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In first, UN expected to pass resolution condemning Hamas

US Ambassador Nikki Haley (C) has been a strong supporter of Israel at the United Nations
Don EMMERT (AFP/File)
Resolution, which will be supported by EU states, will probably mark last action by US Ambassador Nikki Haley.

The UN General Assembly will vote Thursday on a US-drafted resolution condemning the Palestinian Hamas movement.

US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley, who will step down at the end of this year, has repeatedly accused the United Nations of having an anti-Israel bias and strongly supports Israel in its latest confrontation with Hamas in Gaza.

The resolution condemns Hamas and its use of violence, including "repeatedly firing rockets into Israel", using "airborne incendiary devices" and the use of resources to build "military infrastructure" targeting civilians.

Jason Greenblatt, Donald Trump's adviser on Israel, said ahead of the vote on Wednesday that Hamas was "the root cause" of Palestinian suffering in Gaza.

Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday said his government is hopeful that the resolution will pass.

"We expect (the UN) to not only condemn Hamas but also to return our captives and missing persons," Netanyahu said at a ceremony in Jerusalem.

- Not only Hamas -

The resolution includes more conciliatory articles, including one saluting tangible steps towards Palestinian reconciliation from third parties, including Egypt.

The resolution also called on "all parties" to cease "all forms of violence and intimidation directed against medical and humanitarian personnel".

It also urged all parties to the conflict for international law, and the respect of UN personnel and infrastructure.

This comes after further details emerged about the November botched IDF operation that started the latest bout of violent confrontations in Gaza.

The IDF special forces team that ran the operation was reportedly posing as members of a medical NGO, a common practice in covert warfare, but goes against international law.

AP Photo/Adel Hana

If adopted, it would mark the first time the 193-nation assembly has taken aim at Hamas, the Islamist militant group that has ruled the Gaza Strip since 2007.

Diplomats however warn the session could go awry over procedural issues, notably whether a majority of two-thirds will be required for adoption or a simple majority.

There was also much diplomatic wrangling after the Palestinians presented an amendment to the US text to include a reference to UN resolutions that condemn Israeli settlements, call for negotiations on East Jerusalem and pledge support for the two-state solution.

In negotiations with the Europeans, the United States agreed to add a mention of "relevant UN resolutions" without specifying which ones. The US text does not refer specifically to the two-state solution.

After talks with the Europeans late Wednesday, the Palestinians agreed to withdraw their amendment and instead table a separate resolution, diplomats said.

That move increased the chances that the US measure will be adopted, as well as the Palestinian-drafted resolution. EU countries plan to support both measures.

Don EMMERT (AFP/File)

US takes vote seriously

Haley rattled the United Nations when she arrived in January 2017 vowing that the United States will be "taking names" of countries that oppose President Donald Trump's foreign policy.

Ahead of the vote on Thursday, the US ambassador sent a letter to all UN missions to make clear that "the United States takes the outcome of this vote very seriously."

The vote at the assembly could be a crowning achievement for Haley as she prepares to step away from public life.

Diplomats say the US administration has lobbied hard to win votes.

"She would like to go out with something," said a Security Council diplomat.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly are non-binding, but they carry political weight and are seen as a barometer of world opinion.

The United States put forward the resolution as it prepares to unveil new peace proposals that the Palestinians have already rejected.

The Palestinians have severed ties with the Trump administration after the decision a year ago to move the US embassy to Jerusalem and declare the city Israel's capital.

The US administration has also cut more than $500 million in Palestinian aid.

The Palestinians see the city as the capital of their future state. International consensus has been that Jerusalem's status must be negotiated between the two sides.

The General Assembly session to vote on the US draft resolution is scheduled to begin at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT).

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