UNSC to vote on new resolution demanding Gaza ceasefire

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Monday, 18th December 2023

Times of Israel reports that the UN Security Council is expected to vote, later on Monday, on a draft resolution introduced by Arab countries. It calls for an “urgent and sustainable cessation of hostilities to allow safe and unhindered humanitarian access in the Gaza Strip” and the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages”. Observers note that, like the previous resolution vetoed by the US demanding a ceasefire brought to a vote in the Security Council on 9th December, the new draft text does not explicitly name Hamas but does vaguely condemn “all indiscriminate attacks against civilians”. The text also affirms support for a two-state solution in the region and “stresses the importance of unifying the Gaza Strip with the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority”.

Last week, the UN General Assembly overwhelmingly passed a non-binding resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza and the immediate, unconditional release of all hostages. The UN Assembly’s 193 members voted overwhelmingly for a ceasefire, with 153 in favour. According to diplomatic sources, negotiations on the new text are ongoing. The US is looking to amend the language on the cessation of hostilities, diplomats told Reuters earlier. “The UAE knows exactly what can pass and what cannot; it is up to them if they want to get this done,” a US official said.

European diplomacy steps up calls for Gaza ceasefire

Meanwhile, international pressure is mounting to pave the way for “a lasting ceasefire” in the conflict between Gaza and Israel. London and Berlin have expressed themselves in favour of a solution that leads to “a stable peace” over time while Paris, also underlining “the high number of deaths”, called for an “immediate truce”.

British Foreign Minister David Cameron and his German counterpart Annalena Baerbock argued, in a joint statement, that it is necessary to “do everything possible to pave the way for a lasting ceasefire, which leads to a lasting peace. The sooner, the better.”

While clarifying that she does not believe that it was necessary to “invoke a general and immediate ceasefire now” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna, who met her Israeli counterpart Eli Cohen with whom she also spoke about the situation to reduce tension, sided for “a new immediate and lasting humanitarian truce”, which leads to a ceasefire for the release of the hostages and allows humanitarian aid to the population of Gaza. From Ramallah, where she met the Palestinian Authority, Colonna,also denounced “the violence of the Israeli settlers in the West Bank” which “undermines the prospects of a political situation”.

French Foreign Minister, Catherine Colonna, during talks in Ramallah, the occupied West Bank, with Palestinian prime minister Mohammad Shtayyeh (Photo: Jaafar ASHTIYEH / AFP)

Expressing his sorrow, Pope Francis addressed the tragic deaths of two women killed by an Israeli military sniper inside a Catholic Church in Gaza on Saturday. During his Sunday Angelus prayer, highlighting the vulnerability of unarmed civilians in Gaza, the Pope said: “This is terrorism and war. This has happened even within the parish complex of the Holy Family, where there are no terrorists, but families, children, people who are sick and have disabilities, nuns … Let us pray to the Lord for peace.”

US Defence Minister Lloyd Austin will arrive in Israel today with the Biden administration’s request for “a new phase” in the war, more targeted on the leaders of Hamas and a reduction in attacks in the Strip.

Optimism for a new truce with the exchange of hostages “even if there remains disagreement on the details” is expressed by Egyptian sources after, CNN reveals, the meeting between the director of the Mossad, David Barnea, and the Prime Minister of Qatar, Mohammed bin Abdulrahman bin Jassim Al-Thani “was positive”. Israeli media quotes sources saying Hamas is insisting on unilaterally deciding the next hostages to be freed and wants Israeli troops to withdraw to pre-set lines. Israel rejected the latter term, and demanded to see the list of hostages before the time and duration of the ceasefire are determined.

However, the Israeli government does not seem to have any intention of backing down from the war. Rejecting the pressure, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu published “a letter from dozens of families of fallen soldiers” in which he confirmed his mandate to “continue the war”, adding that “this is the testament of the fallen and our obligation to the living”.

Al Jazeera reports that 25 people have died in a night-time aerial bombing by the Israeli army near the Nuseirat refugee camp in the Gaza Strip. A house was destroyed in the attack. Among the victims, according to the Wafa agency, there is also a journalist, Haneen Ali al-Qutshan, who worked for a radio station in Gaza. The attack follows another Israeli air strike with “at least 47 Palestinians killed” in Jabalya in the north of the Strip and in the Deir el-Balah refugee camp in central Gaza.

Photo: AP Photo/Hatem Moussa

The Israeli army announced that, in Jabalya, it had found a mega Hamas tunnel system for a length of some four kilometres at a depth of 50 metres, traced to the home of Mohammad Sinwar, Yahya’s brother, not far from the Erez crossing between Israel and the Strip. According to the military spokesperson, the tunnel was used for the attack on the border kibbutzim last 7th October. Earlier, the IDF said they had found another tunnel at the basement of a house in a room where there was a baby crib. Released hostages have told the authorities not to go into the tunnels as these are “full of Hamas fighters”.

As of Sunday, humanitarian aid trucks entered the Strip for the first time from the Israeli Kerem Shalom crossing and this could improve a very difficult situation. A video released by AP shows hundreds of civilians attacking a food truck in Rafah. WHO returned to denounce the conditions of the emergency room of Al Shifa hospital, which it describes as “a bloodbath”.

Photo: Fatima Shbair/AP

Biden safe after car plows into his motorcade

A car plowed into a parked SUV that was part of President Biden’s motorcade near his campaign headquarters in Wilmington, Delaware, Sunday evening. The sedan hit a US Secret Service vehicle being used to close off intersections as a visibly stunned President Biden was walking from the campaign office to his waiting armoured SUV. President Biden was ushered into his waiting vehicle, where First Lady Jill Biden was already seated, before being driven swiftly back to their home. Neither the President nor the First Lady were harmed. The sedan then tried to continue into a closed-off intersection, before Secret Service personnel surrounded the vehicle with weapons drawn and instructed the driver to put his hands up. The presidential couple had just finished a meal with members of his re-election team at the time of the incident, according to the White House report.

Photo: Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

More than 60 migrants drown off Libya

More than  60 migrants are believed to have drowned in the Mediterranean after their vessel was swamped by high waves off the coast of Libya, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said. Most of the victims were from Nigeria, Gambia, and other African countries and included women and children. There had been 86 people on board the boat, which departed from Zuwara on Libya’s western coast, witnesses told the agency. The IOM said it “provided medical support” to the 25 survivors who, it said, were all in good condition and were taken to a detention centre in Libya. The central Mediterranean remains one of the world’s most dangerous migration routes.

File photo

Lampedusa received 78,000 migrants since June

More than 78,000 migrants and refugees have passed through the first reception centre on Lampedusa since June, when the Italian Red Cross took over management of the facility, the humanitarian organisation said on Sunday, ahead of today’s International Migrants Day. The migrants and refugees have arrived in some 1,900 landings, with migrant boats arriving from Tunisia and Libya. This year Lampedusa has been the place of arrival of the majority of people crossing the Central Mediterranean in search of safety and a better life in Europe, putting the local reception capacity under strain. However, with the exception of a few critical days with peak arrivals over the summer, the situation on the island has been manageable thanks to a restructuring of the facility and the creation of a system of swift transfers of new arrivals off the island to reception facilities on mainland Sicily and in other parts of Italy.

Photo: REUTERS/Yara Nardi

Pope Francis: a big year of efforts to reform the Church

Pope Francis turned 87 on Sunday, closing out a year that saw big milestones in his efforts to reform the Catholic Church as well as health scares that raise questions about his future as Pope. Francis celebrated his birthday with cake during a festive audience with children on Sunday morning, and there were ‘Happy Birthday’ banners in St Peter’s Square during his weekly noon blessing.

Serbia’s ruling populists claim sweeping election victory

Serbia’s ruling populists claimed sweeping victory on Sunday in the country’s parliamentary election, which has been marred by reports of major irregularities both during a tense campaign and on voting day. Prime Minister Ana Brnabic said that, with most of the ballots counted, the Serbian Progressive Party’s projections show that President Aleksandar Vucic won 47% of the vote and expects to hold around 130 seats in the 250-member assembly. The main opposition Serbia Against Violence group won around 23%, Brnabic said.

Image: Zorana Jevtic, Reuters

Far-right AfD wins Germany’s first city mayoral election

A candidate from Germany’s far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party won a city mayoral election for the first time on Sunday. Tim Lochner was elected after winning the second round of voting in Pirna, a town in the eastern state of Saxony, where the AfD has been notably strong. Initial results showed that Lochner had won 38.5% of the vote. The far-right candidate beat out Kathrin Dollinger-Knuth (CDU), who came second with 31.4%, and Ralf Thiele, from the small Free Voters party, who got 30.1%.

Photo: Sebastian Kahnert/dpa

Voters reject Chile’s new constitution

For the second time in two years, Chileans rejected the adoption of a new constitution. The ‘No’ camp won the referendum with over 55 per cent of the votes and thus the country keeps in force the constitution drawn up during the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet. As already announced by all the country’s political forces, there will not be a new constituent process.

Photo: Reuters
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