International Response Israel-Hamas2024March 2024Focus

FOCUS on Global Peacemaking Efforts: Israel-Hamas

Melissa Myrtaj

Staff Writer

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After October 7, when Hamas militants entered Israel, killed about 1,200 people, and took 250 other hostages, according to Associated Press, Israel’s military offensive responded by killing more than 29,000 Palestinians—a majority women and children, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. UN News data from the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) shows that the “entire population” of Gaza, about 2.3 million people, is experiencing high levels of “acute” food insecurity and 1.11 million are experiencing “catastrophic” food insecurity. Furthermore, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) anticipates that 79 percent of Gazans will fall into catastrophic hunger by mid-March. This begs for humanitarian aid, however the numerous United Nations-supported resolutions for a humanitarian ceasefire in the Gaza Strip have been vetoed. 

The U.S. has vetoed a UN Security Council measure that concentrated on an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire” three times – October 18, 2023, December 8, 2023, and again on February 20, 2024, states Al Jazeera. The most recent veto was anticipated before the vote. The current Arab representative to the council, Algeria’s UN Ambassador Amar Bendjama, addressed the U.S right before voting, stating “A vote in favor of this draft resolution is a support to the Palestinians’ right to life. Conversely, voting against it implies an endorsement of the brutal violence and collective punishment inflicted against them,” The Associated Press continues. 

The U.S. Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield responded by stating the United States understands the urgency of the situation, but they believe that the resolution would have a “negative impact” on the U.S.’ sensitive negotiations regarding a hostage deal and a six-week pause in fighting. If that happens, “we can take the time to build a more enduring peace,” she said. Moreover, The Associated Press continues that Israel’s U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan criticized the use of the word “ceasefire” used by the Security Council, the General Assembly, and U.N. officials, “as if it is a silver bullet, a magical solution to all of the region’s problems.”

The U.S.’ concerns of a cease-fire interfering with hostage negotiations has remained unpopular as 13 out of the members of the Security Council voted for the ceasefire and the United Kingdom abstained, The Associated Press adds. The Arab-backed resolution called for the immediate release of hostages, rejecting the forced displacement of Palestinian civilians and humanitarian access throughout Gaza. The U.S. proposed a rival resolution also calling for a ceasefire, marking the first time they used the word, However, this resolution called for a temporary cease-fire as soon as all hostages were released and for barriers to be lifted for humanitarian assistance. Both resolutions urge “unwavering commitment” to a two-state solution. 

The U.S. resolution would not be legally binding like the UN Security Council resolution would be, according to Vox. Currently, there is no date scheduled for a vote on the U.S. resolution, but officials have made some updates to the resolution’s text. For example, the initial “temporary cease-fire” in the resolution now calls for “an immediate ceasefire of roughly six weeks in Gaza together with the release of all hostages,” according to Reuters.

Jon Alterman, director of the Middle East program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said that the U.S. didn’t want to use the word ‘immediate’ because “that would undermine discussions about hostages,” according to Vox. There is a major focus on securing a hostage deal, as an estimated 132 out of the 250 hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 attack remain captive or are presumed dead. However, the Algerian ambassador reminded officials that the UN waited for hostage talks to progress and waited for Israel to take stronger measures to protect Palestinian civilians and provide humanitarian aid ruled by the International Court of Justice and the region is absent of improvements and results, as Vox adds.

As of March 7, 2024, ceasefire talks between Israel and Hamas mediated by Qatar and Egypt in Cairo over the course of four days in attempts to broker a 40-day ceasefire in time for Ramadan concluded with no substantial result, according to Al Jazeera. Senior Hamas official Sami Abu Zuhri said Israel was rejecting their demands “to end its offensive in the enclave, withdraw forces, and ensure freedom of entry for aid and the return of displaced people.” This includes an agreement to exchange captives held by both parties. However, Israel did not send a delegation to these negotiations, while Hamas “pledged to continue the negotiations.” No substantial resolutions have been made, but the need for humanitarian aid has changed the U.S.’ rhetoric and may prove to motivate a consensus within the Security Council.

Image courtesy of Getty Images

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