UN Security Council backs Biden’s ceasefire plan for Gaza

The UN Security Council on Monday adopted a US-drafted resolution endorsing a ceasefire plan to end the eight-month war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza in three phases.

The Security Council also rejected any attempt at demographic or territorial change in the Gaza Strip, including any actions that reduce the territory of the Palestinian enclave, according to the resolution.

Hamas, its ally the Islamic Jihad group, and the rival Palestinian Authority of president Mahmoud Abbas welcomed the resolution which calls on Israel and the Palestinian militant group “to fully implement its terms without delay and without condition”.

The resolution was approved by an overwhelming majority with 14 of the 15 Security Council members voting in its favour, while Russia abstained, citing a lack of clarity.

It also reiterated the UNSC’s “unwavering commitment to achieving the vision of a negotiated two-state solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognised borders”.

The resolution stresses “the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority”, something Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s right-wing government has not agreed to.

In its statement, Hamas said it was ready to cooperate with mediators over implementing the principles of the plan.

UN Security Council to vote on US-backed Gaza ceasefire resolution (EPA)
UN Security Council to vote on US-backed Gaza ceasefire resolution (EPA)

The war was sparked by Hamas’ surprise 7 October attack in southern Israel in which militants killed about 1,200 people, mainly Israeli civilians, and took about 250 others hostage. About 120 hostages remain, with 43 pronounced dead.

Israel’s military offensive has killed more than 36,700 Palestinians and wounded more than 83,000 others, according to health officials in Hamas-controlled Gaza. It has also destroyed about 80 per cent of Gaza‘s buildings, according to the UN.

Earlier on Monday, Hamas had said it was only willing to accept a deal that would secure an end to the war in Gaza. Mr Netanyahu said he was determined to pursue the war against Hamas.

"Hamas welcomes what is included in the Security Council resolution that affirmed the permanent ceasefire in Gaza, the complete withdrawal, the prisoners’ exchange, the reconstruction, the return of the displaced to their areas of residence, the rejection of any demographic change or reduction in the area of the Gaza Strip, and the delivery of needed aid to our people in the Strip," the militant group said in a statement.

The statement was among the strongest from Hamas to date, but it stressed the group would continue its struggle against Israeli occupation and work on setting up a "fully sovereign" Palestinian state.

Separately, the Islamic Jihad said early on Tuesday that it looks “positively” to what the resolution included, “especially in terms of opening the door to reaching a comprehensive cessation of aggression and a complete withdrawal of Israeli forces” from the Gaza Strip.

Hamas also said it was willing to engage in indirect negotiations over implementing the principles “that are consistent with the demands of our people and resistance”.

In the Israeli-occupied West Bank, the Palestinian presidency welcomed the resolution saying it “is with any resolution that calls for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and preserves Palestinian land unity”.

US secretary of state Antony Blinken was in Israel on Monday, where he urged Mr Netanyahu to accept the plan for postwar Gaza. Mr Netanyahu has been skeptical of the deal, saying that Israel is still committed to destroying Hamas.

US deputy ambassador Robert Wood told reporters earlier on Monday that the US sees the deal as "the best, most realistic opportunity to bring at least a temporary halt to this war."

Mr Biden outlined the truce accord last month, which envisions a ceasefire in stages, ultimately leading to a permanent end to the war.

The first phase of the US president’s plan would begin with an initial six-month cease-fire and the release of hostages in exchange for Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israeli forces from populated areas in Gaza and the return of Palestinian civilians to all areas in the territory.

Phase one also requires the safe distribution of humanitarian assistance “at scale throughout the Gaza Strip,” which Biden said would lead to 600 trucks with aid entering Gaza every day.

An overall view as the UN Security Council holds a meeting on the situation in the Middle East at UN headquarters on 10 June 2024 in New York (AFP via Getty Images)
An overall view as the UN Security Council holds a meeting on the situation in the Middle East at UN headquarters on 10 June 2024 in New York (AFP via Getty Images)

In phase two, the resolution says that with the agreement of Israel and Hamas, “a permanent end to hostilities, in exchange for the release of all other hostages still in Gaza, and a full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza” will take place.

Phase three would launch “a major multi-year reconstruction plan for Gaza and the return of the remains of any deceased hostages still in Gaza to their families.”

But Israel has said it will agree only to temporary pauses until Hamas is defeated, while Hamas has countered it will not accept a deal that does not guarantee the war will end.

Earlier Monday, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders met in Qatar to discuss the proposed cease-fire deal and said later that any deal must lead to a permanent cease-fire, a full Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, reconstruction and "a serious exchange deal" between hostages in Gaza and Palestinians held in Israeli jails.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said Moscow abstained because details of the three-phase plan haven’t been disclosed and "we have a whole host of questions."

"Hamas is called upon to accept this so-called deal, but still there is no clear clarity regarding official agreement from Israel," Ms Nebenzia said. "Given the many statements from Israel on the extension of the war until Hamas is completely defeated ... what specifically has Israel agreed to?"

Additional reporting by agencies