UN Security Council endorses US ceasefire plan between Israel and Gaza

The United Nations Security Council voted in favor of a US resolution backing a ceasefire plan for the war in Gaza.

The proposal sets out the conditions for a “total and complete ceasefire”, the release of hostages held by Hamas, the return of the remains of dead hostages and the exchange of Palestinian prisoners.

Fourteen of the 15 members of the Security Council voted in favor of the resolution drafted by the United States. Russia abstained.

The resolution affirms that Israel has accepted the ceasefire proposal and urges Hamas to accept it as well.

It means the Security Council joins several governments, as well as the G7 group of the world’s richest nations, in backing the three-part plan that was unveiled by President Joe Biden in a televised statement on May 31. Biden then described it as an Israeli ceasefire proposal.

The proposal presented by Israel to the United States and its fellow mediators Qatar and Egypt (apparently longer than the summary presented by Biden) has not been made public and it is not clear if it differs from what the president presented. The proposal was accepted by Israel’s three-member war cabinet and has not been disclosed to the broader government. Some far-right ministers have already made it clear that they oppose it. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has not directly said whether he supports the plan presented by President Biden.

The resolution was approved shortly after US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with foreign leadersincluding Netanyahu, in an attempt to build support for the ceasefire agreement.

Just hours before the U.N. vote, Blinken said his message to the region’s leaders was: “If you want a ceasefire, pressure Hamas to say yes.”

The group has previously said it supports parts of the plan and on Monday issued a statement “welcoming” the Security Council resolution.

Hamas emphasized its demand for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza, Israel’s complete withdrawal from the Gaza Strip and the exchange of prisoners. The group said it is willing to cooperate with mediators and engage in “indirect negotiations.”

Its political leadership in Doha has yet to formally respond to the proposal, according to US and Israeli officials.

The proposal would end a major reconstruction plan for Gaza, which has been largely destroyed by the conflict.

The first phase concerns an exchange of hostages and prisoners, as well as a short-term ceasefire.

The second phase includes a “permanent cessation of hostilities” as well as a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza, according to text in the US draft resolution.

The third phase focuses on the long-term prospects of the enclave and would initiate a multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza.

Monday’s resolution comes 10 days after President Biden said the Israelis had agreed to the plan. But Netanyahu has not yet endorsed the American proposal.

While Biden presented the peace initiative as an Israeli, the United States is also aware that Israel’s own ruling coalition is approaching the plan with reluctance. This extends to open opposition from some far-right ministers who threaten to cause a government collapse if the deal goes ahead.

The resignation of former General Benny Gantz from the war cabinet on Sunday has deepened that sense of instability.

President Biden’s account on X, formerly Twitter, noted the approval of the resolution. “Hamas says he wants a ceasefire,” the post said. “This agreement is an opportunity to show that they are serious.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, US ambassador to the UN, said: “Today we voted for peace.”

UK Ambassador Barbara Woodward called the situation in Gaza “catastrophic,” adding that “the suffering has gone on for too long.”

“We call on the parties to seize this opportunity and move towards a lasting peace that ensures security and stability for both the Israeli and Palestinian people,” Ms Woodward said.

UK Foreign Secretary David Cameron also welcomed the resolution.

Explaining his abstention, Russia’s UN ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, expressed concern about the clarity of the agreement and whether Israel had truly accepted the plan to end its military operation in Gaza, as stated in the resolution.

“Given Israel’s numerous statements about extending the war until Hamas is completely defeated… what specifically has Israel agreed to?” -Mr. Nebenzia asked.

Despite voting in favor, China also expressed concern about the text. Its UN ambassador questioned whether this time would be different from the three previous Security Council resolutions on the conflict, which were not implemented despite being legally binding.

On March 25, the UN Security Council approved a resolution calling for a ceasefire.

While the United States had previously vetoed similar measures, it did not veto the March resolution. Netanyahu said at the time that the United States had “abandoned” its previous position linking a ceasefire with the release of hostages.

The conflict began when Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, killing about 1,200 people and taking about 251 hostage.

The Hamas-run Health Ministry says the death toll in Gaza has surpassed 37,000 since Israel responded to its attack.

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