The UN Security Council (UNSC) passed a US-backed resolution endorsing a three-phase permanent ceasefire plan in the Israel-Hamas War, with Russia abstaining. The resolution notes that Israel accepted the proposal, unveiled at the end of May by US President Joe Biden, and called upon Hamas to accept it.

The first phase of the plan calls for the return of elderly, women and wounded hostages held by Hamas in exchange for the freeing of Palestinian prisoners, the withdrawal of Israel from “populated areas of Gaza,” and the return of Palestinian civilians.

The second phase would have all other hostages freed, a “permanent end to hostilities” in Gaza, and full Israeli military withdrawal. The third phase includes a reconstruction plan for the Gaza Strip.

In her remarks preceding the vote, US UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said that “the last eight months have been nothing short of devastating,” referencing the October 7 attacks, the hostages taken from Israel by Hamas, and the dire situation facing civilians in Gaza. Thomas-Greenfield urged the council to seize the opportunity to put an end to the fighting by voting in favor of the resolution and called for Hamas to end the conflict by accepting the peace deal.

Russian UN Ambassador Vasily Nebenzya, who abstained, said that his delegation had a “whole host of questions” about the US-backed resolution, saying that the deal’s particulars were not known to anyone “except to the mediators.”  He also claimed that there is no “official clarity” regarding Israel’s support for the deal “given the many statements from Israel on the extension of the war until Hamas is completely defeated.”

Israel’s representative laid the blame for the conflict on Hamas and said, “We will continue until all the hostages are returned and until Hamas’ military and governing capabilities are dismantled.” The representative added, “Israel will not engage in meaningless and endless negotiations which can be exploited by Hamas as a means to stall for time.”

The UNSC has had difficulty reaching an agreement surrounding ceasefire efforts in the Israel-Hamas War. Although the body passed a resolution in March calling for an “immediate ceasefire” in the conflict, three ceasefire resolutions had been previously vetoed, one by China and Russia, and two by the US.

The Security Council also passed a resolution in December calling for “steps toward a sustainable cessation of hostilities,” notably excluding the word “ceasefire.”

Gaza’s health ministry says that over 35,000 Palestinians have been killed as a result of the conflict. Hamas is believed to still be holding around 116 hostages taken from Israel on October 7.

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