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UNSC adopts US-drafted resolution on Gaza ceasefire

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UNITED NATIONS: The United Nations Security Council on Monday adopted a US-drafted resolution supporting a ceasefire plan in Gaza, as Washington leads an intense diplomatic campaign to push Hamas to accept the proposal.

The text — passed with 14 votes in favour and Russia abstaining — “welcomes” the truce and hostage release proposal announced on May 31 by President Joe Biden, and urges “parties to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition.”

The resolution says Israel has accepted the truce plan, and “calls upon Hamas to also accept it”.

Hamas in a statement, referring to its demands that include a permanent ceasefire in Gaza and a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces from the territory said it “welcomes the Security Council resolution … (and) would like to reaffirm its readiness to cooperate with the brother mediators to enter into indirect negotiations regarding the implementation of these principles”.

The United States, a staunch ally of Israel, has been widely criticised for having blocked several previous UN draft resolutions calling for a ceasefire in Gaza. But Biden late last month launched a new US effort to secure a truce and hostage release.

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

The first phase of the truce would see an “immediate, full and complete ceasefire,” the prisoners exchange, and the “withdrawal of Israeli forces from the populated areas in Gaza”. This would also allow the “safe and effective distribution of humanitarian assistance at scale throughout the Gaza Strip to all Palestinian civilians who need it”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier held talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Monday.

His visit comes after US President Joe Biden on May 31 outlined a three-phase ceasefire proposal from Israel that envisions a permanent end to hostilities, the release of Israeli and Palestinian prisoners, and the reconstruction of Gaza.

American prisoners

US officials have considered negotiating a unilateral deal with Hamas to release five American prisoners held in Gaza if ceasefire talks involving Israel fail, NBC News reported on Monday.

It was not clear what the United States might offer Hamas in exchange, according to the report, which cited two current and two former US officials. The United States says Hamas is holding five Americans who were taken hostage in the group’s Oct 7 incursion inside Israel, NBC reported.

Antony Blinken, asked about the report as he left Cairo, said, “The best way, the most effective way to get everyone home, including the American hostages, is through this proposal, is through the ceasefire deal that’s on the table right now.”

Any unilateral talks would be conducted through Qatari negotiators and would not involve Israel, the unidentified officials, who have all been briefed on the negotiations, told NBC.

The officials said Hamas would have an incentive to reach such a deal with Washington because it would strain US-Israel relations further and add pressure on the Israeli prime minister, who has been criticised at home for not doing more to get the hostages out.