Israel-Hamas war

UN demands ceasefire in Gaza as Israel, US show increasing divisions

Reuters

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UN demands ceasefire in Gaza as Israel, US show increasing divisions

UN GENERAL ASSEMBLY. Egyptian Ambassador to the United Nations Osama Abdelkhalek speaks to delegates during the United Nations General Assembly, where a vote on a ceasefire resolution is expected, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in New York City, U.S., December 12, 2023.

Eduardo Munoz/Reuters

(1st UPDATE) 'The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,' the leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand say separately in a joint statement calling for a ceasefire

Israel faced growing diplomatic isolation in its war against Hamas as the United Nations demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and US President Joe Biden told the longtime ally its “indiscriminate” bombing of civilians was hurting international support.

After dire warnings from UN officials about a deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza, the 193-member UN General Assembly on Tuesday, December 12, passed a resolution calling for a ceasefire with three-quarters of member states voting in favor.

“The price of defeating Hamas cannot be the continuous suffering of all Palestinian civilians,” the leaders of Canada, Australia and New Zealand said separately in a joint statement calling for a ceasefire.

The Palestinian Authority welcomed the resolution and urged countries to pressure Israel to comply. A Hamas official in exile, Izzat El-Reshiq, in a statement on Telegram echoed that reaction, saying Israel should “stop its aggression, genocide, and ethnic cleansing against our people.”

The US and Israel, which argue a ceasefire only benefits Hamas, voted against the measure along with eight other countries.

Before the UN vote, Israel’s UN Ambassador Gilad Erdan said: “A ceasefire means one thing and one thing only – ensuring the survival of Hamas, ensuring the survival of genocidal terrorists committed to the annihilation of Israel and Jews.”

Before the resolution, Biden said Israel now has support from “most of the world” including the US and European Union for its fight against the Palestinian militant group Hamas.

“But they’re starting to lose that support by indiscriminate bombing that takes place,” he told a campaign donor event in Washington.

In the most public sign of division between the leaders so far, Biden also said that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu needed to change his hardline government and that ultimately Israel “can’t say no” to an independent Palestinian state – something that Israeli hardliners oppose.

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan will travel to Israel this week and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will visit the Middle East next week. Biden said Sullivan will emphasize the US commitment to Israel as well as the need to protect civilian lives in Gaza.

Israel’s assault on Gaza to root out Hamas has killed at least 18,205 Palestinians including many children and wounded nearly 50,000 since October 7, according to the Gaza health ministry.

The conflict has also led to starvation, displaced 85% of the population from their homes and caused diseases to spread, according to the UN and Gaza health ministry.

Israel launched its onslaught after a cross-border raid by Hamas fighters who killed 1,200 people and took 240 hostage in southern Israel on October 7. Israel on Tuesday declared 19 of 134 people still in captivity in Gaza dead in absentia after the bodies of two hostages were recovered.

The UN resolution is not binding but carries political weight, reflecting a global view on the war. The United States vetoed a similar call in the 15-member Security Council last week but does not have a veto in the General Assembly.

Tuesday’s resolution got 153 votes in favor, 10 against and 23 abstentions. In an indication of weakening support for Israel, the resolution passed by a wider margin than a similar UN measure in October, which got 121 votes in favor, 14 against and 44 abstentions.

Reports say Israel is flooding Gaza tunnels

After pummeling north Gaza, Israel has expanded its attack to the south since a temporary truce collapsed on Dec. 1. Israeli tank shelling on Tuesday was focused on the center of Khan Younis, southern Gaza’s main city, residents said.

After nightfall, Israeli air strikes on Khan Younis killed 11 Palestinians, including two children, health officials said.

In the south Gaza town of Rafah, which borders Egypt and where the Israeli army this month told civilians they would be safe, Gazans said the shelling was some of the heaviest in days. Health officials said 22 people including children were killed there.

Israel’s military said that over the past day it hit several posts that were used to fire rockets at its territory, raided a Hamas compound where it found some 250 rockets among other weapons and struck a weapons production factory.

An elderly Palestinian, Tawfik Abu Breika, said his residential block in Khan Younis was hit without warning by an Israeli air strike that brought down several buildings and caused casualties.

“The world’s conscience is dead, no humanity or any kind of morals,” Breika told Reuters as neighbours sifted through rubble. “This is the third month that we are facing death and destruction.”

The Wall Street Journal and ABC reported that the Israeli military began pumping seawater into Hamas’ tunnel network, where the militant group is believed to be hiding fighters and munitions and basing hit-and-run street attacks on Israeli troops.

Biden said he had heard unconfirmed reports there were no hostages in the tunnels. Some hostages freed during a ceasefire reported they had been held in tunnels. The Israeli military said it was looking into the reports. – Rappler.com

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