Home Opinion Stop the war: On the U.N. Security Council’s call for a Gaza ceasefire 

Stop the war: On the U.N. Security Council’s call for a Gaza ceasefire 

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Stop the war: On the U.N. Security Council’s call for a Gaza ceasefire 

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Five and half months after Israel’s assault on Gaza began, in which 32,000 Palestinians have been killed, another 74,000 injured, more than 90% of the enclave’s population displaced and nearly all of them pushed into a devastating hunger crisis, the U.N. Security Council (UNSC), on March 25, called for “an immediate ceasefire” and release of all hostages held by Hamas. The United States, which has vetoed every U.N. resolution earlier that called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, abstained this time, signalling a change in the Biden administration’s policy towards the war. All other members of the UNSC, including Britain, which until recently had resisted calls to back a ceasefire, voted for the resolution. Israel responded angrily, cancelling a planned visit of two of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s close cabinet aides to Washington, and, backed by China and Russia, blasting the resolution, for not conditioning a ceasefire on the release of hostages. But beneath the anger and outburst lies Israel’s weakness. Israeli leaders have repeatedly said in recent weeks that an invasion of Rafah, the southernmost town where some 1.4 million Palestinians have been cramped into, was in the offing. It would be highly inappropriate, after 14 members of the UNSC called for an immediate ceasefire, for Israel to launch an attack on Rafah, which could end up in another bloodbath.

The latest war was triggered by Hamas’s October 7 cross-border attack where at least 1,200 Israelis were killed. Israel had the sympathies and solidarity of the world on that day. But what Israel did in subsequent months was to punish the entire population of Gaza for what Hamas did, which turned international public opinion against it. If Israel makes an objective assessment of the situation, it should immediately abide by the UNSC resolution and declare a ceasefire. The October 7 attack itself was a massive intelligence and security failure for which Mr. Netanyahu should take responsibility. Instead of doing that, he went to war with full force, without proper achievable targets. After months-long fighting, Israel has turned much of Gaza into rubble, but has neither destroyed Hamas nor rescued hostages. The prolonged war has created fissures within the Netanyahu cabinet. The Prime Minister is immensely unpopular and his coalition partners are at war with one another. The war has also increased Israel’s isolation, with tensions rising in its ties even with its close partners, including the U.S. If Israel continues the war with no clear end in sight, it will only worsen the domestic and international challenges it is facing, besides killing more Palestinians in the defenceless, battered, besieged, bombed-out Gaza. Mr. Netanyahu faces two choices. He can take the message from the UNSC seriously, stop the war, allow urgent humanitarian assistance into Gaza and continue talks with Hamas through international mediators for both the release of all hostages and the withdrawal of his troops from the enclave. Or, he can continue to lead his country in the dark in a state of permanent war.

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