Blinken unveils draft US resolution for immediate Gaza ceasefire

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Blinken unveils draft US resolution for immediate Gaza ceasefire

Nevin Al Sukari - Sana'a - The United States has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. — AFP pic

JEDDAH, March 21 — The United States has circulated a draft UN Security Council resolution calling for an “immediate ceasefire linked to the release of hostages” in the Gaza Strip, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.

“Well, in fact, we actually have a resolution that we put forward right now that’s before the United Nations Security Council that does call for an immediate ceasefire tied to the release of hostages, and we hope very much that countries will support that,” Blinken said.

“I think that would send a strong message, a strong signal,” he told Saudi media outlet Al Hadath yesterday evening during a visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss the war between Israel and Hamas.

Blinken met Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and then held talks with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman soon after landing in the kingdom on Wednesday on the first leg of a regional tour that will include Egypt on Thursday and then Israel.

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The trip is his sixth to the Middle East since the Israel-Hamas war began on October 7.

The United States, Israel’s main backer, has previously used its UN Security Council veto to block the world body from calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

“Of course, we stand with Israel and its right to defend itself... but at the same time, it’s imperative that the civilians who are in harm’s way and who are suffering so terribly — that we focus on them, that we make them a priority, protecting the civilians, getting them humanitarian assistance,” Blinken said.

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A man carries a child, injured in an Israeli air strike, to the trauma ward of Al-Najjar hospital in Rafah. — AFP pic

Since blocking an Algerian draft resolution calling for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” in Gaza at the end of February, US officials have been negotiating an alternative text focusing on support for diplomatic efforts on the ground for a six-week truce in exchange for the release of hostages.

According to diplomatic sources, this text had little chance of gaining the Council’s approval and a new version was circulated to Security Council members on Wednesday.

The amended draft, seen by AFP, stresses “the need for an immediate and durable ceasefire to protect civilians on all sides, enable the delivery of essential humanitarian aid, and alleviate suffering... in conjunction with the release of hostages still held”.

No vote has yet been scheduled on this text.

Blinken’s latest tour runs parallel with talks in Qatar, where mediators met for a third day on Wednesday in a renewed effort to secure a ceasefire but with little indication of an imminent agreement.

The plan being discussed in Qatar would temporarily halt the fighting as hostages are exchanged for Palestinian prisoners and the delivery of relief supplies is stepped up.

“It’s getting closer. I think the gaps are narrowing, and I think an agreement is very much possible,” Blinken said of the mediation in Doha.

“We worked very hard with Qatar, with Egypt, and with Israel to put a strong proposal on the table... Hamas wouldn’t accept it,” he said.

“They came back with other requests, other demands. The negotiators are working on that right now.”

An excavator clears debris as people and first responders search for survivors after a building collapsed following an Israeli air strike in Rafah. — AFP pic

An excavator clears debris as people and first responders search for survivors after a building collapsed following an Israeli air strike in Rafah. — AFP pic

The bloodiest-ever Gaza war broke out after Hamas’s October 7 attack resulted in about 1,160 deaths in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of Israeli official figures.

Hamas also seized about 250 hostages, of whom Israel believes 130 remain in Gaza, including 33 who are presumed dead.

Israel’s military has waged a retaliatory offensive against Hamas that has killed almost 32,000 people, most of them women and children, according to Gaza’s health ministry. — AFP

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