Algeria introduces Security Council resolution to stop Rafah operation

The resolution will almost surely be vetoed by the United States, though no official has commented on the draft.

By Andrew Bernard, JNS

Following an emergency session of the United Nations Security Council on Tuesday afternoon, Algeria began circulating a concise draft resolution calling for an immediate end to Israel’s military operation in the southern Gazan city of Rafah, tying it to a recent ruling by the International Court of Justice.

Algeria, which serves as the Arab and Muslim world’s de facto Security Council member, called for Tuesday’s closed consultations of the council following a Sunday night Israeli airstrike that killed two senior Hamas commanders.

It is thought by Israeli officials that shrapnel from the strike may have hit a gas tank or stored Hamas weapons, leading to an explosive fire that Hamas says killed 35 civilians.

An Israeli investigation into the incident is ongoing.

Much of the international community has long demanded Israel stay out of Rafah, where some one million Gazans evacuated from elsewhere in the enclave had sought refuge, bringing the population there to an estimated 1.3 million. More than a million people have since left the city.

Israel has insisted that Rafah, which is thought to be the final remaining Hamas stronghold, needs to be invaded to root destroy the terrorist group’s four remaining intact battalions as well as much of its leadership, and to rescue Israeli hostages believed to be held there.

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The draft resolution unveiled shortly after Tuesday’s meeting, says that the council “decides that Israel, the occupying power, shall immediately halt its military offensive, and any other action in Rafah.”

In its preambular section, the resolution references the recent ICJ ruling, thought by many, including some ICJ judges, to be unclear and ambiguous, but which Palestinian supporters say demands an immediate halt to Israel’s Rafah operation.

A different interpretation is that the operation must only be halted if it violates the Genocide Convention.

Additionally, the Algerian resolution “demands an immediate ceasefire respected by all parties, and also demands the immediate and unconditional release of all hostages, and further demands that the parties comply with their obligations under international law in relation to all persons they detain.”

It demands the full implementation of all previous Security Council resolutions passed on the Israel-Hamas conflict, including one calling for a ceasefire and the other two regarding humanitarian aid delivery.

A short decisive text

JNS sources indicate the Arab Group drafted a much longer resolution but that Algeria, seeking a quick vote devoid of drawn-out negotiations on the text, decided to move forward with something simpler.

Amar Bendjama, Algeria’s U.N. ambassador, told reporters after Tuesday’s session that the resolution will be “a short text, a decisive text, to stop the killing in Rafah.”

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He did not indicate when he planned to bring it up for a vote.

Fu Cong, China’s new U.N. envoy, said, “We hope that it could be done as quickly as possible because life is in the balance,” expressing preference for a vote this week.

Nicolas de Rivière, France’s U.N. ambassador, addressed the media before the meeting, saying, “It’s high time for this council to take action. This is a matter of life and death. This is a matter of emergency.”

The resolution is almost sure to be vetoed by the United States, though no official has commented on the draft.

On March 25, Washington abstained on a resolution calling for a ceasefire, allowing it to pass the Security Council. The United States then claimed the resolution was non-binding, as it wasn’t a “decision” of the Security Council, since the word “decides” wasn’t used in the text.

A JNS source indicates that Algeria specifically used the word “decides” in the text about halting the Rafah operation so that Washington cannot make the same claim this time.