UNITED NATIONS: An emergency meeting of the United Nations General Assembly has adopted an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for greater protection for Palestinians and deploring use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza.

The resolution was adopted on Wednesday (Thursday in Pakistan) after getting 120 votes in favour, eight against and with 45 abstentions.

The emergency session of the 193-member assembly came after weeks of violence along Israel’s border with the Gaza Strip, where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians participated in the “Great March of Return” protests beginning at the end of March. More than 120 Palestinian civilians were killed by Israeli forces during the protests against Israel’s years-long blockade of the enclave. No Israeli was killed.

The resolution was presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of the Arab and Muslim countries.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley claimed the resolution was “one-sided” and accused Arab countries of trying to score political points at home by seeking to condemn Israel at the United Nations.

“For some, attacking Israel is their favourite political sport. That’s why we are here today,” Haley told the assembly.

An amendment presented by the United States that condemned Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.

Arab countries backing the measure turned to the General Assembly after the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block the resolution on June 1. Unlike the Security Council, resolutions adopted by the assembly are non-binding and there is no veto.

Task for UN chief

The resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the drafting of proposals for an “international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, adds AFP.

These could range from setting up an observer mission to a full-blown peacekeeping force, but action on any option would require backing from the Security Council, where the United States has veto power.

“We are asking for a simple thing,” Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the assembly. “We want our civilian population to be protected.”

Turkey’s Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu defended the resolution, saying it was “about taking sides with international law” and showing the Palestinians that the world “does care about their suffering”.

Taking the podium, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon alleged that the measure was an “attempt to take away our basic right to self-defence”.

He claimed that by supporting the resolution “you [ambassadors of member states] are empowering Hamas”.

France was among the 12 EU countries that backed the resolution, but Britain abstained along with Italy, Poland and 13 other EU member states. Russia and China voted in favour.

Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, the Solomon Islands and Togo joined the United States and Israel in voting against the resolution.

The US amendment condemning Hamas received 62 votes in favour, with 58 against and 42 abstentions. The United States sought to challenge the ruling requiring a two-thirds majority for approval but that was defeated in a separate vote.

Published in Dawn, June 15th, 2018

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