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Blinken says Rafah offensive risks ‘further isolating’ Israel as UN rejects ceasefire resolution

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US Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel that an offensive on Rafah, the southern Gaza city home to more than a million people, would risk “further isolating” it.

Speaking after a U.S.-sponsored ceasefire resolution, vetoed Friday by Russia and China at the UN Security Council, Mr. Blinken said he took part in “frank conversations” with Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

A ground military operation in Rafah “risks killing more civilians”, the US secretary of state said as he left Tel Aviv, his final stop on his sixth urgent trip to the region since Israel-Hamas War started in October.

“This risks causing further damage to humanitarian assistance. It risks further isolating Israel around the world and jeopardizing its long-term security and reputation,” Blinken said.

The Israeli prime minister responded by saying Israel “would do it alone” if necessary, as it views Rafah as the last major Hamas stronghold in the besieged Gaza enclave.

Blinken’s comments come as Russia and China, permanent members of the UN Security Council, vetoed a motion tabled Friday that linked an immediate ceasefire to the release of hostages taken by Hamas during the October 7 attack.

The Russian Ambassador to the UN claimed that the proposal was extremely politicized and would have effectively given a green light to Israel launch a ground offensive in Rafah, where more than a million Palestinians have found refuge.

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Greenfield-Thomas addresses a meeting of the U.N. Security Council.  Photo: Reuters
Picture:
American Ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield. Photo: Reuters

Last war between Israel and Hamas: Three countries reject Gaza ceasefire resolution

Israel is under increasing pressure to allow more humanitarian aid to reach more than two million people in Gazaand better protect civilians, 32,000 of whom, according to the local Ministry of Health, died during the Israeli offensive.

The project was the subject of “numerous rounds of consultations” with members of the 15-seat council and marks a hardening of the American position towards Israel.

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Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said the resolution’s failure was “truly outrageous and contrary to the dignity of the U.N. Security Council.”

She added: “There are two deeply cynical reasons behind this vote. First, Russia and China have still not been able to bring themselves to condemn the Hamas terrorist attacks on October 7.

“Russia and China refuse to condemn Hamas for burning people alive, shooting innocent civilians at a concert, raping women and girls, taking hundreds of people hostage.

“This is the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust – and a permanent member of this council cannot even condemn it.”

Learn more:
UK aid to Gaza ‘stuck at border for weeks’ as Cameron blames Israel
UN agency chief says Israel blocked him from entering Gaza

Analysis: No resolution, but an important day

There is no global crisis serious enough to forge unity at the UN, one that goes beyond the political dynamics of special interests.

It never looked like the resolution would pass, not since the Russians had taunted the Americans for their vague language – the “imperative” for an immediate ceasefire. As the Russians say, the imperative to put $100 in our pocket does not mean we have $100 in our pocket.

There are strong arguments behind the Russia/China/Algeria veto. To assert that Joe Biden is facing domestic political difficulties created by the American position is to state a fact.

The American ambassador had other words to describe this: audacity and hypocrisy on the part of Russia. It is not the first time that, in the UN building in midtown Manhattan, the interests of the people of Gaza and a growing catastrophe suddenly seem distant.

So no resolution but it’s not a day without meaning. America changed its position in favor of a ceasefire and gradually increased pressure on Israel.

As important as the discussions around the Security Council table are, the most immediate impact, in practice, will always come from the talks in Qatar on a real ceasefire and a real release of the hostages.

It is a form of speech presented to UN actors that will resonate with key actors in Qatar.

Barbara Woodward, the UK’s permanent representative to the UN, warned: “The Palestinians face a devastating and growing humanitarian crisis which will not improve until more aid can reach Gaza.

“We are therefore deeply disappointed that Russia and China were unable to support this council to clearly and unequivocally articulate the need for an immediate and lasting ceasefire.”

Washington had previously vetoed three draft resolutions since the start of the war, two of which would have demanded an immediate ceasefire.

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