Thursday, January 8, 2009

CNN - Agreement made on Gaza cease-fire resolution, diplomats say

UNITED NATIONS (CNN) -- An agreement on a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an Israeli-Gaza cease-fire has been reached, Arab and Western diplomats said Thursday afternoon.

A preliminary draft of the resolution obtained by CNN on Thursday expresses "grave concern" at the growing humanitarian crisis and heavy civilian casualties in Gaza as well as civilian deaths in Israel from Hamas rocket fire.

Roughly 765 Palestinians have been killed since Israel began its military assault on Gaza on December 27, according to Palestinian medical sources. Thirteen Israelis, including 10 soldiers, also have been killed since the military operation began.

It was not clear immediately when a vote on the resolution could take place.

The resolution draft "stresses the urgency of, and calls for, an immediate, durable, and fully respected cease-fire which will lead to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."

The draft also welcomes efforts by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to broker a cease-fire between Israelis and Palestinians in current talks in Cairo, Egypt. The draft calls for the opening of corridors to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza, where food, water, electricity and medicine shortages have worsened already poor conditions since Israel's offensive in Gaza began.Video Watch report on a possible Security Council resolution deal »

The council's wrangling over the resolution centered on wording. Arab countries generally pushed for language demanding Israel cease attacks, while Western diplomats wanted more neutral language.

The U.N. General Assembly postponed a meeting scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Thursday in anticipation of a vote by the Security Council.

"We will closely analyze the resolution and determine whether it is serious, and contemplates the pertinent measures -- both to ensure the immediate cease-fire and the unimpeded access to the humanitarian needs of the Palestinian people," assembly President Miguel d'Escoto said in a written statement.

The Israeli military says its operation is aimed at halting the firing of rockets into southern Israel by Hamas, which has controlled Gaza since 2007.

The 15-member Security Council is tasked by the United Nations with establishing and maintaining peace around the globe. It has the power to create peacekeeping operations, impose sanctions and authorize military action.

The United States, Russia, China, France and Great Britain are the five permanent members, with the other 10 elected by the U.N. assembly to two-year terms. Any one of the permanent members can veto a resolution.

CNN's Terence Burke, Richard Roth and Elise Labott contributed to this report.

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