Israel-Gaza conflict: France adds to ceasefire pressure on US as violence rages
France has increased pressure on the US to publicly call for a ceasefire in the Israel-Gaza conflict after a UN security council meeting ended without a joint statement, and airstrikes and rocket fire continued into the night.
France is pushing a draft resolution – coordinated with Egypt and Jordan – that is intended to focus on a few basic points: a cessation of violence and access for humanitarian relief agencies. There would be no set timetable but the steps in the resolution would be presented as urgent.
The US would have to use its veto power to block the resolution, something the Biden administration will be reluctant to do. The US has repeatedly blocked joint statements calling for a halt to the violence.
During Tuesday’s closed-door meeting – the fourth since the conflict escalated over a week ago – US envoy Linda Thomas-Greenfield said: “We do not judge that a public pronouncement right now will help de-escalate”, AFP quoted a diplomatic source as saying.
Zhang Jun, Beijing’s ambassador to the UN, told reporters his team had heard the French ceasefire proposal and that China was “supportive”.
Meanwhile, sporadic bombardment of Gaza city continued overnight, with residents kept awake as Israeli jets flew low overhead, an AFP correspondent in the strip said.
The attacks came after an AFP photographer saw streaks of light in the sky as Israel’s air defence system intercepted rockets launched from Gaza. The Israel Defence Forces said sirens warning of rocket fire sounded in the south on Wednesday morning.
Randa Abu Sultan, 45, said her family no longer knew what sleep was. “We’re all terrified by the sound of explosions, missiles and fighter jets,” said the mother of seven. “We all sit together in a single room. My four-year-old son tells me he’s scared that if he falls asleep he’ll wake up to find us dead.”
During a visit to an airbase in Israel’s south on Tuesday, prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Hamas and Islamic Jihad had “received blows they did not expect” that had set them back “many years” and that the operation would continue as long as necessary to restore calm.
Tuesday saw fresh unrest throughout the region, with serious clashes in Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank as Palestinians took part in a day of protests and strikes over Israel’s bombardment of Gaza.
A Palestinian man was killed and more than 70 wounded, including 16 by live fire, in clashes with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Ramallah, according to the Palestinian Authority health ministry. Two Israeli soldiers were injured.
Hundreds of Palestinians burned tyres and hurled stones at an Israeli military checkpoint. Troops fired teargas canisters at the crowd. Large crowds also gathered in Nablus, Bethlehem, Hebron and other towns in the West Bank.
In Jerusalem, police deployed water cannon in the neighbourhood Sheikh Jarrah, where Palestinian families are facing eviction from homes they have lived in since the 1950s. The threat of eviction has been a key factor in rising tensions in the city over recent weeks. There were also clashes at the nearby Damascus Gate entrance to the Old City.
Many Palestinian-owned businesses in the Old City were shut as part of a “day of anger” over the eight-day conflict. Support for the general strike was high in towns inside Israel.
Israeli airstrikes have killed 217 Palestinians, including 63 children, and wounded more than 1,400 people in just over a week in the Hamas-run enclave, according to Gaza’s health ministry.
The death toll on the Israeli side has risen to 12 after rockets Hamas fired at the southern Eshkol region killed two Thai nationals working in a factory, police said.
The humanitarian crisis has deepened in the impoverished strip, with the UN saying 72,000 Palestinians have been displaced.
But a convoy of international aid trucks that started rolling into Gaza through a border crossing from Israel, Kerem Shalom, was halted when Israel quickly shuttered it again, citing a mortar attack on the area.
Before the latest UN meeting, Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser to the US president, Joe Biden, said Washington was engaged in “quiet, intensive diplomacy”.
His comments came after Biden issued a statement expressing for the first time support for a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas, after a phone conversation with Netanyahu.
However, he stopped short of calling for an immediate halt to Israeli airstrikes and Hamas rocket barrages. “The president reiterated his firm support for Israel’s right to defend itself against indiscriminate rocket attacks,” the White House statement said.
Published at Wed, 19 May 2021 04:24:40 +0000
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