US pressures Israel with Gaza ceasefire resolution amid Qatar talks

WASHINGTON — In a move intensifying pressure on its ally, the United States plans to present a resolution to the U.N. Security Council calling for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza as Israel’s intelligence chief heads to Qatar for negotiations.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking in Cairo on Thursday, expressed optimism that talks involving the U.S., Qatar, and Egypt could broker a cease-fire between Hamas and Israel. The negotiations in Qatar are focusing on a proposed six-week truce that would facilitate the exchange of 40 Israeli hostages for hundreds of Palestinians detained in Israel, aiming to address the dire humanitarian crisis in Gaza, where a famine looms.

“While the gaps are narrowing, reaching an agreement in Doha remains challenging. Yet, I continue to believe it’s possible,” Blinken stated.

A key obstacle in the negotiations is the condition set by Hamas for the release of hostages, insisting it be part of a broader deal to end the conflict. Conversely, Israel is open to discussing only a temporary halt. An unnamed Palestinian official familiar with the talks accused Israel of reluctance to commit to ending the war.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s office announced that David Barnea, Israel’s intelligence chief, would meet with mediators in Qatar on Friday. Concurrently, Israel anticipates continuing its operations against Al Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where it alleges Hamas fighters are based. The hospital, under fire for four days, remains the only functional medical facility in northern Gaza.

The proposed U.S. resolution at the U.N. marks a significant shift in its stance, seeking an “immediate and sustained cease-fire” to allow humanitarian aid delivery. This comes amid global criticism of the ongoing conflict, now in its fifth month, which has seen significant Palestinian civilian casualties and sparked domestic and international calls for a cease-fire.

To be adopted, the Security Council resolution requires a minimum of nine affirmative votes and no vetoes from its five permanent members. The draft resolution supports the ongoing talks in Qatar, including the exchange of hostages and detainees. The Israeli embassy in Washington has yet to respond to requests for comment.

The conflict escalated on Oct. 7 when Hamas attacked Israel, resulting in 1,200 deaths and the capture of 253 individuals, as per Israeli reports.