Israel pounds Gaza as US vetoes UN truce resolution

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Israel kept up its deadly bombardment of war-torn Gaza as Washington vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution that called for a ceasefire in the Palestinian territory.

Global powers trying to navigate a way out of the spiralling crisis have so far come up short, and mediation efforts have so far failed to secure a truce to halt the fighting.

Adding to Gaza’s woes, the U.N.’s food agency said Tuesday that it had to stop desperately-needed deliveries to the north of the territory after facing “complete chaos and violence” there — a decision condemned by Hamas.

The World Food Programme had only just resumed deliveries Sunday but said its convoy was met with gunfire, violence and looting, while a truck driver was beaten.

“We are shocked about this decision by the World Food Programme to suspend the delivery of food aid in northern Gaza, which means a death sentence and death for three-quarters of a million people,” the Hamas government media office said Tuesday night.

Calling on the agency to “immediately reverse its disastrous decision”, it said “we hold the United Nations and the international community responsible”.

Since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, Gaza has been plunged into a food crisis, with outside aid severely restricted.

The U.N. has repeatedly sounded the alarm over the dire humanitarian situation in Gaza, warning that food shortages could lead to an “explosion” of preventable child deaths.

More than four months of relentless fighting have flattened much of the coastal territory, pushing 2.2 million people to the brink of famine and displacing three-quarters of the population, according to U.N. estimates.

“We can’t take it anymore. We do not have flour, we don’t even know where to go in this cold weather,” said Ahmad, a resident of Gaza city, where streets are strewn with rubble from destroyed buildings and garbage.

“We demand a ceasefire. We want to live,” he said. 

But in New York, Washington vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution drafted by Algeria, which demanded an immediate humanitarian ceasefire and the “unconditional” release of all hostages kidnapped in the Oct. 7 attacks.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, Washington’s ambassador to the U.N., called the vote “wishful and irresponsible” as it could put negotiations to free hostages in Gaza “in jeopardy”.

The veto provoked criticism from countries including China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and even close U.S. allies France and Slovenia.

“China voted in favour of the draft resolution,” foreign ministry spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular briefing on Wednesday.

“The United States has once again single-handedly vetoed it, pushing the situation in Gaza into an even more dangerous situation, in which all parties concerned… have expressed their strong disappointment and dissatisfaction,” she added.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is becoming extremely serious, and regional peace and stability have been severely impacted,” Mao said.

Hamas said the U.S. veto equalled “a green light for the occupation to commit more massacres”.

As world powers voted, Israeli strikes pounded Gaza early Wednesday as fighting on the ground raged on, leaving 103 people dead, according to the Hamas-run health ministry in the territory.

Witnesses reported heavy fire in areas around Gaza, including the south of the territory’s main city Khan Yunis and Rafah near the Egyptian border, where around 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have sought shelter.

Rafah, Gaza’s last city to face a ground invasion by Israeli ground troops, is also the main entry point for desperately needed relief supplies via Egypt.

Qatar, which has played a key role in mediation efforts between Hamas and Israel, said Tuesday that medicines sent into Gaza under a deal co-negotiated by France had reached the hostages held by the militants, in exchange for a shipment of humanitarian aid.

But overall, negotiation efforts have failed to secure a longterm truce and despite international pressure, Israel has insisted that a ground operation Rafah is essential to destroy Hamas.

Hamas took about 250 hostages — 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.

Israel’s retaliatory campaign has killed at least 29,195 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest count by the territory’s health ministry.

Leaders of global humanitarian groups said a ground offensive could turn the Rafah into a “graveyard”, warning of the “truly unimaginable” consequences of a full-scale assault.

Israel has said that unless all the hostages are freed by the start of Ramadan on March 10 or 11, it will push on with its offensive during the Muslim holy month, including in Rafah.

 G20 firestorm 

On Wednesday, Brett McGurk, the White House coordinator for the Middle East and North Africa — is expected to land in Egypt and then head to Israel Thursday to advance a hostage deal.

McGurk will also reiterate U.S. President Joe Biden’s concerns about an Israeli operation in Rafah, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said.

Hamas chief Ismail Haniyeh is already in Cairo for talks, the militant group said — days after mediators warned that prospects for a truce had dimmed despite meetings with both Israeli and Hamas negotiators last week.

Adding to the international chorus of criticism of Israel, Colombian President Gustavo Petro on Tuesday accused Israel of committing a “genocide” of the Palestinians in Gaza — echoing comments made by Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

Lula sparked a diplomatic firestorm with his comments ahead of the G20 summit in Rio de Janeiro opening Wednesday, and Israel have declared him “persona non grata”.

UN, Gaza violence,

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