Israeli Airstrikes Hit Northern, Southern Gaza

United Nations — The Israeli military said Wednesday it carried out airstrikes in northern and southern Gaza, a day after the United States vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for an immediate humanitarian cease-fire, scaled up aid access and rejected the forced displacement of Palestinians.

The Israel Defense Forces reported killing dozens of militants, including in the Khan Younis area of the southern part of the Gaza Strip.

The Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza said Wednesday it recorded 118 deaths during the past day, pushing the total number of Palestinians killed to 29,313 with another 69,333 injured since the war began in October.

“Demanding an immediate, unconditional cease-fire without an agreement requiring Hamas to release the hostages will not bring about a durable peace,” said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield of the Algerian-drafted resolution.

For weeks, the United States, Egypt, Qatar and Israel have been involved in delicate negotiations aimed at the release of all hostages and an extended pause in the fighting.

“Instead, it could extend the fighting between Hamas and Israel, extend the hostages’ time in captivity, an experience described by former hostages as ‘hell,’ and extend the dire humanitarian crisis Palestinians are facing in Gaza,” Thomas-Greenfield said, adding “none of us want that.”

Algeria first presented the 15-member Security Council with its text three weeks ago and delayed a vote to give those negotiations time. But the country’s Ambassador Amar Bendjama said silence is no longer an option and it is time for the council to act.

“We are rapidly approaching a critical juncture where the call to halt the machinery of violence will lose its significance,” he said of Israel’s impending incursion on the southern city of Rafah, where 1.5 million Palestinians are sheltering.

“Today, every Palestinian is a target for death, extermination and genocide,” he said. “We should ask ourselves; how many innocent lives must be sacrificed before the council deems it necessary to call for a cease-fire?”

The Algerian text had strong council support – 13 members voted for it, Britain abstained, and the U.S. cast its veto. It is the third time Washington has used its council veto to block a cease-fire measure.

“The call for a cease-fire should have been agreed to a long time ago,” Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said. “What fresh hell needs to be crossed for this council to finally demand a cease-fire?”

Israel’s envoy called the idea of a cease-fire “absurd” and not a magic solution.

“So why is the council charged with security so fixated on aiding these monsters staying in power?” Ambassador Gilad Erdan asked, warning Hamas would attack Israel again given the chance.

Erdan urged the council as a whole to condemn the Hamas terror attack of Oct. 7, which it has so far not done. Several council members said in their remarks that the council should take this step.

US counter-proposal

The United States is proposing its own draft resolution, which several diplomats said had not yet been officially circulated at the council.

Seen by VOA, it calls for a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable” and based on a formula of all hostages being released. It also notes the “urgent need for a viable plan” to protect civilians from an Israeli offensive in Rafah.

The U.S. proposal “underscores that such a major ground offensive should not proceed under current circumstances” and “rejects any other effort at forced displacement of the civilian population in Gaza.”  

“Colleagues, this is not, as some members have claimed, an American effort to cover for an imminent ground incursion,” Thomas-Greenfield said of the U.S. text. “Rather, it is a sincere statement of our concern for the 1.5 million civilians who have sought refuge in Rafah.”

Thomas-Greenfield told reporters that the United States would work with other council members in good faith to get the resolution “over the finish line.”

Israel has warned it plans to carry out an offensive in Rafah, the area of southern Gaza along the Egyptian border. Israeli officials say the operation is necessary to target Hamas members there. The officials have also mentioned evacuations of civilians without providing any detailed plans. 

United Nations officials have repeatedly said no place is safe for civilians to go in Gaza.

Egypt objects to the evacuation of Palestinians into its territory, saying it would amount to their forced displacement. Israel denies that is its intention.

The World Food Program said it is pausing deliveries in northern Gaza, until safe conditions are in place for distribution. About 300,000 people are believed to still be living in the north, in dire conditions including looming famine.

WFP said it resumed deliveries Sunday after a three-week suspension after an aid truck was hit in an air strike. But chaotic situations with crowds climbing aboard their trucks, looting and violence, including gunfire, had impeded food distribution and made it unsafe.

Israel began its military campaign to eliminate Hamas after the group’s fighters crossed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people according to Israeli officials and taking about 250 others hostage. Hamas, designated a terror group by the U.S., the U.K. and EU, is believed to still be holding about 130 hostages in Gaza, including 30 who are believed to be dead.

Some material in this report came from The Associated Press, Reuters and Agence France-Presse.

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