US vows UN Security Council veto of proposal on Palestinians

May 31, 2018 - 10:33 pm
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UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The U.S. is vowing to veto an Arab-backed resolution that asks the U.N. chief to propose measures to ensure "international protection" for Palestinian civilians.

A vote on the measure — which comes after weeks of urgent discussions but no agreement on any action about escalating violence in Gaza — was at one point expected Thursday evening. Then diplomats said it would be delayed and now appears likely on Friday.

The Kuwait-sponsored draft resolution "deplores" and demands a halt to "the use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force" by the Israeli military, while it also "deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian areas."

U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley lambasted the proposal for discussing "excessive" Israeli force while making no mention of Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza.

"It is a grossly one-sided approach that is morally bankrupt and would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians," Haley said in a statement Thursday evening. Israel's U.N. ambassador, Danny Danon, also has sharply criticized the proposal.

The Security Council has been deeply divided and paralyzed over dealing with the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After a series of emergency meetings about Gaza — the latest just Wednesday — the U.N.'s most powerful body so far hasn't been able to agree even on a press statement.

The draft resolution expresses "grave concern" at the escalation of violence and tensions and the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories, especially since the start of a series of mass protests at the Gaza border on March 30.

Over 110 Palestinians were killed and thousands wounded by Israeli military fire. Israel said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of trying to attack under the cover of the protest.

Then Hamas and the smaller Islamic Jihad militant group bombarded southern Israel with rockets and mortars Tuesday, and Israel responded by striking targets throughout Gaza. It was the largest flare-up for violence between the sides since a 2014 war. Hamas said Wednesday it had agreed to a cease-fire with Israel.

The draft resolution calls for urgent steps "to ensure an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire." It asks U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a written report within 60 days ways to ensure "the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation," including recommendations about "an international protection mechanism."

The draft also urges immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access and "tangible steps" toward reconciliation between different Palestinian factions.

At Kuwait's request, the council has held multiple emergency meetings on the border clashes. Tuesday's torrent of rockets and mortars prompted the U.S. to call for Wednesday's meeting, where U.N. Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov said the latest escalation in Gaza was a warning of "how close to the brink of war we are every day."

Both the U.S. and Kuwaiti ambassadors said their nations had proposed press statements on the Israeli-Palestinian issue that had been blocked in recent weeks.

Israel and Hamas are bitter enemies and have fought three wars since the Islamic group seized control of Gaza in 2007.

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Peltz reported from New York.

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