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UNSC debates ceasefire proposal for Gaza

Dharam Shourie in United Nations | January 07, 2009 15:00 IST

An Egyptian-French initiative for a ceasefire to end an escalating Israel-Hamas war and allowing humanitarian supplies into Gaza won instant support from several Arab nations and members of the Security Council. 

The proposal calls for an immediate ceasefire by Israeli and Palestinian factions for a specific period to allow humanitarian supplies into Gaza.

It also calls for a meeting between Israelis and Palestinians on the Egyptian soil to deal with the root causes of the present conflict and prevent violence breaking out in future.

The proposal was immediately backed by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who came to the United Nations to seek an immediate ceasefire.

Israel continues bloody offensive in Gaza

The new proposal was announced by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and French President Nicholas Sarkozy.

Mubarak offered to host a meeting of the Palestinian factions to bring unity among them, a necessary precondition for permanent peace, while Sarkozy was talking to Israelis about the initiative.

The new proposals came as the UN Security Council held a high level emergency meeting today as international pressure mounted to end the 12-day old conflict that has killed over 600 Palestinians, half of them civilians, and injured over 2,000.

Both sides are yet to give their reaction to the proposal, which came as Israel was said to be preparing for the third phase of war to move its troops into built up populated areas. The first two phases comprised air strikes and ground assault.

Israel takes out UN school in Gaza strip, 42 dead

At the Council meeting, virtually every Arab state denounced the UNSC's failure to enforce a ceasefire and said that Israel should not be made to feel that it has achieved its aim using deadly force indiscriminately.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who opened the debate, set the tone by extending support to the initiative aimed at ending Israeli military action and Hamas rocket attacks on southern Israel and opening the way for humanitarian aid right at the beginning of his speech.

Even as the debate was on, Arab ministers and Security Council members were meeting behind closed doors to draw up a resolution acceptable to all, especially the US which sees Hamas as a threat for Israel.

Hamas, LeT use violence for political objectives: US

The Arabs have submitted a revised draft resolution, which too is unlikely to meet the approval of the US, a close ally of Israel. It calls for immediate and sustainable ceasefire, opening of all border crossing and withdrawal of Israel forces to position, before they launch the ground attack.

It also calls for deployment of European Union monitors to prevent smuggling of arms from Rafah terminal on the Egypt [Images] border with Gaza as was envisaged in the 2005 agreement.

While extending support to the Egyptian-French initiative, the members, including Arab foreign ministers, made it clear that the Council, which has the primary responsibility for international peace and security, too needs to adopt a resolution seeking end to the conflict in which more than 600 Palestinians, including women and children, have died in the Israeli action.

Attack against Hamas is an expression of self defense, says Livni

The two processes are complementary, they argued, stressing the Council's credibility is at stake and failure to meet its primary responsibility will adversely impact on its credibility and prestige among comity of nations.

American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice [Images], who specially traveled from Washington to meet with Arab leaders and discuss the resolution, asserted that any solution must include an end to firing of rockets and mortars by Hamas and an end to arms smuggling from Egypt into Gaza through tunnels.

The US, she said, understands the urgency of ending the violence but the solution should be such that it does not allow the rearmament of Hamas and that finds a way to open crossings, so that Palestinians in Gaza can have normal lives.

"There must be a solution this time that does not allow Hamas to use Gaza as a launching pad against Israeli cities," she said, articulating Washington's known position.

Avoid civilian casualties, US tells Israel

Some Arabs threatened to consider other options, without specifying them, if the Council failed to adopt a resolution which was floated by them. Consultations were on and the Council has scheduled another meeting later today to continue the discussions.

Several Arab ministers said that they are staying on until the Council takes a decision on the issue.

During the debate, Arab ministers vented their anger at Israel for targeting UN run schools in which Palestinian had taken shelter, killing at least 42 people.

Strongly defending her country's opting for military action, Israel's UN Ambassador [Images] Gabriela Shalev said it had to take action in the face of incessant rocket strikes by Hamas.

"We have to defend ourselves, not from Palestinian people, but from terrorists who have taken them hostage. Not to gain territory or power but to demonstrate that our restraint was not weakness and to give our citizens the basic right of a normal life," she said, referring to the rockets being fired by Hamas in the southern Israel.

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