The Security Council has devolved into a war of words with calls from several members in addition to Palestine’s Ambassador for an independent investigation into the deaths of dozens of Palestinians protesting their occupation in Gaza.
Israeli forces killed close to 60 protesters along its border with Gaza injuring close to 1500, prompting South Africa and Turkey to withdraw their envoys to Israel.
Israel’s envoy defended its actions arguing it was targeting terrorists trying to infiltrate its territory while the United States rejected claims that its decision to move its embassy to Jerusalem was justification for any violence.
The UN’s message was clear, echoing several Council members including EU member states as it urged both sides to exercise maximum restraint.
“Israel has a responsibility to calibrate its use of force, to not use lethal force, except as a last resort, under imminent threat of death or serious injury. It must protect its borders from infiltration and terrorism, but it must do so proportionally and investigate, in an independent and transparent manner, every incident that has led to a loss of human life. Hamas, which controls Gaza, must not use the protests as cover to attempt to place bombs at the fence and create provocations; its operatives must not hide among the demonstrators and risk the lives of civilians,” says UN’s Special Coordinator on Middle East Peace, Nickolay Mladenov.
Thousands of protesters gathered along the Israel Gaza border Monday to protest the US decision to move its Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in violation of Council resolutions, a move Washington has defended through Ambassador Nikki Haley.
“Those who suggest that the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American embassy are sorely mistaken. Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the existence of the state of Israel in any location. Such a motivation – the destruction of a United Nations Member State is so illegitimate as to not be worth our time in the Security Council, other than the time it takes to denounce it.”
Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon also defended their actions, arguing that their border was under threat of terrorist infiltration. “Rioters have thrown Molotov cocktails, planted explosive devices and rolled burning tyres; they have sent flaming materials over the fence, igniting widespread fires on Israel’s southern agricultural lands. They are repeatedly attempted to forcibly breach the fence and forcibly infiltrate Israeli territory with the explicit goal of killing Israelis. Hamas, an internationally recognised terrorist organisation has taken the people of Gaza hostage.”
Palestine’s envoy Riyad Mansour accused Israel of committing war crimes and rebuked the US decision on Jerusalem which remains a final status issue for direct negotiations.
“I need to mention the provocative and illegitimate decision made by the US administration about Jerusalem, it’s at variance with international consensus and it violates the relevant resolutions of the Security Council for 478 and 2334 – they chose for Israel which exacerbated the trends and which led to this. No-one is questioning the sovereign right of countries to choose where they have their embassies, nonetheless if this right runs counter to international law, runs counter to Security Council resolutions, it is no longer a sovereign right.”
Arab Ambassadors lined up after the meeting in solidarity with their Palestinian colleague calling for an independent investigation and international protection for Palestinians.
Non-Permanent member Kuwait is expected to introduce a draft resolution later this week calling for an international protection force for Palestinians.