Israel-Palestine conflict: UN Security Council vote postponed, reports

Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin and his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant held talks in Tel Aviv, hours before a scheduled UN Security Council session was expected to discuss a new cease-fire resolution

The vote was due to take place at 5 p.m. on 18 December but has been put back to 19 December because the US said it could not support a reference to a "cessation" of hostilities. (Representative image)  (photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
The vote was due to take place at 5 p.m. on 18 December but has been put back to 19 December because the US said it could not support a reference to a "cessation" of hostilities. (Representative image) (photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)


A United Nations Security Council vote on the conflict in Gaza has been postponed due to ongoing negotiations over the precise wording of the resolution — which Arab countries tabling the vote are interpreting as evidence that the United States is growing impatient with Israel's conduct of the conflict.

The vote was due to take place at 5 p.m. on Monday, 18 December in New York (2200 GMT) but has been put back to Tuesday because the US said it could not support a reference to a "cessation" of hostilities.

However, rather than simply vetoing the resolution outright, as it has done on two previous occasions since October 7, sources have indicated that the US could accept "suspension" of hostilities.

The draft has been introduced by a group of Arab nations led by the United Arab Emirates (UAE), which have been encouraged by broad UN support for a cease-fire last week, when 153 member states voted in favor of a non-binding resolution.

In addition to a cease-fire, the draft text reportedly also affirms support for a two-state solution and "stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority."

The draft does not explicitly name Hamas — classified as a terrorist organization by Israel, the United States and the European Union— but it does call for the "immediate and unconditional release of all hostages" while condemning "all violence and hostilities against civilians, and all acts of terrorism."

First commercial trucks enter Gaza since October, US says

Privately-owned commercial trucks carrying mainly food have entered the Gaza Strip for the first time since the outbreak of the current conflict more than two months ago, the United States said on Monday, 18 December.

State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters that it was "a critical step towards improving the lives of the Palestinian people in Gaza that we see not just humanitarian aid delivered, but also commercial goods that can be sold in stores and markets," State Department spokesman Matthew Miller told reporters.

The commercial vehicles began entering Gaza from Egypt via the southern Rafah crossing and the much larger Kerem Shalom border crossing with southern Israel, which has also been re-opened.

Miller said that both the opening of Kerem Shalom and the arrival of commercial trucks were the "result of intensive diplomacy" by US officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

"While this weekend's breakthroughs are important, they are also not by themselves sufficient," Miller said. "We will continue to work closely with the governments of Israel, Egypt and partner countries in the region to further increase the humanitarian assistance flowing into Gaza to address the needs of the Palestinian people."

While the United States has remained steadfast in its support for Israel, providing both military and diplomatic backing, it has increasingly voiced concern over the effects Israel's military operations are having on civilians.

US defense chief calls for increased Gaza aid, pledges continued arms for Israel

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for increased humanitarian assistance to the Gaza Strip during a visit to Israel.

"We must get more humanitarian assistance in to the nearly 2 million displaced people in Gaza and we must distribute that aid better," he said, according to a statement from the office of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Austin said that this was Israel's operation and that he would not dictate a timeline or terms for the conflict, adding Washington believed that Hamas must not be allowed to project terror from Gaza into Israel.

He also said that the US would be providing arms to Israel.

"We'll continue to provide Israel with the equipment that you need to defend your country... including critical munitions, tactical vehicles and air defense systems," he said.

"In the Red Sea, we're leading a multinational maritime taskforce to uphold the bedrock principle of freedom of navigation. Iran's support for Houthi attacks on commercial vessels must stop," he added, referring to Yemeni rebels that have launched attacks on ships passing through the Bab al-Mandeb Strait.

He said that he discussed with Israeli officials how to transition from high-intensity to lower intensity, "more surgical" operations, as well as how to reduce harm to civilians.

The defense secretary called for an end of attacks on Palestinians by extremist settlers in the occupied West Bank, adding that "urgent action" needed to be taken to stabilize the territory.

Austin said that he spoke on pathways to a two-state solution to the conflict in Israel and the Palestinian territories, and discussed pathways to a future Gaza after Hamas.

Civilians could soon move back to northern Gaza — Gallant

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant has said that civilians may soon be able to move back to northern Gaza as the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) transition to a new phase of operations.

"I can tell you that soon we will be able to distinguish between different areas in Gaza," he told a joint news conference with his US counterpart Lloyd Austin in Tel Aviv.

"In every area where we achieve our mission we will be able to transition gradually to the next phase and start working on bringing back the local population," Gallant said. "That means that it can be achieved maybe sooner in the north rather than in the south."

Israel's military operations in Gaza concentrated initially on the north of the territory before expanding south.

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Published: 19 Dec 2023, 8:32 AM