U.N. Security Council Calls For Mideast Truce

A truck driver certifies his load of U.N. food aid at the Kerem Shalom border crossing. i i

A truck driver certifies his load of U.N. food aid Thursday at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip. David Gilkey/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Gilkey/NPR
A truck driver certifies his load of U.N. food aid at the Kerem Shalom border crossing.

A truck driver certifies his load of U.N. food aid Thursday at the Kerem Shalom border crossing between Israel and the Gaza Strip.

David Gilkey/NPR

The U.N. Security Council has approved a resolution calling for an immediate and unconditional cease-fire between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in the Gaza Strip.

Thursday night's vote followed intense negotiations between key Arab leaders and representatives of Western powers.

It will be up to Israel and Hamas to decide to stop their military activities, but the resolution was supported by the United States, Israel's closest ally, and Arab nations that have close ties to Hamas.

"The key elements are the withdrawal [of Israeli forces], cease-fire, the humanitarian situation, the opening of crossings," Amr Moussa, head of the Arab League, said.

The resolution came on the third day of an emergency council session demanded by the Arabs to try to end the fighting in Gaza.

U.N. Halts Aid To Gaza

Earlier Thursday, a United Nations official said humanitarian aid to the Gaza Strip will be halted after attacks on U.N. staff and facilities by Israeli forces.

U.N. spokesman Chris Gunness made the announcement shortly after the driver of a U.N. truck was killed by tank fire as he was headed to an Israeli border crossing to pick up an aid shipment.

Gunness said the U.N. delivery had been coordinated with Israel. The Israeli army has not commented.

Earlier this week, nearly 40 people were killed by Israeli mortar fire outside a U.N. school. Israel said its troops had come under fire by militants using the building for cover.

The suspension of U.N. aid came amid fears of an escalating conflict, as at least three rockets from southern Lebanon hit Israel on Thursday.

Israeli police said two civilians were slightly wounded in the attack from Lebanon involving at least three rockets that landed in and around the town of Nahariya. Israel's military said it immediately responded with an artillery barrage aimed at the rocket launch site.

No Lebanese group has yet claimed responsibility, and it was not clear whether the barrage came from a Palestinian faction or from Hezbollah, the Lebanese militant group Israel fought in the summer of 2006. Lebanese officials have said they do not believe Iranian-backed Hezbollah was behind the rocket attack.

A Call For An 'Immediate, Durable' Truce

The Western-backed text that won Arab and Western approval Thursday "stresses the urgency of an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire" and "condemns all acts of violence and terror directed against civilians." It also cites the need to stop illicit shipments of arms as well as to end Israel's blockade of Gaza.

"We're still working very hard. We're making some progress," Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said before the agreement was announced.

Israeli envoys went to Cairo, Egypt, on Thursday 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.

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.

In Washington, the Senate unanimously adopted a resolution stating an "unwavering commitment" to Israel and its right to defend itself, while also calling for "a viable and independent Palestinian state living in peace alongside a secure state of Israel." The House was expected to pass a similar measure Friday.

Meanwhile, Israel's military said on Thursday it was honoring a three-hour pause in the fighting in the Gaza Strip to allow humanitarian aid and workers to reach Gazans who have been cut off by the fighting. It was the second day of a temporary halt in hostilities.

From NPR staff and wire reports

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