UN Security Council approves Gaza ceasefire proposal

UN Security Council approves Gaza ceasefire proposal

The UN Security Council has approved its first resolution endorsing a ceasefire plan aimed at ending the eight-month war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza.

The resolution welcomes a ceasefire proposal announced by US President Joe Biden that the US says Israel has accepted. It calls on Hamas, which initially said it viewed the proposal “positively,” to accept the three-phase plan.

The vote comes as Israeli authorities release helmet-cam video of the moment three hostages were rescued in Gaza on the weekend.

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In a statement accompanying the video, which lasts some 45 seconds, they said that “Yamam and Shin Bet operatives worked simultaneously at two locations to rescue the four hostages, engaging in fierce combat with the terrorists.”

Part of the video is blurred. It shows Israeli security forces approaching a property through a garden and then entering amid heavy gunfire.

The video is edited and some audio is muted. It is unclear whether it was all shot at one location. It shows the three rescued male hostages cowering in a room. In the video, a voice in Hebrew says: “Here, they are here” … “Name, name”. Two of the hostages identify themselves as Almog Meir Jan and Andrey Kozlov.

What the ceasefire proposal means

The UN Security Council resolution urges Israel and Hamas “to fully implement (the ceasefire) terms without delay and without condition”.

The resolution, which the council voted 14-0 in favour, with Russia abstaining, urges Israel and Hamas “to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition”.

Earlier, US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters that the US wanted to make sure all 15 Security Council members were on board to support what he described as “the best, most realistic opportunity to bring at least a temporary halt to this war.”

Council diplomats speaking anonymously shortly before the vote said it was still uncertain what Russia and China would do.

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Whether Israel and Hamas agree to the three-phase ceasefire plan remains in question.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Biden presented only parts of the proposal and insisted that any talk of a permanent ceasefire before dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capabilities was a non-starter.

The leaders of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad met in Qatar on Monday (Tuesday AEST) to discuss the proposed ceasefire deal and said in a statement afterward that any deal must lead to a permanent ceasefire, a full Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, an end to the Israeli siege of Gaza, reconstruction and “a serious exchange deal” between hostages in Gaza and Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

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The war was sparked by Hamas’ surprise October 7 attack in southern Israel that killed about 1200 people, mainly Israeli civilians, and resulted in about 250 others being taken hostage. About 120 hostages remain, with 43 pronounced dead.

Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 36,700 Palestinians and wounded in excess of 83,000 others, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. It has also destroyed about 80 per cent of Gaza’s buildings, according to the U.N.

The Security Council adopted a resolution on March 25 demanding a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan which ended April 9, with the US abstaining. But there was no halt to the war.

The current draft resolution underscores “the importance of the ongoing diplomatic efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United States aimed at reaching a comprehensive cease-fire deal, consisting of three phases.” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is on his eighth trip to the Middle East since October 7 pursuing that goal.

Biden’s May 31 announcement of the new cease-fire proposal said it would begin with an initial six-month cease-fire with the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza and the return of Palestinian civilians to all areas in the territory.

Phase one also requires the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance “at scale throughout the Gaza Strip,” which Biden said would lead to 600 trucks with aid entering Gaza every day.

In phase two, the draft resolution says that with the agreement of Israel and Hamas, “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” will take place.

Phase three would launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.”

The resolution’s final draft would underline that the proposal says if negotiations take longer than six weeks for the first phase, “the cease-fire will still continue as long as negotiations continue.” It would welcome “the readiness of the United States, Egypt and Qatar to work to ensure negotiations keep going until all the agreements are reached and phase two is able to begin.”

The final draft rejects any attempt to change Gaza’s territory or demography, or reduce its size, but drops wording that specifically mentioned the reduction by officially or unofficially establishing “so-called buffer zones.”

It also would reiterate the Security Council’s “unwavering commitment to achieving the vision of a negotiated two-state solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders.”

And it would stress “the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.” This is something Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has not agreed to.

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