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US 'blocks UN motion' calling for investigation into Israeli killing of Gaza protesters

Proposed UN Security Council statement expressed 'outrage and sorrow' at Israel's shooting of Palestinian demonstrators and demanded 'independent and transparent' probe

Chris Baynes
Tuesday 15 May 2018 10:53 BST
Israeli drones fire tear gas as clashes erupt at Gaza-Israel border protests

The United States has blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that called for an “independent and transparent investigation” into Israel’s killing of Palestinian protestors on the Gaza border.

The statement, drafted by Kuwait ahead of a meeting on Tuesday, expressed “outrage and sorrow" at the deaths of at least 58 people during demonstrations over the opening of the American embassy in Jerusalem.

It also demanded all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution calling on them not to station diplomatic missions in the contested holy city.

A US delegation including Donald Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner attended the embassy’s inauguration ceremony on Monday, pledging commitment to “lasting peace” as dozens of Palestinians were shot dead 50 miles away in the region’s bloodiest day since the 2014 Gaza war.

More than 1,200 people were injured as Israeli troops fired live ammunition and tear gas at demonstrators. The dead included a 14-year-old boy, said Palestinian medics.

Israel said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of using the protests as a cover for attacks. It said 40,000 Palestinians had taken part in "violent riots" along the border and that some had tried to breach security fences.

It was not immediately clear what might come of Tuesday’s Security Council session, called by Kuwait to discuss the violence. No joint statement or action followed a similar meeting after protests in March.

Two UN diplomats, speaking anonymously, told Associated Press that members failed to reach a unanimous agreement on the proposed statement.

“The Security Council expresses its outrage and sorrow at the killing of Palestinian civilians exercising their right to peaceful protest,” the draft text reads.

“The Security Council calls for an independent and transparent investigation into these actions to ensure accountability.”

The statement also called on “all sides to exercise restraint with a view to averting further escalation and establishing calm”.

It stressed actions “which purport to have altered the character, status or demographic composition of the Holy City of Jerusalem have no legal effect”.

Palestinians seek East Jerusalem as the capital of a state they hope to establish in the occupied West Bank and the Gaza Strip.

Most countries say the status of Jerusalem – a sacred city to Jews, Muslims and Christians – should be determined in a final peace settlement and that the relocation of the US embassy prejudices any such deal.

It was not clear if Security Council members other than the US rejected the statement drafted by Kuwait.

France, one of the council’s five permanent members, has condemned “the violence of Israeli armed forces against demonstrators” and said president Emmanuel Macron would speak to Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday.

Alistair Burt, the UK’s minister for the Middle East, described the Palestinian death toll as “extremely worrying” and called on Israel to “show greater restraint”. But he said Britain would “not waver from our support for Israel’s right to defend its borders”.

On Monday, 10 of the council’s 15 members wrote to UN secretary-general to express profound concern” that a 2016 resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlement building on land that Palestinians want for an independent state was not being implemented.

“The Security Council must stand behind its resolutions and ensure they have meaning; otherwise, we risk undermining the credibility of the international system,” wrote Bolivia, China, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, France, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, the Netherlands, Peru and Sweden in a joint letter.

A month before President Trump took office in January 2017, the council adopted a resolution demanding an end to Israeli settlements, with 14 votes in favour and one abstention by Barack Obama’s administration. Mr Trump had denounced the resolution and called for the US to wield its veto.

UN Middle East envoy Nickolay Mladenov reported last year that Israel was continuing to flout the demand for an end to settlements, which is prohibited by international law.

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