Security Council vote on Tuesday.

About 1.4 million Gazans displaced by Israeli bombardments have been crammed into Rafah, a city on the strip’s southern border that normally has a population of around 280,000, according to the UN.

The UN has warned that Israel’s planned Rafah operation would have “dire humanitarian consequences.” Dozens of European countries issued a similar warning on Monday, following in the footsteps of such nations as Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has vowed to completely eliminate Hamas in response to the deadly October 7 attacks by Palestinian militants that triggered the war. He has rejected international calls for a ceasefire and has insisted that only “total victory” will make Israel safe. “Those who want to prevent us from operating in Rafah are essentially telling us, ‘Lose the war,’” he told reporters on Saturday.

While publicly supporting Israel’s war effort – and providing US weaponry – Biden has reportedly clashed with Netanyahu behind the scenes. During a telephone call with Netanyahu on Thursday, Biden “reiterated his view that a military operation should not proceed without a credible and executable plan for ensuring the safety of, and support for, the civilians in Rafah,” according to a White House statement.

The UN resolution proposed by the Biden administration also would condemn any efforts to reduce Gaza’s territory or move Israeli settlers into the enclave, Reuters said.