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U.S. to Present Gaza Cease-Fire Resolution at U.N. Security Council

WorldMiddle EastU.S. to Present Gaza Cease-Fire Resolution at U.N. Security Council

Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, traveling in the Middle East on Thursday, pressed for a halt to fighting in the Gaza Strip as the United States prepared to introduce a resolution at the United Nations on Friday calling for “an immediate and sustained cease-fire.”

The Security Council resolution drafted by the United States contains the strongest language that Washington has supported so far, and was an apparent shift for Israel’s closest ally. In February, the United States vetoed a Council resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian cease-fire.

The new resolution also condemns the Hamas-led attacks on Israel of Oct. 7 that set off the war and the hostage-taking that day, and expresses support for the negotiations to free those still being held in Gaza.

When the United States vetoed the earlier resolution, American officials said they had done so because they were concerned that it could disrupt hostage negotiations. But Biden administration officials have grown more outspoken in recent weeks in their push for a cease-fire, as experts have warned of imminent famine in Gaza and pressure grows for stronger international action.

The resolution being circulated by U.S. diplomats and obtained by The New York Times on Thursday said that the Council determines the imperative of an immediate and sustained cease-fire to protect civilians on all sides, allow for the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance, and alleviate humanitarian suffering, and towards that end unequivocally supports ongoing international diplomatic efforts to secure such a cease-fire in connection with the release of all remaining hostages.”

The resolution also notes the “deep concern about the threat of conflict-induced famine and epidemics.”

The call for an “immediate and sustained” cease-fire was markedly stronger language than a draft Security Council resolution that the United States circulated in February, which called for a temporary cease-fire “as soon as practicable.”

The Biden administration also used the resolution to reiterate its opposition to Israel’s planned invasion of the southern Gazan city Rafah, which is packed with war refugees. It expresses “concern that a ground offensive into Rafah would result in further harm to civilians and their further displacement including potentially into neighboring countries.”

In Egypt on Thursday, Mr. Blinken met with President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi as well as with several Arab foreign ministers — including those from Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and the Palestinian Authority — to discuss how postwar Gaza could be governed and kept secure.

The group also planned to discuss providing Gazan civilians, trapped in a humanitarian crisis, with more aid.

Mr. Blinken had arrived from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, where, in an interview with the Saudi-run news channel Al Hadath, he said that he hoped other countries would back the U.S.-proposed Security Council resolution. “I think that would send a strong message, a strong signal,” he said.

He also said that cease-fire negotiations mediated by Egypt and Qatar between Hamas and Israel were “getting closer” to reaching an agreement. Negotiators have been in Qatar since Monday for the latest round of talks, after several previous attempts ended without a resolution.

On Thursday, Mr. Blinken said obstacles to a deal remained.

“There’s still real challenges,” he said, speaking alongside his Egyptian counterpart at a news conference in Cairo. “We’ve closed the gaps, but there are still gaps.”

Last week, Hamas presented a new proposal that excluded a previous demand that Israel immediately agree to a permanent cease-fire in return for beginning an exchange of hostages for Palestinians in Israeli prisons, according to people familiar with the negotiations. Israeli officials said ahead of this week’s talks that the broad proposal being discussed included a 42-day pause in fighting, in exchange for the release of 40 of the more than 100 hostages believed to be in Gaza.

Mr. Blinken also held a late-night meeting with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, in which he emphasized the Biden administration’s eventual goal of “the establishment of a future Palestinian state with security guarantees for Israel,” the State Department spokesman, Matthew Miller, said in a statement on Thursday.

He said Mr. Blinken and the crown prince had “continued discussions on achieving lasting regional peace and security, including through greater integration among countries in the region and enhanced bilateral cooperation between the United States and Saudi Arabia.”

The reference was to discussions between the Biden administration and Saudi Arabia about a possible deal in which the kingdom would establish normal diplomatic relations with Israel for the first time. In return, the Saudis have asked the United States for security guarantees, arms sales and backing for a civil nuclear program.

Such a deal would most likely require Israeli support for a path to Palestinian statehood.

Mr. Blinken plans to travel on to Israel, where he will discuss the potential Saudi normalization agreement, as well as ways to protect and deliver more aid to civilians there.

The diplomatic efforts on Thursday came as the Israeli military’s raid on the largest medical center in Gaza stretched into a fourth day. The military said on Thursday that it had killed dozens of people it described as terrorists in the previous 24 hours in and around the hospital, Al-Shifa, in central Gaza.

Israel has staged a series of raids on the hospital. Since the latest attack began on Monday, the Israeli military has reported killing more than 140 people it said were terrorists, far more than in past raids. On Thursday, the military said it had also detained 600 people at the hospital.

Israel has said that Hamas has used the hospital as a command center and concealed weapons and fighters in underground tunnels there.

Reporting was contributed by Victoria Kim, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Hiba Yazbek and Lauren Leatherby.

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