US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley visited Israeli communities in areas surrounding the Gaza border region on Thursday, meeting local residents and touring one of the crossings into the Hamas-ruled Palestinian enclave.
Haley also headed north later Thursday, visiting Kibbutz Misgav Am located on Israel’s northern border with Lebanon and received briefings from IDF officers and UNIFIL forces.
During her tour of the south, Haley visited with residents of Kibbutz Nahal Oz, surveyed a Hamas-dug attack tunnel near Kibbutz Ein Hashlosha, and toured the Kerem Shalom border crossing, the main crossing through which goods are transferred from Israel to the Strip.
Haley has positioned herself as a staunch backer of Israel, lambasting the world body for its focus on Israel and vowing Wednesday in meetings with Israeli leaders to end the “bullying” of the Jewish state there.
The visit to the Gaza border came a day after she met with Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah in Ramallah and discussed the humanitarian situation in the Gaza Strip as well as the work of UNWRA, a UN agency that helps Palestinians, her office said in a statement.
At Nahal Oz, locals told Haley about their experiences during the summer 2014 war between Israel and Gaza-based terror groups led by Hamas, and what life was like on the border under the threat of rockets and attacks.
They stressed that they had never thought of leaving the kibbutz, with one unnamed resident telling Haley, “This is our home and we could not see ourselves living anywhere else,” according to a press statement.
Diana Ben David, a local teacher, thanked the ambassador for standing up for Israel, saying, “We finally feel we have someone protecting us at the UN.”
Haley was presented with a book filled with drawings made by Israeli kindergarten children, to thank her for her support.
During her tour of the Hamas tunnel, which was uncovered before the war three years ago, Haley was accompanied by the Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon and Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, the deputy chief of the staff of the IDF.
Tunnels were used by Hamas to attack and kill IDF soldiers on a number of occasions during the 50-day war in 2014. Israel destroyed over a dozen such underground systems over the course of the operation.
On Wednesday, Haley visited the Western Wall in Jerusalem and was greeted by throngs who expressed their gratitude to her at the Jewish holy site.
The trip to the Jerusalem holy site was billed as a private visit, much like that of US President Donald Trump last month, so that it would not be construed as tacit US acknowledgment of Israel’s sovereignty over the Old City.
Haley is in the region after speaking in Geneva at the UN Human Rights Council, which she rebuked as a “forum for politics, hypocrisy and evasion” that allows rights abusers to whitewash their images and foes of Israel to criticize the Jewish state unfairly.
Haley used an academic forum in Geneva to pinpoint two reforms sought by the United States: the use of competitive elections to choose the council’s 47 members and removal of Israel as a permanent fixture on its agenda — the only country in the world that is.
AP contributed to this report.