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U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield speaks during a UN Security Council meeting at the United Nations headquarters in New York City on March 22.Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images

The United Nations Security Council on Friday turned down a U.S.-led resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza as part of a hostage deal after Russia and China vetoed the measure proposed by the United States.

The resolution, on which Algeria also voted no and Guyana abstained, called for an immediate and sustained ceasefire lasting roughly six weeks that would protect civilians and allow for the delivery of humanitarian assistance.

Eleven of the 15 council members voted for the resolution, but the Russia and China vetoes stopped its passage.

The council will meet at 10 a.m. EDT (1400 GMT) on Saturday to vote on an alternative resolution drafted by elected members of the Security Council, diplomats said.

That resolution, a draft copy of which was seen by Reuters, demands an immediate ceasefire for the current Muslim holy month of Ramadan, the release of all hostages and an expanded flow of humanitarian assistance to Gaza.

The draft does not include provisions supporting continuing diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire – an element of the U.S. resolution. Washington has been working with Qatar and Egypt to try to broker a deal.

Friday was the first time Washington had backed a text that came up for a vote with the word “ceasefire” in it during the war in Gaza, reflecting a toughening of the Biden administration’s stand toward Israel.

Earlier in the five-month-old war, the U.S. was averse to the word ceasefire and vetoed measures that included calls for an immediate ceasefire.

“The vast majority of this council voted in favour of this resolution, but unfortunately Russia and China decided to exercise its veto,” U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield told the Security Council.

She accused Russia and China of vetoing the resolution for “cynical” and “petty” reasons. She said they opposed it simply because it was penned by the U.S. and criticized both countries for not condemning Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“For all the fiery rhetoric, we all know that Russia and China are not doing anything diplomatically to advance a lasting peace or to meaningfully contribute to the humanitarian response effort,” she told the council after the vote.

The U.S. has wanted any Security Council support for a ceasefire to be linked to the release of hostages held by Hamas in Gaza. Palestinian Hamas fighters killed 1,200 people and took 253 captive in their Oct. 7 attack, Israel has said.

Nearly 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s subsequent offensive in the Gaza Strip, according to health authorities in the Hamas-ruled enclave.

Russia’s ambassador to the UN, Vassily Nebenzia, said the U.S.-led resolution was “exceedingly politicized” and contained an effective green light for Israel to mount a military operation in Rafah, a city on the southern tip of the Gaza Strip where more than half of the enclave’s 2.3 million residents have been sheltering in makeshift tents.

“This would free the hands of Israel and it would result in all of Gaza and its entire population having to face destruction, devastation, or expulsion,” Mr. Nebenzia told the meeting.

He said a number of non-permanent members of the Security Council had drafted an alternative resolution and said there was no reason for members not to support it.

China’s UN ambassador, Zhang Jun, criticized the text proposed by the U.S. for not clearly stating its opposition to a planned military operation by Israel in Rafah, which he said could lead to severe consequences. He said Beijing also supported the alternative.

But Ms. Thomas-Greenfield said that measure fell short.

“In its current form, that text fails to support sensitive diplomacy in the region. Worse … it could actually give Hamas an excuse to walk away from the deal on the table,” she said.

French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday that his country would work with Jordan and the United Arab Emirates to persuade Russia and China to back yet another alternative resolution at the United Nations for a ceasefire in Gaza.

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U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken walks as he arrives in Tel Aviv on March 22.Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the top U.S. diplomat on Friday that Israel was prepared to “do it alone” if Washington opposes its plans for an assault on Rafah, the Gaza city where more than a million displaced Palestinians are sheltering.

Mr. Blinken met one-on-one with Mr. Netanyahu during a peace mission to the Middle East at a time of evident strain in U.S.-Israeli relations with little precedent in their 75-year-old alliance.

Mr. Netanyahu said he told Mr. Blinken he appreciated U.S. support in its fight against Hamas and that Israel recognizes it needs to protect civilians. However, he reiterated plans to push into Rafah, against the territory’s southern border fence, where more than a million Gazans have taken refuge in makeshift shelters.

“I also said that we have no way to defeat Hamas without going into Rafah and eliminating the rest of the battalions there. And I told him that I hope we will do it with the support of the U.S., but if we have to – we will do it alone,” he said in a video statement to reporters.

Israel says Rafah is the last bastion for Hamas militants, and that it has a plan to evacuate civilians before an attack. Washington says a ground assault would be a “mistake” and cause too much harm to those displaced there.

The United States, Israel’s closest ally since its founding in 1948, provides billions of dollars a year in military aid and regularly uses its diplomatic clout to protect Israeli interests.

In Gaza, Israel claimed on Friday to have killed or captured hundreds of Hamas fighters in a five-day operation at the Al Shifa hospital complex, one of the only medical facilities even partially functioning in the north. Hamas and medical staff deny fighters were present there.

A strain in ties between the United States and Israel has become increasingly public, with U.S. President Joe Biden calling Israel’s campaign in Gaza “over the top” and saying it has had too great a toll on civilian lives.

The war was triggered by a raid into southern Israel by Hamas fighters who killed 1,200 and took 253 hostages, by Israeli tallies. More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed in the subsequent Israeli bombardments, with many more feared dead under the rubble, Gaza health authorities say.

Mr. Blinken had said he would push Mr. Netanyahu to take urgent steps to allow more aid into the densely-populated enclave, where mass death from famine is imminent, according to the United Nations.

U.S. officials say the number of aid deliveries via land needs to increase fast and that aid needs to be sustained over a long period.

“A hundred per cent of the population of Gaza is experiencing severe levels of acute food insecurity. We cannot, we must not allow that to continue,” Mr. Blinken told a news conference late on Thursday.

Israel, which inspects all shipments to Gaza and has sealed off the fence on the north of the enclave, denies restricting food and says it believes enough is getting through.

“As much as we know, by our analysis, there is no starvation in Gaza. There is a sufficient amount of food entering Gaza every day,” Colonel Moshe Tetro, head of Israel’s Coordination and Liasion Administration for Gaza, told reporters.

Eight people were killed on Friday in an air strike on a house in Al-Naser, east of Rafah. Video images showed crowds of mourners around white shrouded corpses, while a red rag doll lay in the rubble of a crushed house.

The dead included a father, a mother and five of their children, said mourner Turkiah Barbakh.

“They are all children; they haven’t resisted or done anything. What happened to them is unjust,” she said. “How much longer do we have to endure this?”

Senior Israeli and U.S. officials are scheduled to meet in Washington next week, when the United States will present to the Israelis alternative ways to hunt down Hamas without resorting to a full-on assault in Rafah.

Vice-President Kamala Harris on Friday said there was no safe exit for civilians from Rafah.

Meetings were also taking place in Doha on Friday aimed at securing a ceasefire. The truce talks focused on a proposal for a six-week halt to fighting during which some 40 Israeli hostages being held by Hamas would be released in exchange for hundreds of Palestinians in Israeli jails.

However, Israel is prepared to commit only to a temporary pause in fighting, while Hamas wants a permanent end to the war.

Mr. Blinken on Thursday said the gaps were narrowing.

In Gaza, fighting has been concentrated in recent days on the Al Shifa hospital complex, which is also sheltering hundreds of people displaced from their homes.

Israeli troops entered the facility on Monday and have been combing through the sprawling complex, which they say is connected to a tunnel network used by Hamas.

Israel said it had killed hundreds of fighters and detained more than 500 suspects in its operation on Al Shifa, including 358 members of Hamas and Islamic Jihad. It said three senior Islamic Jihad military commanders and two Hamas officials responsible for operations in the occupied West Bank were among those detained.

Hamas denies its fighters were in the compound and says civilians and medical staff were rounded up.

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