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UN: Members mourn Gaza deaths but split on assigning blame

U.S. and Israel say Palestinian leaders sparked the violence, but Arab envoys disagree and want an independent inquiry into the bloodshed.

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, seen

Nikki Haley, U.S. ambassador to the UN, seen in April, blamed Hamas on Tuesday for the killings of Gaza protesters. Photo Credit: AFP/Getty Images / Hector Retamal

UNITED NATIONS — UN Security Council members on Tuesday were united in mourning the deaths of up to 60 Palestinians in Monday clashes at Israel’s border fence with Gaza — but they split on who to blame for the carnage.

The Council, which met in an emergency meeting in Manhattan, was sharply divided — with the United States and Israel pointing at Palestinian leaders, while several Arab envoys blamed Israel’s excessive use of force and vowed to draft a resolution calling for an independent inquiry into the bloodshed.

Council members were also divided over whether the installation of a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem on Monday — the fulfillment of a campaign promise of President Donald Trump — helped fuel the violence.

“For the people of Gaza, yesterday was a day of tragedy,” said Nickolay Mladenov, UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, who briefed the Council from the Middle East by video teleconference.

He said there was no excuse for the deaths and more than 1,300 reported injuries.

“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,” he said. “It must protect its borders from infiltration and terrorism, but it must do so proportionally.”

Mladenov also chided Hamas, saying the militant political faction that controls Gaza should not use the protests to breach the fence to carry out attacks on Israelis or provoke its soldiers.

“Hamas has attacked the Kerem Shalom crossing, the biggest entry point in Gaza for fuel, food, and medical supplies,” said Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the UN. “This is how determined they are to make the lives of the Palestinian people miserable. They light Molotov cocktails attached to kites on fire and attempt to fly them into Israel to cause as much destruction as possible.”

Haley was in sync with her Israeli counterpart, Danny Danon, who said Hamas, the Palestinian militant political faction that governs Gaza, had incited its people to be shot down.

“These were not demonstrations,” he said. “These were not protests. These were violent riots.”

Danon added that some of the tens of thousands of Palestinians who gathered along the fence were carrying Molotov cocktails and other explosive devices. He said the Palestinians were rolling burning tires toward the barrier, calling the group, “guilty of exploiting the innocent people of Gaza as human shields.”

Kuwait’s UN Ambassador, Mansour Al-Otaibi, appeared at the Security Council press area with 14 other ambassadors from Arab countries, including Riyad Mansour of Palestine, and said he would draft a resolution in the Security Council to provide international protection for the Palestinians, which Israel, as the occupying power, had failed to do.

The United States had earlier blocked a Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation into the deaths. Haley also said during the debate that moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem was the right thing to do.

On this point, the five Security Council members in the European Union disagreed, reiterating their positions that Jerusalem is a “final status” issue to be finalized only after direct negotiations between Palestinian and Israelis in talks to create a “two-state solution.”

Indeed, several European ambassadors — from Poland, the United Kingdom, France, Sweden, Belgium, Italy and the Netherlands — held a separate news conference after the debate to read a statement affirming their position on the city but asking Hamas to refrain from provocations and urging Israel to use maximum restraint.

Mansour, of Palestine, called the clashes an “odious massacre” and said the U.S. embassy opening, which coincided with the 70th anniversary of the May 15, 1948 removal of Palestinians to establish the state of Israel, provoked Palestinians to demonstrate.

“How many more Palestinians have to die before you take action?“ he said to the Council members, who are responsible for maintaining international peace and security. “Our people have waited for a long time. We can no longer wait for an end to this injustice.”

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