UNSC endorses Gaza hostage freedom for ceasefire deal proposed by US

by IANS |

United Nations, June 11 (IANS) The UN Security Council with near unanimity signed on to a deal proposed by the US for a ceasefire in Gaza in exchange for the release of hostages putting the responsibility on Hamas for ending the conflict with Israel.

The US-sponsored resolution that includes a long-term resolution of the Israel-Hamas war was adopted on Monday with 14 members of the Council, including China, voting for it, while a reluctant veto-wielding Russia abstained, allowing it to go through.

The resolution puts into play a three-phase peace proposal US President Joe Biden made last month in which Qatar and Egypt have a role.

US Permanent Representative to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfiel, said after the vote, "Today, this Council sent a clear message to Hamas: Accept the ceasefire deal on the table."

"Israel has already agreed to this deal and the fighting could stop today if Hamas would do the same," she added.

"Egypt and Qatar have assured the US that they are continuing to work to ensure that Hamas engages constructively," she said.

"And the US will help ensure that Israel lives up to its obligations as well, assuming Hamas accepts the deal."

Israeli diplomat Reut Shapir Ben-Naftaly told the Council, "The war will end if Hamas were to release the hostages and turn themselves in; not one more shot needs to be fired."

The Security Council resolution came amid important developments in Gaza and in Israel over the weekend and the arrival of US Secretary of State Antony Blinken in Israel to promote the proposal.

Israel's Opposition leader Benny Gantz, who had joined the Israeli war cabinet, resigned on Sunday accusing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of putting his political interests ahead of getting the hostages back and ending the war and failing to come up with a post-war plan for Gaza.

Israeli special forces made a dramatic rescue of four hostages on Saturday from a Hamas-held area in Gaza.

Ben-Naftaly said, "Hamas's refusal to release the hostages through diplomacy has proven that the effort to bring our hostages home must also include military means. And this Saturday was the perfect example of how this can be achieved."

Speaking to reporters outside the Council chamber, Palestine's Observer Riyad Mansour said, "We the Palestinian people are united in seeing the implementation of the resolution."

Asked about the US assurances about Israel being on board, he said, "The proof is in the details and we want to see that this resolution is implemented beginning with the ceasefire and that this ceasefire to be permanent."

At the same time, he said: "We saw the loss of a tremendous number of people" and will continue to seek accountability for the killings.

The Palestine Authority, which nominally governs the occupied Palestine territories, does not control the Gaza Strip which is ruled by a hostile Hamas.

The plan approved by the Council is the latest attempt by the splintered Council to end the bloodshed that began with the Hamas terrorist attack on Israel on October 7 in which about about 1,200 Israelis were killed and about 240 taken hostage.

In Israel's retaliatory attacks, over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-controlled Gaza Health Ministry.

The Biden plan approved by the Council would start with a six-week ceasefire conditioned on an exchange of Israeli hostages, "including women, the elderly, and the wounded" still held by Hamas for Palestinians in Israeli custody, according to Thomas-Greenfield.

During that phase, Israel would have to withdraw its troops from populated areas of Gaza and civilians would be allowed to return to their homes across the territory, while aid would be allowed inside.

In the second phase, under an agreement by Israel and Hamas, "there would be a permanent end to hostilities in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza," Thomas-Greenfield said.

The final phase "would see the start of a major, multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza, and the return of the remains of Israelis and others still in Gaza to their families," she added.

Reassuring Israel, she said, "As President Biden made clear, Hamas is no longer capable of carrying out another October 7, and the US' commitment to Israel's self-defence is ironclad."

Russia's Permanent Representative to the UN, Vasily Nebenzia, expressed scepticism about the resolution asserting that it was vague and "essentially the Council is giving a carte blanche, signing up to this plan and details that they don't have".

However, Moscow did not want to block it because it had the support of the Arab world, he said.

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