Senior US officials have delivered rare criticism of Israel’s conduct in its war on Gaza, as the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) prepares to meet.
The council is expected to meet Friday to discuss a resolution calling for a ceasefire in the two-month-old war. Despite Washington’s warnings to Israel, it appears unlikely that the United States will adopt the resolution.
“It remains imperative that Israel prioritize the protection of civilians,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference on Thursday, referring to the escalating Israeli offensive in Gaza. More than 17,000 people have been killed in the enclave and 1.8 million Palestinians have been forced from their homes during the war against Hamas.
“There remains a gap between … the intent to protect civilians and the actual results we see on the ground,” Blinken said.
Speaking separately by telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and King Abdullah of Jordan, US President Joe Biden “stressed the critical need to protect civilians and separate the civilian population from Hamas, including through corridors that allow people to travel safely from defined areas of hostilities. “, declared the White House.
However, in a call with his Israeli counterpart Yoav Gallant on Friday, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin once again offered his “enduring support for Israel’s right to defend itself against terrorism”, according to the White House .
Israel said it was doing everything in its power to keep civilians out of harm’s way and was only targeting Hamas, the armed group that rules the Gaza Strip.
But U.N. officials and rights groups have repeatedly said there is no safe place for civilians in the besieged enclave and have criticized Israel’s ongoing assault as a “genocide”.
Calls for a ceasefire are increasing
The UN Security Council is expected to meet Friday morning in New York to vote on a resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire. The document was drafted by the UAE, which is a temporary member of the 15-nation Council, the UN’s highest decision-making body.
Arab states renewed their push for a ceasefire after UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter on Wednesday. This decision formally warns the Security Council of a global war-related threat. Guterres, who has repeatedly called for a humanitarian ceasefire, is due to brief the council.
To pass, a resolution requires at least nine votes in favor and no vetoes from the council’s five permanent members – the United States, Russia, China, France and Britain.
The United States, Israel’s main supporter, which continues to send billions of dollars in military aid to the country, has repeatedly opposed the ceasefire and vetoed previous UN resolutions. UN calls for a pause in fighting.
Human rights organization Amnesty International urged the United States not to block the resolution.
By invoking Article 99, Guterres is “sounding the alarm that must be heeded,” Amnesty Secretary General Agnès Callamard said on Thursday.
“(Guterres is) expressing to the world, in the strongest possible terms, his deep concern about the catastrophic and likely irreversible consequences of Israel’s incessant bombing of the occupied Gaza Strip. The bloodshed and suffering have reached an unprecedented intensity and scale,” she added.
‘Activated a monster’
But critics are skeptical that invoking Article 99 will produce results at the Security Council meeting.
“The United States will veto any resolution calling for a ceasefire, no matter how careful it is,” Ian Wilson, senior lecturer in political and security studies at Murdoch University, told Al Jazeera. Perth, Australia.
“The United States vetoed 46 resolutions, including those condemning Israel’s illegal annexation of the Golan Heights. They have complete contempt for the rules-based order they claim to embrace. The United States always vetoes anything that seeks to coerce Israel. »
Ahmed Bedier, president of the civil society group United Voices for America, said the United States has put itself “in a difficult situation” by emboldening the hard-line Israeli prime minister.
“At the beginning, the Biden administration gave full, unreserved support to the Netanyahu government, to what he’s doing, and now they’re trying to rein it in,” he said. “Somehow they’ve activated a monster and they can’t turn it back. »