U.S. says ready to help Israel, Palestinians if they seek a ceasefire
Published Sunday, May 16, 2021 2:59PM EDT
NEW YORK -- The United States told the United Nations Security Council on Sunday it has made clear to Israel, the Palestinians and others that it is ready to offer support "should the parties seek a ceasefire" to end the worsening violence between Israel and Palestinian militants in Gaza.
"The United States has been working tirelessly through diplomatic channels to try to bring an end to this conflict," U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the 15-member council. "Because we believe Israelis and Palestinians equally have a right to live in safety and security."
As the Security Council held its first public meeting - after two private briefings last week - Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel's campaign in Hamas Islamist-run Gaza was continuing at "full force."
Washington - a strong ally of Israel - has been isolated at the United Nations over its objection to a public statement by the Security Council on the worst violence between Israel and the Palestinians in years because it worries it could harm behind-the-scenes diplomacy.
"We call upon the U.S. to shoulder its responsibilities, take a just position, and together with most of the international community support the Security Council in easing the situation," said Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who chaired Sunday's meeting because China is president for May.
China said on Sunday it would again push the council to try and agree a statement.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the United Nations is "actively engaging all sides toward an immediate ceasefire" and called on them "to allow mediation efforts to intensify and succeed."
ARAB PUSH FOR MORE U.S. ENGAGEMENT
The truce efforts by Egypt, Qatar and the United Nations have so far offered no sign of progress. The United States sent an envoy to the region and President Joe Biden spoke with Netanyahu and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas on Saturday.
"In all these engagements with Israeli officials, the Palestinian Authority, and all regional partners, the United States has made clear that we are prepared to lend our support and good offices should the parties seek a ceasefire," Thomas-Greenfield said.
The death toll in Gaza jumped to 188 overnight, including 55 children, amid an intensive Israeli air and artillery barrage since the fighting erupted last Monday. Ten people have been killed in Israel, including two children, in thousands of rocket attacks by Hamas and other militant groups.
"Each time Israel hears a foreign leader speak of its right to defend itself it is further emboldened to continue murdering entire families in their sleep," Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki told the Security Council.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Gilad Erdan said Israel's response to indiscriminate attacks by Hamas strictly adhered to international law and that the country was taking "unparalleled steps to prevent civilian casualties."
"Israel uses its missiles to protect its children. Hamas uses children to protect its missiles," Erdan said.
Beyond the current flare up in the conflict, the 22-member Cairo-based Arab League called on Biden's administration "to engage in a more active and influential and deeper way in the Middle East peace process," Arab League U.N. envoy Maged Abdelfattah Abdelaziz told the Security Council.
He said they wanted to see "an engagement that would dispel delusions created by the past U.S. administration that Israel would get everything while Palestinians would get nothing," referring to former U.S. President Donald Trump.
The Palestinians want a state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with east Jerusalem as its capital, all territory captured by Israel in 1967. However, under a failed peace proposal by Trump, Washington would have recognized Jewish settlements in occupied territory as part of Israel.
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Daniel Wallis)