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Sunday, June 24, 2018

Palestinians seek UN vote blaming Israel; US wants changes

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The Palestinians and their supporters are hoping an emergency meeting of the U.N. General Assembly on Wednesday will adopt a resolution deploring what it calls Israel's "excessive use of force," particularly in Gaza, and seeking recommendations to protect Palestinian civilians. The U.S. is demanding changes.

Arab and Islamic nations decided to go to the 193-member assembly, where there are no vetoes, following the U.S. veto of virtually the same resolution in the Security Council on June 1. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley called that Kuwait-sponsored resolution "grossly one-sided" for criticizing the use of force by Israel while not mentioning the Islamic militant group Hamas, which rules Gaza.

Haley sent a letter to all U.N. member states Tuesday calling the proposed General Assembly resolution "fundamentally imbalanced" for "ignoring basic truths about the situation in Gaza" and not mentioning Hamas.

She proposed an amendment condemning Hamas for firing rockets into Israel and inciting violence along the Gaza-Israel border fence, "thereby putting civilians at risk." The proposal also would condemn the diversion of resources in Gaza to building tunnels to infiltrate Israel and equipment to fire rockets and express "grave concern" at the destruction of the Kerem Shalom crossing point to Israel "by actors in Gaza."

Haley said the amendment "is not controversial" and simply condemns "behavior we should all recognize as harmful to the Palestinian people."

The letter said the amendment would be voted on before the resolution.

While Security Council resolutions are legally binding, General Assembly resolutions are not, although they do reflect international opinion.

The Palestinians sought a Security Council resolution after Israel's military killed civilians during mass protests in Gaza aimed at the border blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt in 2007 after Hamas overran the territory.

Since the near-weekly protests began March 30, more than 120 Palestinians have been killed and over 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire. The overwhelming majority of the dead and wounded have been unarmed, according to Gaza health officials. Israel says Hamas has used the protests as cover for attacks on the border fence.

The marchers have also pressed demands for a "right of return" for descendants of Palestinian refugees to ancestral homes in what is now Israel. More than 700,000 Palestinians were expelled or fled in the 1948 Mideast war over Israel's creation. Two-thirds of Gaza's 2 million residents are descendants of refugees.

The draft General Assembly resolution demands that Israeli forces stop "any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force." It calls for "immediate steps towards ending the closure and the restrictions imposed by Israel on movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip."

It also "deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas," but doesn't say who is doing the firing.

The draft asks Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make proposals within 60 days "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."

Standing with a half dozen Arab and Islamic supporters Friday, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, Riyad Mansour, said Guterres "should utilize all the tools available to him in the (U.N.) Secretariat and on the ground, and with all of the collective mind of all of us who are ready and willing to help in any possible way."

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