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Haley says Israel showed 'restraint' in Gaza as UN meets

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley leaves the room as Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour prepares to address a meeting on Gaza, Tuesday, May 15, 2018 at United Nations headquarters.
AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

The United States on Tuesday solidified its backing of Israel in the face of mounting international fury over the killing of 60 Palestinians in protests and clashes along the Gaza border.

The UN Security Council convened for an emergency session as two countries withdrew their ambassadors in Israel and others called in Israeli envoys for admonishments after the deadliest day of violence in the Gaza Strip since 2014.

However US envoy Nikki Haley told the meeting that they should be condemning Hamas -- the militant group that controls Gaza -- rather than Israel.

"The Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy," she said. "Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday."

"The United States deplores the loss of human life," she said.

"No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has," Haley told the Security Council. "In fact the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained," she said.

Haley criticized the measures undertaken by Palestinian protesters, questioning their methods and rationale. 

"Today’s meeting was called to discuss the violence that some suggest was connected with yesterday’s opening of the United States’ embassy in Jerusalem. For some people, the embassy opening is said to be a reason to engage in violence. How is that justified?"

She accused the UN's top body of double standards for not condemning Iran's "destabilizing conduct" in Yemen and Syria. When it came time for the Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour to address the meeting, Haley left the room.

MOHAMMED ABED (AFP)

Haley's stance continued a firm line from Washington as the death toll mounted on Monday. A White House spokesman blamed Hamas and rebuffed opportunities to criticize Israel, while a State Department official similarly told i24NEWS that it is "the recklessness and cynicism Hamas has shown" exposes Palestinians to "terrible risk."

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, briefed the Security Council by video link from Jerusalem.

"This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end," he said. "I have repeatedly called on all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of violence and for all incidents to be fully investigated."

Ahead of the UNSC meeting, Kuwait said it intends to circulate a draft UN resolution to protect Palestinian civilians, its ambassador to the United Nations said.

Mansour al-Otaibi said the draft would be circulated "most probably tomorrow" and would be designed to protect the Palestinians and "provide international protection for civilians."

Israel's envoy to the UN Danny Danon urged his counterparts to condemn Hamas.

“Hamas has committed war crimes not only against Israeli civilians but also against its own people – turning them into human shields for their own cynical gain. Every casualty that has resulted from the recent violence is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes,” he said before the meeting convened.

Britain and Germany have backed an independent investigation into the violence, but the United States on Monday blocked the adoption of a UN Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe.

Israel has also laid the blame squarely with Hamas, accusing Gaza's Islamist rulers of war crimes. Its ambassador to the United Nations called on the Security Council to condemn the faction.

"Only then will justice be served," Danny Danon told reporters. Israel, he said, regretted "every casualty."

AFP contributed to this report.

Read more:

As Gaza buries their dead, Hamas said reining in protesters

UK, Germany back independent probe into Gaza border violence

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