Russia and China veto Gaza ceasefire resolution at UN as Blinken meets Israeli leaders

Russia and China on Friday vetoed a U.S.-backed resolution calling for an “immediate and sustained” ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, a reversal from previous U.S. vetoes of measures aimed at stopping nearly six months of fighting between Israel. and the Gaza Strip. Hamas militant group.

The vote came as Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken was in the midst of his final mission to the region since war broke out following a Hamas-led attack on Israel in October.

The diplomatic measures come at a tense time. The Biden administration has been in an increasingly combative position with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the conduct of the Israeli offensive, which has killed at least 32,000 Palestinians in Gaza, according to Gaza health officials.

Almost all of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been displaced and large swaths of Palestinian territory have been devastated by Israeli bombing. Above, smoke rises inside the Gaza Strip, seen from southern Israel.

(Ariel Schalit / Associated Press)

The Security Council resolution, calling for an immediate cessation of fighting, was aimed at facilitating urgently needed humanitarian aid deliveries to Gaza, where international groups have warned of imminent famine in the northern part of the narrow Mediterranean enclave. .

Almost all of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have been displaced from their homes and large swaths of the territory have been devastated by intense Israeli bombing. Disease and hunger are rampant.

But the U.S.-backed effort failed in the face of accusations from Russia that the United States, Israel's staunchest ally, was “misleading” the international community through some of the language contained in the resolution. The wording, which emphasized the “imperative” for a ceasefire, also supported diplomatic efforts to secure the freedom of the remaining hostages among some 250 people captured during the Hamas-led attack on southern Israel on October 7 that killed at least 1,200 people. .

In Tel Aviv, Blinken held more than two hours of talks Friday with Netanyahu, who made known his deep displeasure at descriptions of him as an impediment to peace in a speech delivered a week ago by the highest-ranking Jewish elected official. rank in the United States. , Senator Charles E. Schumer of New York, Democratic leader of the Senate. Biden said he thought the speech was “good.”

Netanyahu said after meeting Blinken that he had dismissed U.S. calls for him to abandon plans for a ground invasion of Rafah, the southern Gaza city where more than 1 million Palestinians are sheltered. Israel has been saying for weeks that it will pursue Hamas fighters there, but there has been a chorus of preemptive international condemnation over the danger to civilians.

Netanyahu declared that “there was no way to defeat Hamas without entering Rafah,” adding that he informed Blinken that Israel would not be deterred by American opposition.

“I hope we do this with the support of the United States,” the Israeli leader said. “But if necessary, we will do it alone.”

Blinken reiterated US support for the overall goal of defeating Hamas, but said the Biden administration believes there are other means to achieve this besides a ground attack on Rafah.

In Gaza, the latest fighting, as always, gave rise to competing claims. Israel said it had killed or captured hundreds of Hamas militants during a five-day operation at the Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City. Hamas mocked the Israeli account and said its fighters were not present.

At the UN, eleven members of the Security Council supported the US-sponsored resolution, but the measure failed due to the “no” vote of two veto-wielding permanent members, Russia and China. Algeria also voted against and Guyana abstained.

The Biden administration has so far repeatedly moved to protect Israel from ceasefire calls at the world body, saying Israel had the right to defend itself after the Oct. 7 attack. The United States also sought to directly link calls for a ceasefire to demands for the release of the hostages, about 100 of whom are believed to still be alive.

More than 100 people were freed in an exchange of Palestinian hostages and prisoners in November.

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