Diplomats say draft text may be watered down from ‘lasting cessation’ to ‘suspension’ of hostilities to appease US and avoid another veto.
The United Nations Security Council is expected to vote on a halt in the fighting in Gaza after it was delayed by a day amid ongoing negotiations to stave off another United States veto and as Israel faces growing international pressure to change its tactics in the war against Hamas.
The UNSC is to convene later on Tuesday. An initial draft text of the new resolution seen on Monday called for “an urgent and lasting cessation of hostilities to allow unimpeded access of humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip”.
Diplomatic sources said this language has been watered down to an “urgent suspension of hostilities”, and could be further weakened to satisfy Washington and get closer to a compromise.
“The key sticking point of course we believe is the ‘cessation of hostilities’,” said Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo, reporting from the UN in New York.
“The United States and Israel say that any resolution that has those words in it is akin to a ceasefire and they say that would only benefit Hamas and so the US would reserve its veto power as it has done in the past … We think they are trying to work out some sort of language there.”
On December 8, despite unprecedented pressure from UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, the US – Israel’s closest ally – blocked the adoption of a resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire”.
Last week, the 193-member UN General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a similar resolution. UNGA resolutions are, however, nonbinding.
NEW: @UAEMissionToUN has circulated updated draft resolution on #Gaza aid/monitoring which now “calls for the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.” Other changes… https://t.co/ryjpAvl6nG pic.twitter.com/2UFYhPz3r8
— Rami Ayari (@Raminho) December 19, 2023
The postponement of the vote until Tuesday “means that there are negotiations over the text – most probably to avoid another or several vetoes”, Amnesty International’s Secretary-General Agnes Callamard posted on X. “Every hour, every day that passes – civilians in Gaza are dying.”
A key issue is how to implement and sustain a desperately needed aid operation. Human Rights Watch accused Israel on Monday of deliberately starving Gaza’s population by blocking the delivery of water, food and fuel, a method of warfare that it described as a war crime.
The draft resolution recognises that civilians in Gaza do not have access to sufficient food, water, sanitation, electricity, telecommunications and medical services “essential for their survival”.
It demands the parties to the conflict – Hamas and Israel – fulfil their obligations under international humanitarian law and enable “the immediate, safe and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance at scale directly to the Palestinian civilian population throughout the Gaza Strip”.
Al Jazeera’s Gabriel Elizondo noted that the draft also “calls for the UN to monitor all of the aid distribution in Gaza”. That is something “new”, our correspondent said. “Previous Security Council drafts never had that wording in it.”
The draft also reiterates calls for the protection of civilians and infrastructure critical for their survival, including hospitals, schools, places of worship and UN facilities. It demands the immediate and unconditional release of all captives held by Hamas.
Discussions around a new truce come as the US reiterates its support for Israel in its war.
Speaking alongside Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv on Monday, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said US support for Israel was “unshakeable”.
But he added: “We will also continue to urge the protection of civilians during conflict and to increase the flow of humanitarian aid into Gaza.”
Since the war began on October 7, Israel has killed more than 19,000 Palestinians. Hamas’s attack on southern Israel on October 7, which triggered the war, killed about 1,100 people.