Call for Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire blocked by US
Palestinian and Israeli leaders both appealed for support at a UN Security Council session on Sunday but little action was in sight despite soaring violence, with China accusing the United States of obstructionism.
After a delay pushed by the United States, Israel’s critical ally, the Security Council held its first public meeting after nearly a week of violence that has claimed more than 200 lives.
Opening the virtual session, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the violence “utterly appalling” and urged both Palestinian militants Hamas to stop firing rockets into Israel and the Jewish state to stop its massive air campaign on the Gaza Strip.
“Fighting must stop. It must stop immediately,” Guterres said.
China, which holds the rotating presidency of the Security Council, said the United States had blocked its efforts for “strong action” — and invited Israelis and Palestinians to come negotiate in China.
“Regrettably, simply because of the obstruction of one country, the Security Council hasn’t been able to speak with one voice,” Foreign Minister Wang Yi said. “We call upon the United States to shoulder its due responsibilities.”
Wang said cease-fire and cessation of violence is the top priority. China strongly condemns violent acts against civilians, and once again urges the two sides to immediately stop military and hostile actions. Israel must exercise restraint in particular.
Calls have grown for the Biden administration to take a more active stance on the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Thus far, the United States has blocked efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities.
The Biden administration has insisted that it is working behind the scenes, including through a visit to the region by an envoy, and that a UN statement could backfire, according to diplomats.
Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the United Nations, said the Biden administration was in touch with all sides including Qatar, which has close ties with Hamas, and Egypt, which has a peace deal with Israel and borders Gaza.
“The United States has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a cease-fire,” she said. “We believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security.”
The Israeli military unleashed a wave of heavy airstrikes on the Gaza Strip early on Monday, saying it destroyed 15 kilometers of militant tunnels and the homes of nine Hamas commanders.
The latest attacks killed a Gaza leader of the Islamic Jihad militant group, according to the Israeli military, which blamed him for some of the thousands of rocket attacks launched at Israel.
At least 200 Palestinians have been killed in the strikes, including 59 children and 35 women, with 1,300 people wounded, according to the Gaza Health Ministry. Eight people in Israel have been killed in rocket attacks launched from Gaza, including a 5-year-old boy and a soldier.