Geneva: The UN General Assembly has condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries, and asked UN chief Antonio Guterres to report back on recommendations regarding an “international protection mechanism” for occupied Palestinian territory.
The Assembly on Wednesday adopted an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for greater protection for Palestinians and deploring any use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza, according to an official statement.
The emergency session of the 193-member Assembly, came about following weeks of violence along the border of the Gaza Strip, the Palestinian enclave blockaded by Israel — where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians participated in “the Great March of Return” protests, beginning at the end of March.
Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions. Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Togo joined Israel and the US in voting against the resolution, which came weeks after Washington vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council.
More than 120 Palestinian civilians have been reportedly killed by Israeli forces since March 30 while participating in the protests against Israel’s years-long blockade. The largest number of deaths occurred on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.
The General Assembly text criticised 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 UN Nikki Haley told the General Assembly before the vote.
An amendment presented by the US that condemned Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for adoption. “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.
The resolution also asked UN chief Antonio 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”.
“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 added.