UN calls for 'humanitarian pauses' in Gaza, asks Hamas to release all hostages

Meeting of the United Nations Security Council, at UN headquarters in New York, US. File Photo: Reuters

New York: The UN Security Council on Wednesday called for "extended humanitarian pauses" in the Gaza Strip, the first time it has broken its silence since the start of the bloody conflict between Israel and Hamas. The international organisation adopted a resolution called for ceasfire in Gaza after Israeli troops stormed Gaza's Al Shiifa hospital targetting a Hamas command centre.

The resolution, prepared by Malta and adopted with 12 votes in favor, "calls for urgent and extended humanitarian pauses and corridors throughout the Gaza Strip for a sufficient number of days" to allow aid to reach civilians in the besieged territory.The text raises the question of how many days would be considered sufficient. A previous version of the draft seen by AFP called for an initial pause of five consecutive days within 24 hours of the adoption of the resolution.

"It needs to be long enough for us to be able to mobilize the resources, once we have enough fuel, for people to get what they need," said Stephane Dujarric, spokesman for the UN secretary-general.

Security Council resolutions are meant to be legally binding, but in practice some members have ignored them.The resolution called on all parties to comply with international humanitarian obligations "notably with regard to the protection of civilians, especially children."

It also called for the "immediate and unconditional release of all hostages held by Hamas and other groups, especially children." Over 230 hostages are believed to be held by Hamas.

Soldiers taking position in the Gaza Strip amid continuing battles between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Photo: AFP

But the resolution stopped short of condemning the brutal cross-border attack by Hamas militants on October 7, which left around 1,200 dead, according to Israeli authorities.Three states abstained -- the United States, Britain and Russia.

"I am horrified by the fact that some members of this Council do not want to resolve to condemn these barbaric attacks," said US Ambassador to the UN Linda Thomas-Greenfield. "What is stopping them from unequivocally condemning the actions of a terrorist organization that is determined to kill Jews?"

Israel's foreign ministry spokesman also called for an "unequivocal" condemnation of Hamas, but signaled there was no room "for prolonged humanitarian pauses" as long as the hostages were not released.Diplomats say members waited to schedule a vote until they were relatively sure of success.

Since the Palestinian militant group Hamas's October 7 attack on Israel from Gaza, Lebanon's southern border has seen intensifying tit-for-tat exchanges, mainly between Israel and Hezbollah, a Hamas ally. Photo: AFP

After the October 7 attack and Israel's reprisal bombardment of the Gaza Strip, the council tried multiple times -- in vain -- to adopt a resolution of some kind.

With its 10 nonpermanent members taking the lead, the Security Council launched new talks on a resolution, but those negotiations got bogged down on the wording to be used to call for a stop, however brief, to the fighting.

The United States opposed any use of the term "ceasefire," diplomats said. Other terms floated were "truce" and "pause."

"I know we are all disappointed about the inaction of the Council in the past 40 days," China's UN ambassador Jun Zhang said Wednesday.

Malta's UN envoy Vanessa Frazier said "the Security Council members are united in wanting a voice." While recognizing the "nuances" between their positions, she said all 15 members have "the desire to save life and provide respite" to civilians.

Israel claims found weapons from Al-Shifa hospital
The Hamas-run health ministry in the Gaza Strip said Thursday that the Israeli army had deployed bulldozers at the Al-Shifa hospital. The United Nations estimates there are at least 2,300 patients, staff and displaced Palestinians inside Al-Shifa.

Global agencies including the World Health Organization and the International Committee of the Red Cross raised concerns for the safety of patients and medical staff following the Israeli raid.

By early evening, Israeli troops had withdrawn from the facility, the journalist said, redeploying around the hospital.

Injured people receive medical care at the emergency ward of the Al-Shifa hospital following an Israeli strike, in Gaza City. Photo: AFP

Both Israel and its top ally the United States said the Palestinian militants have a command centre below the Al-Shifa complex, a charge denied by Hamas and directors at the hospital, which has become a focal point in the 40-day-old war.

The Israeli army said troops had found "military and combat equipment" inside the compound during Wednesday's operation, a claim the Hamas-run health ministry denied.

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