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Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Sinwar on UNSC Resolution: “We Have the Israelis Right Where We Want Them”

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Edited by: Fern Sidman

On Monday, the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) adopted a resolution drafted by the United States aimed at initiating a three-phase ceasefire to end the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. According to a report on the Jewish News Syndicate web site, the resolution received overwhelming support, passing with 14 votes in favor out of the 15 permanent members, with Russia abstaining due to concerns over the clarity of the deal’s parameters.

The details of the resolution include several phases. The first phase of the resolution calls for an “immediate, full and complete ceasefire.” This ceasefire is contingent upon several key actions. An unspecified number of hostages, both living and dead, are to be released. This includes Israeli captives held by Hamas and Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. Israeli military forces are to withdraw from populated areas of Gaza, the JNS report said. This aims to reduce immediate tensions and create space for further negotiations. Displaced civilians in Gaza are to return to their homes, stabilizing civilian life and reducing humanitarian concerns. Humanitarian aid is to be increased to address the dire needs of the population in Gaza. The resolution emphasizes that these actions must be implemented “without delay and without condition,” underscoring the urgency and unconditional nature of the ceasefire.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vasily Nebenzya, expressed skepticism about the resolution and remarked, “Hamas is called upon to accept this so-called deal, but still there is no…clarity regarding official agreement from Israel.” (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Phase two involves negotiating a permanent end to hostilities. The key elements of this phase include a lasting ceasefire agreement is to be reached, ensuring long-term peace and stability. Any remaining hostages are to be released as part of this phase. As per the JNS report, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) are to fully withdraw from Gaza, ending military operations in the region. The resolution provides a timeframe for these negotiations, stating that if they take longer than six weeks, the ceasefire will continue as long as negotiations are ongoing. This clause aims to prevent a resumption of hostilities during the negotiation period.

The third phase involves the release of any remaining deceased hostages and the development of a comprehensive long-range reconstruction plan for Gaza. This phase aims to address the broader humanitarian and infrastructural needs of the region, fostering conditions for long-term peace and stability.

One of the contentious points in the resolution is its implications for Israel’s operational freedom in Gaza, particularly concerning the removal of Hamas from power. JNS reported that the wording of the resolution raises questions about Israel’s ability to achieve its strategic objectives in Gaza. However, the resolution also stresses the importance of the Palestinian Authority (PA) returning to power in Gaza, suggesting a long-term vision for governance that excludes Hamas.

Russia’s abstention from the vote highlights ongoing geopolitical tensions and differing perspectives on the Israel-Hamas conflict. Moscow’s claim that the parameters of the deal were not sufficiently clarified suggests concerns about the implementation and enforceability of the ceasefire, as was noted in the JNS report. Russia’s position may influence future negotiations and the dynamics within the UNSC.

The Israeli government has firmly rejected both the prospect of the Palestinian Authority (P.A.) governing the Gaza Strip and the continued rule of Hamas. JNS reported that Israel’s official stance, articulated by senior diplomat Reut Shapir Ben Naftaly, emphasizes two primary objectives: the safe return of all Israeli hostages and the complete dismantling of Hamas’ military capabilities to ensure Gaza no longer poses a threat to Israel. This position highlights Israel’s commitment to ending the conflict only when these goals are fully met, emphasizing a refusal to engage in protracted and potentially unproductive negotiations that could be used by Hamas to buy time.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Hamas mastermind Yahya Sinwar is reported to have said, “We have the Israelis right where we want them.” Credit: AP

Hamas has welcomed the adoption of the UNSC resolution, expressing readiness to engage in indirect negotiations with Israel through mediators, according to the JNS report.

The UNSC has also amended its resolution on the Israel-Hamas conflict, removing references to “buffer zones” in the section rejecting territorial changes in Gaza. JNS reported that this adjustment appears to be a concession to Israel, despite the United States’ initial opposition to the establishment of such zones.

The IDF have been creating buffer zones along the Israel-Gaza border to enhance security. These zones are intended to provide an additional layer of protection against potential threats emanating from Gaza, according to the JNS report. The removal of the mention of buffer zones from the UNSC resolution signifies a notable shift, likely aimed at securing Israel’s acceptance of the ceasefire proposal. This amendment has sparked debate over the implications for both security and territorial rights in the region.

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, assured the UNSC that Israel had accepted the ceasefire deal, emphasizing the need for Hamas to reciprocate. As per the JNS report, she stated, “The United States will help ensure that Israel lives up to its obligations as well, assuming Hamas accepts the deal. The fighting could stop today, if Hamas would do the same.”

However, questions about Israel’s actual commitments remain. Vasily Nebenzya, Russia’s U.N. envoy, expressed skepticism, noting the lack of clarity regarding Israel’s official agreement. He highlighted the disparity between the resolution’s terms and Israel’s statements about continuing the war until Hamas is completely defeated. Nebenzya remarked, “Hamas is called upon to accept this so-called deal, but still there is no…clarity regarding official agreement from Israel,” the JNS report said.

Despite these concerns, Russia chose not to veto the resolution, recognizing the support it had garnered from the Arab world.

Curiously, Israel’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Gilad Erdan, did not address the Security Council as originally planned, despite being present for part of the meeting. Instead, Reut Shapir Ben Naftaly conveyed Israel’s clear war aims and its conditional approach to negotiations. According to the information provided in the JNS report , the absence of Erdan’s address has not been officially explained by Israel’s U.N. mission, though it follows his vocal opposition to an earlier draft of the resolution presented by his U.S. counterpart, Linda Thomas-Greenfield.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaks to reporters after his meeting with Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, at Cairo airport, Egypt, Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil, Pool)

Israel’s rejection of both P.A. governance and Hamas rule in Gaza reflects a deep-seated concern about security and sovereignty. The Israeli government’s insistence on dismantling Hamas’ capabilities calls attention to a broader strategic objective to neutralize threats emanating from Gaza.

An unnamed Israeli political official, speaking to Hebrew media, reiterated Israel’s determination to achieve its war goals, regardless of the UNSC resolution. “Israel will not end the war before achieving all of its goals—the elimination of the military and governing capabilities of Hamas, the return of the hostages and the promise that Gaza will no longer pose a threat,” the official told Israel’s Kan News public broadcaster, as was indicated in the JNS report. The official affirmed that the outline presented in the resolution allows Israel to meet these conditions.

The amended UNSC resolution represents a complex diplomatic effort to address the Israel-Hamas conflict. While the removal of buffer zone references aims to facilitate Israel’s acceptance, it raises questions about the future security dynamics along the Gaza border and the broader territorial implications.

The establishment and expansion of buffer zones have significant security and humanitarian implications. JNS reported that for Israel, these zones are seen as critical to preventing attacks and ensuring national security.

On Tuesday afternoon, Reuters reported that Egyptian and Qatari mediators are still awaiting official responses from both Israel and Hamas regarding the proposed terms approved by the UNSC, the JNS report noted. The lack of formal responses adds to the uncertainty surrounding the implementation of the resolution aimed at halting hostilities during the Ramadan holiday.

On March 25, the UNSC adopted a resolution demanding a humanitarian ceasefire to coincide with the Ramadan holiday. JNS reported that the resolution, which passed with the United States controversially abstaining, calls for “an immediate ceasefire for the month of Ramadan respected by all parties leading to a lasting ceasefire.” Additionally, it demands the “immediate and unconditional release of all hostages.”

The resolution’s dual demands for a ceasefire and the release of hostages are pivotal to its framework. However, a significant point of contention is the lack of an explicit linkage between the two demands, which leaves room for differing interpretations and potential loopholes in enforcement.

Egypt has historically played a key role in mediating between Israel and Hamas, given its geographical proximity and political leverage.

Qatar, with its established links to Hamas, has been instrumental in providing financial support to Gaza.

The United States’ decision to abstain from the vote on the UNSC resolution has sparked considerable debate. Traditionally, the U.S. has been a staunch ally of Israel, often using its veto power to shield Israeli interests in the international arena. The JNS report also noted that the U.S. abstention has been interpreted in various ways. Some view it as a strategic move to maintain credibility and leverage in facilitating future peace talks. Others see it as a departure from its unwavering support for Israel, signaling a shift in U.S. foreign policy under the current administration.

On Tuesday, the Wall Street Journal reported on a series of leaked messages from Yahya Sinwar, the military leader of Hamas, providing insight into the group’s strategic mindset and intentions amidst the ongoing conflict with Israel, according to a CNN report. These messages, which offer a rare glimpse into Sinwar’s thinking, reveal a calculated approach aimed at leveraging the escalating civilian death toll in Gaza to Hamas’ advantage.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Sinwar expressed confidence to other Hamas leaders that the terrorist organization has gained the upper hand over Israel, as was noted in the CNN report. In one of the leaked messages, Sinwar is reported to have said, “We have the Israelis right where we want them.”

Sinwar’s messages indicate a grim perspective on the civilian casualties in Gaza. He reportedly referred to the civilian deaths as “necessary sacrifices,” drawing parallels to past independence-related conflicts in countries such as Algeria, according to the CNN report. This comparison suggests that Sinwar views the civilian toll as a justified and inevitable part of the struggle, intended to draw international attention and pressure on Israel.

The Wall Street Journal reviewed dozens of messages sent to ceasefire negotiators from Sinwar, highlighting his unyielding stance on continuing the conflict, according to the information in the CNN report. These communications suggest that Sinwar is not inclined to make concessions, even in the face of significant human suffering.

One of the critical moments detailed in the leaked messages occurred when Israel set a deadline in February to enter Rafah before the Muslim month of Ramadan. In this context, Sinwar reportedly urged Hamas’ political leaders to resist making concessions and to push for a permanent end to the war. CNN reported that he emphasized that high civilian casualties would increase global pressure on Israel to halt its military actions, stating, “Israel’s journey in Rafah won’t be a walk in the park.”

Yahya Sinwar has not been seen in public since Hamas’s attack on Israel on October 7, which resulted in 1,200 deaths and 250 hostages The CNN report indicated that Sinwar is believed to be hiding deep underground within Hamas’ extensive tunnel network beneath Gaza, a strategy that allows him to evade Israeli detection and continue directing operations.

Also on Tuesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized the overwhelming international support for the UNSC resolution. Speaking to reporters in Tel Aviv following a meeting with Israeli officials, Blinken reiterated the global consensus behind the U.S.-backed proposal and urged Hamas to endorse the plan, as was reported by the Associated Press.

“The U.N. Security Council’s vote in favor of the Gaza ceasefire and hostage release proposal makes it as clear as it possibly could be that the world supports this plan,” Blinken stated, according to the AP report.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu reaffirmed Israel’s commitment to the proposal during his meeting with Blinken on Monday. This endorsement sheds light on Israel’s readiness to participate in the ceasefire, contingent on Hamas’ acceptance.

While Hamas initially welcomed President Biden’s announcement of the plan and the subsequent U.N. resolution, the group has not yet provided an official response. The AP reported that Blinken noted this as a critical step still pending, remarking, “Everyone’s vote is in, except for one vote, and that’s Hamas.” He described Hamas’ initial positive reaction as a “hopeful sign” but emphasized the importance of a formal agreement from the group’s leaders in Gaza.

“That’s what counts. And that’s what we don’t have yet. And that’s why I say we’re waiting to see it. Everyone has said yes, except for Hamas,” Blinken added, highlighting the key obstacle to implementing the ceasefire, the AP report said.

In parallel developments, the U.N. human rights office raised concerns about potential war crimes committed by both Israeli forces and Hamas terrorists.

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