At the United Nations, the US is defending its efforts to broker the ceasefire in the Middle East

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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres attends a press conference following talks with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on May 12, 2021 in Moscow. REUTERS / Maxim Shemetov

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By Michelle Nichols

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The United States on Thursday defended its efforts to secure a ceasefire in renewed fighting between Israel and Palestinian militants after Washington was isolated at the United Nations over opposition to Security Council action.

“We did not remain silent,” US Ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, told the 193-member UN General Assembly when she met to discuss the violence. “In fact, I don’t think there is a country that works more urgently and passionately for peace.”

The United States has repeatedly objected to a UN Security Council statement since fighting broke out eleven days ago between militants from Israel and Hamas and other groups in Gaza. The United States on Wednesday spoke out against a French move to resolve the conflict by the Council.

Speaking to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said the United States believes “Israel is now in a position to end the conflict and we expect significant de-escalation to begin,” said Thomas Greenfield.

The United States has traditionally shielded its ally Israel at the United Nations.

The French draft text calls for the immediate cessation of hostilities and condemns “the indiscriminate firing of missiles into civilian areas” without blaming it. She calls for the protection of the civilian population and the revival of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians with the aim of creating two states.

Despite the US position on a resolution, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said his country would move forward in the hope that the council could unanimously adopt a resolution.

“It is important that hostilities cease and that humanitarian aid to Gaza is organized very quickly,” he told reporters in Dublin.

Diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza war picked up pace on Thursday amid the worsening humanitarian crisis in Palestinian territory, but fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas continued.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to provide swift and unhindered access to aid and told the General Assembly that it would launch a full humanitarian call for funding as soon as possible.

“If there is a hell on earth, it is the life of children in Gaza today,” Guterres said.

“The hostilities severely damaged Gaza’s vital civil infrastructure, including roads and power lines, and contributed to a humanitarian emergency. The Gaza crossings have been closed and electricity shortages are affecting water supplies,” Guterres added.

Hundreds of buildings and homes have been destroyed or damaged, Guterres said, and air strikes have damaged several hospitals. Around 50,000 people sought protection in UN schools, mosques and other places with little access to water, food, hygiene or health services, Guterres added.

“In Gaza in particular, the needs are immense,” said Thomas-Greenfield. “We hope that the international community will do more to address humanitarian needs on the ground.”

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