UN Assembly calls on Israel to halt ‘excessive use of force’ against Palestinians

The UN General Assembly adopted a resolution with 120 votes in favor, eight against and 45 abstentions.
Thursday 14/06/2018
Delegations vote to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, at the UN General Assembly, in New York, on June 13. (AFP)
Delegations vote to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, at the UN General Assembly, in New York, on June 13. (AFP)

LONDON - The UN General Assembly condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians and asked UN chief Antonio Guterres to recommend an "international protection mechanism" for occupied Palestinian territory.

The General Assembly adopted a resolution with 120 votes in favor, eight against and 45 abstentions. It was put forward in the General Assembly by Algeria, Turkey and the Palestinians after the United States vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council earlier this month.

The General Assembly text condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, but did not mention Hamas, the Islamist group that controls Gaza. General Assembly resolutions are not legally binding but carry political weight.

"The nature of this resolution clearly demonstrates that politics is driving the day. It is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of the Hamas terrorists who routinely initiate the violence in Gaza," US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley told the General Assembly before the vote.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour passes by US Ambassador Nikki Haley during voting to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, at the General Assembly, in New York, on June 13. (AFP)
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour passes by US Ambassador Nikki Haley during voting to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, at the General Assembly, in New York, on June 13. (AFP)

The United States failed in a bid to amend the resolution with a paragraph that would have condemned violence by Hamas.

"By supporting this resolution you are colluding with a terrorist organization, by supporting this resolution you are empowering Hamas," Israel's UN Ambassador Danny Danon told the General Assembly before the vote.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Togo joined Israel and the United States in voting against the resolution.

More than 120 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza border protests since March 30. The largest number of deaths occurred on May 14, the day the United States moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv.

Amid international condemnation of its use of lethal force, Israel said many of the dead were militants and that the Israeli army was repelling attacks on the border fence between Israel and Gaza. Washington has maintained Israel's right to defend itself and refrained from joining calls for Israeli restraint.

Palestinians and their supporters said most protesters were unarmed civilians and Israel used excessive force against them.

"We need protection of our civilian population," Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote, adding that the resolution was "intended to contribute to a de-escalation of the volatile situation."

"We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people," Mansour said.

Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour applauds following the adoption of a draft resolution by the UN General Assembly to deplore the use of excessive force by Israeli troops against Palestinian civilians, in New York, on June 13. (Reuters)
Palestinian Ambassador to the United Nations Riyad Mansour applauds following the adoption of a draft resolution by the UN General Assembly to deplore the use of excessive force by Israeli troops against Palestinian civilians, in New York, on June 13. (Re

The resolution asked Guterres to report back within 60 days on proposals "on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, including ... recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism."

In December the General Assembly largely ignored threats by US President Donald Trump at the time to cut off aid to any country that went against Washington, and voted 128-9 to denounce the United States’ recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital and declare it "null and void."

West Bank Palestinians urge Abbas to ease sanctions on Gaza 

Palestinian security forces used tear gas and batons against protesters calling on President Mahmoud Abbas to end financial sanctions on their fellow Palestinians in Gaza.

Hundreds of protesters in the West Bank city of Ramallah faced down forces loyal to Abbas, who had banned such rallies earlier in the day.

Palestinian police dispersed the crowd with electric shockers and batons. Undercover officers dragged others away, arresting about 10 people. Abbas has cracked down on dissent, and such protests are rare.

Abbas's Western-backed Palestinian Authority (PA) has sought to use financial measures to isolate its chief rival Hamas.

In April 2017, Abbas slashed the salaries of thousands of government workers in Gaza by 30 percent, increasing hardship in the impoverished coastal strip that is home to two million Palestinians.

He has also cut the PA payroll in Gaza by ordering early retirement for nearly a third of its employees.

PA officials said at time that those moves were meant to increase pressure on Hamas to relinquish control of Gaza.

The rivalry between Abbas's Fatah faction and Hamas has simmered for years, and sometimes boiled over into violence since Hamas became a threat to his authority by winning parliamentary elections in 2006 and seizing military control of Gaza in a brief civil war the following year.

Protesting that ordinary Gazans have been caught up in the power struggle between Fatah and Hamas, Palestinian activists have held rallies in the West Bank demanding that Abbas restart the full payment of government salaries and services in Gaza.

Economic hardship caused by years of blockades, conflict and internal rivalries has brought Gaza near to breaking point. Poverty is rampant, and Gaza economists say the unemployment rate rose to 49.9 percent in the first quarter of 2018.

In an Egyptian-mediated bid to end the rift, Hamas said last year that it would cede control of Gaza to Abbas. But a dispute over how to implement power-sharing has hindered implementation of the agreement.

Abbas' government said that Israel was mainly responsible for Gaza's misery, but it also blamed Hamas.

(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)