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Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 10:32
Calls for investigation, but no consensus at UN Gaza meeting
By Associated Press
Wednesday, May 16, 2018, 10:32 By Associated Press

Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine, Riyad H. Mansour speaks during a press conference after the UN Security Council meeting on May 15, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York. (HECTOR RETAMAL / AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — The UN's Middle East envoy said there was no justifying the killings of more than 50 Palestinians by Israeli fire at the Gaza border, and several Security Council members called for an independent investigation, but the council had no unified message Tuesday as the US said Israel had acted with "restraint." 

Israel has said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of trying to attack under the cover of the protest 

While some members said the UN's most powerful body needed to speak as one to try to calm the volatile situation — and the Palestinian envoy implored, "When are you going to act?" — a proposed statement had stalled Monday after the US blocked it.

Still, Kuwait's envoy said he planned to propose a council resolution on protecting Palestinian civilians.

As the council met Tuesday, US Ambassador Nikki Haley laid blame for Monday's violence on the Hamas extremists who rule Gaza and insisted it had nothing to do with the opening of a US embassy in contested Jerusalem, a move that infuriated Palestinians.

ALSO READ: Dozens killed in Gaza as US Embassy opens in Jerusalem

Saying that Hamas had incited people to lob flaming objects toward the Israeli side of the border fence and urged protest marchers to breach it, Haley asked: "Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?" 

"No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has," Haley added.

In this Oct 12, 2014, file photo, Palestinians walk during the sunset between the rubble of their destroyed building in Shijaiyah neighborhood of Gaza City in the northern Gaza Strip. (ADEL HANA / AP)

Israel has said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of trying to attack under the cover of the protest.

But Nikolai Mladenov, the UN's Middle East envoy, said there was "no justification for the killing" and "no excuse."

He called on Israel to use force proportionally and avoid using deadly force except as a last resort, a message echoed by the council's European members. In a joint statement after the meeting, they said that Hamas needed to avoid "provocations" and violence, but that Israel's military must "exercise maximum restraint" in using lethal force.

Some countries called for an independent probe into the events at the Gaza border. 

"The death toll alone warrants such a comprehensive inquiry," British Ambassador Karen Pierce said.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres also proposed an investigation, after a deadly protest in Gaza in March.

This photo shows UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres at a pledging conference aimed at raising 3 billion dollars for war-ravaged Yemen on April 3, 2018 at the United Nations Office in Geneva. (FABRICE COFFRINI / AFP)

Many council members also re-emphasized their distance from the US decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel's capital. It was a break with the UN's decade-long stance that Jerusalem's final status must be decided in direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians, who seek eastern Jerusalem as a future capital of their own.

ALSO READ: Israel prepares for opening of US embassy in Jerusalem

The US says it has the right to decide where to put its embassy, and Haley said Tuesday the decision simply recognized "reality."

Kuwait, which requested Tuesday's meeting, had tried to get council members to sign on Monday to a statement that would have demanded that all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution that called on them not to have embassies in contested Jerusalem.

The draft statement, obtained by The Associated Press, also expressed "outrage and sorrow" at the killings, sought an "independent and transparent investigation," and called on all sides to exercise restraint.

Palestinian women wave national flags and chant slogans near the Israeli border fence, east of Khan Younis, in the Gaza Strip, May 14, 2018. Israeli troops killed at least 55 Palestinians as thousands of protesters gathered near Gaza's border on May 14, 2018 as Israel prepares for the inauguration of a new US Embassy in contested Jerusalem. (ADEL HANA / AP)

The US blocked it. The State Department said Tuesday the draft "was too one-sided" and unacceptable to the US because it did not mention Hamas' incitement of violence along the Gaza border.

Nonetheless, Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi said Tuesday he planned to draft a resolution on providing international protection to Palestinians. He didn't immediately give details of his proposal.

Tuesday's meeting came amid growing diplomatic fallout from the violence and the US embassy move. South Africa recalled its ambassador to Israel, Turkey temporarily expelled Israel's ambassador, Israel asked the Turkish consul general in Jerusalem to leave, and the Palestinian envoy to Washington was recalled to Ramallah.

The demonstration in Gaza Monday culminated a weekslong Palestinian campaign against a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt after Hamas seized control of Gaza in 2007.

Palestinians wave their national flag as they demonstrate near the border between Israel and the Gaza Strip, east of Jabalia, against the inauguration of the US embassy following its controversial move to Jerusalem on May 14, 2018. (MOHAMMED ABED / AFP)

Protesters set tires ablaze, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air, and hurled firebombs and stones toward Israeli soldiers across the border.

The Israeli military said Hamas tried to carry out bombing and shooting attacks under the cover of the protests and released video of protesters ripping away parts of the barbed-wire border fence.

Israel isn't a UN Security Council member, nor are the Palestinians.

The Palestinian UN envoy urged the council to condemn the killings, back an investigation, and get Israel to lift the blockade. Israel's ambassador, meanwhile, called for condemning Hamas.

Each accused the other's country of violating international law.

"How many Palestinians have to die before you take action?" Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour asked. "Why are you paralyzed?" 

Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon told the council that the international community had done too little to stop violence on the part of Palestinians.

"You must tell Hamas that violence is not the answer," he said.

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