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US signals support for amended UN resolution on Gaza aid

The US has signalled it is ready to support a watered-down UN Security Council resolution to deliver desperately needed aid to Gaza after a vote on the text was repeatedly delayed amid negotiations.

US Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United States backs the new text, and if it is put to a vote Washington will support it, but did not specify if that meant voting in favour or abstaining.

“We have worked hard and diligently over the course of the past week with the Emiratis, with others, with Egypt, to come up with a resolution that we can support. And we do have that resolution now. We’re ready to vote on it,” she said.

“The draft resolution is a very strong resolution that is fully supported by the Arab group that provides them what they feel is needed to get humanitarian assistance on the ground.”

The vote has been delayed until Friday after Russia, which like Washington is also a veto power – and some other council members complained about amendments made to appease Washington, diplomats told the Reuters news agency.

The latest version of the draft resolution, which has been subject to negotiations this week, removes the call for “the urgent suspension of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and for urgent steps towards a sustainable cessation of hostilities.”

Instead, it calls “for urgent steps to immediately allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access, and also for creating the conditions for a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” the Associated Press reports.

If adopted, this would mark the council’s first reference to a cessation of hostilities.

A proposal for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a mechanism in Gaza to “monitor all humanitarian relief consignments to Gaza provided through land, sea and air routes” from countries not party to the war had also been a sticking point for the US, which supported Israel’s ability to do so.

The revised draft resolution asks Mr Guterres to appoint a senior humanitarian and reconstruction coordinator to establish a UN mechanism for accelerating aid to Gaza, through states that are not party to the conflict.

The draft resolution demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages and reaffirms the obligations of the parties under international law, including protecting civilians and infrastructure critical for their survival.

It would also reiterate the Security Council’s “unwavering commitment to the vision of the two-state solution where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace within secure and recognized borders,” and it would stress “the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority.”

Security Council resolutions are important because they are legally binding, but in practice many parties choose to ignore the council’s requests for action

The changes may mean some countries will need to consult their capitals before the vote. It is not yet clear if Russia will support the changes.

Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad reject any deals about exchanges of hostages and Palestinian prisoners “except after a full cessation of aggression” by Israel, the factions said in a statement on Thursday.

Israeli Foreign Minister Eli Cohen said negotiations on a hostage release were continuing but did not provide details.

Mr Guterres has said Gaza faces “a humanitarian catastrophe” and a total collapse of the humanitarian support system would lead to “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt.”

A report by 23 UN and humanitarian agencies on Thursday said Gaza’s entire population is in a food crisis or worse and 576,600 are at the “catastrophic” starvation level. The UN World Food Program has said 90% of the population is regularly going without food for a full day.

Nearly 20,000 Palestinians have been killed, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry, since the war broke out when Hamas militants killed about 1,200 people in Israel and took about 240 hostages back to Gaza.

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