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US, Israel hold tense talks as Gaza truce plan fails at UN

Israel plans to send troops into Gaza’s Rafah even without US support, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Antony Blinken on Friday, as Washington failed to pass a UN resolution on an “immediate” ceasefire.

Almost six months of Israeli bombardment since Hamas’s October 7 attack has brought Gaza to its knees with many thousands killed, infrastructure shattered and widespread warnings that its 2.4 million people are on the verge of famine.

Washington has repeatedly blocked ceasefire resolutions at the United Nations Security Council but tried to pass a text mentioning an “immediate ceasefire as part of a hostage deal”.

World leaders including staunch allies of Israel backed the renewed diplomatic push, but China and Russia vetoed the US text after Moscow complained that the language was too weak and put no pressure on Israel.

Secretary of State Blinken has been on a whistlestop tour of the region to support truce talks in Qatar that involve indirect negotiations between Israel and Hamas officials.

The violence meanwhile continued, with Israeli forces raiding Gaza’s largest hospital complex for a fifth day, claiming to have killed more than 150 “terrorists” in the ongoing operation Hamas has labelled “criminal”.

Israel also continued to pound the southern city of Rafah and its surroundings, where most of Gaza’s population has taken shelter.

Standing in the ruins of a partly destroyed house in Rafah, resident Nabil Abu Thabet said “innocent civilians” had been pulled out “in pieces”.

“People were targeted at 1:00 am, when they were asleep,” he told AFP.

Netanyahu said he had told Blinken on Friday that there was “no way to defeat Hamas” without invading Rafah, a plan that has provoked international concern for civilians trapped there.

According to Netanyahu, in a statement after meeting Blinken, “I told him I hope to do that with the support of the United States, but if we need to, we will do it alone.”

Deal ‘still possible’

At the UN Security Council, permanent members Russia and China vetoed the US draft resolution, but French President Emmanuel Macron later said diplomats would keep pushing for agreement on a ceasefire call.

Russia’s ambassador Vasily Nebenzia said the US text would “ensure the impunity of Israel, whose cimes are not even assessed in the draft”. The US ambassador, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the vetoes were “cynical” and “petty”.

While diplomats talked in New York, Israel’s spy chief David Barnea headed to Qatar for truce negotiations along with CIA chief William Burns and Qatari and Egyptian officials.

The effort aims to bring to the release of hostages held by Gaza militants in exchange for Palestinian prisoners in Israeli custody and the delivery of more aid to the besieged Hamas-ruled territory.

Blinken said several times during his regional tour that the “gaps are narrowing” between the parties.

“It’s difficult to get there, but I believe it is still possible,” Blinken said in Cairo during his sixth tour of the region since the war began.

A Hamas official said earlier in the week that Israel’s response to the group’s latest proposal for an initial six-week truce had been “largely negative”.

‘Starving to death’ Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Militants also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes around 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 presumed dead.—-AFP

Adel Zaanoun and Leon Bruneau, "US, Israel hold tense talks as Gaza truce plan fails at UN," Business recorder. 2024-03-23.
Keywords: Social sciences , Palestinian war , Security Council , Hospital complex , Benjamin Netanyahu , Hamas , Nabil Abu Thabet , Pakistan , China , Russia , United States , Qatar , Israel , UN , AFP , CIA , US

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