UN truce urges IDF exit from Gaza, mechanism to halt arms smuggling
International resolution also calls for reopening of Gaza border crossings, boost in humanitarian aid.
The UN Security Council on Thursday called for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip, following Israel's 14-day offensive on the Hamas-ruled coastal territory.
Resolution 1860 passed with a majority of 14 votes. The United States abstained from voting.
The resolution "stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
It also called for arrangements in Gaza to prevent arms smuggling to Palestinian militants and reopen border crossings, and for "unimpeded provision" and distribution of aid in Gaza, where more than 750 Palestinians, many of them civilians, have been killed.
There was no immediate reaction from Israeli officials to the vote, but Israel has opposed the idea of a binding resolution. Israel's political security cabinet was to meet Friday to determine whether to pursue the ground offensive or accept a truce.
For its part, Gaza's Hamas rulers did not recognize the resolution as it had not been consulted on it, said a spokesman for the Islamist group.
Addressing the council, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the resolution and said she abstained only because the United States first wanted to see the outcome of an Egyptian mediation effort.
The UN text was the product of days of tortuous negotiations between top diplomats from the United States, Britain and France and Arab states. Rice, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner negotiated for three days with Arab diplomats at the United Nations on a compromise text.
Miliband said the resolution would "help turn the good words on paper into changes on the ground that are desperately needed."
Israel attacked Gaza on December 27 in a bid to stamp out rocket fire by Palestinian militants against southern Israel.
Arab countries, many facing strong anti-Israeli sentiment at home, insisted the Security Council must issue a binding resolution that would force Israel to end its military campaign in the Gaza Strip immediately.
Israel had opposed the idea of a binding UN resolution.
The United States had backed its ally Israel but diplomats said it dropped its objections and agreed to go along with a cautiously worded text.
Libya, the only Arab country on the council, had earlier presented Western countries with a revised version of a resolution it drafted earlier this week.
Until Thursday, Western countries had pushed for a nonbinding presidential statement by the Security Council. But Arab ministers rejected that as inadequate and persuaded the British, U.S. and French delegations to accept wording that might be unpalatable to Israel.
Arab ministers huddled in meeting rooms in the basement of the council while Western powers had their base two floors above them, shuttling back and forth with suggestions.
As agreement neared, a British expert delivered Arab ministers an amended text while they were grabbing late-afternoon sandwiches and coffee in a heavily smoke-laden cafe in the basement.
A Western diplomat said there was something for both Israelis and Palestinians in the final text of the resolution.
"You need to give the Israelis something which responds to their legitimate security concerns about smuggling, and the balancing element of that for the Palestinians is to find a sustainable way of opening the crossings" into Gaza.
Shortly before the UN talks began, Israeli envoys went to Cairo and held talks with Egyptian officials on an initiative by the presidents of Egypt and France that calls for a temporary truce. Hamas militants have yet to commit to coming to Cairo for talks and said they have major reservations about the plan.
The latest draft resolution welcomes the Egyptian initiative and other regional and international efforts that are underway.
Hamas violently wrested control of the Gaza Strip from the Palestinian Authority in June 2007 and is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S. and Israel.
In a possible sign Hamas was unwilling to compromise yet, a senior Hamas official in Syria, Mohammed Nazzal, told Syrian TV on Thursday that the group would never surrender and vowed to fight house to house against Israeli troops in Gaza.
A joint statement issued by Palestinian groups based in Syria's capital Thursday rejected the Egyptian-French initiative, saying it would undermine Gazans' resistance and give Israel a free hand to continue aggression.
Hamas is normally a member of the coalition, but it wasn't clear if it signed the statement. Hamas officials in Syria were not available for comment. Osama Hamdan, the Hamas representative in Lebanon who is close to the group's top leader, said he was not aware of the statement.
Israel's government said Wednesday that it viewed the Egyptian-French proposal positively but stopped short of acceptance.
The leaders of France and Germany met Thursday to discuss the crisis and urged quick action to halt the fighting. Frenchdent Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure state of Israel. The House was expected to pass a similar measure Friday.