ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 147

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Abbas says US ‘responsible for bloodshed’ of Gazans after it vetoed ceasefire call

Palestinian leader, who PA is seen by US as key player in post-war Gaza, denounces US position as ‘aggressive and immoral,’ and a violation of all humanitarian values, principles’

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shake hands before their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 30, 2023. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken shake hands before their meeting in the West Bank city of Ramallah, November 30, 2023. (Saul Loeb/Pool/AFP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Saturday the United States was “responsible for the bloodshed” in Gaza, after Washington vetoed a United Nations Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire in the territory.

“The president has described the American position as aggressive and immoral, a blatant violation of all humanitarian values and principles, and holds the United States responsible for the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women and elderly in Gaza” due to its support for Israel, said a statement from Abbas’s office.

Washington’s veto at a special meeting of the Security Council on Friday thwarted efforts by some international actors, led by UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Arab nations, to force an immediate ceasefire in the territory.

American envoy Robert Wood said the proposed resolution was “divorced from reality” and “would have not moved the needle forward on the ground.” He declared that halting military action would allow Hamas to continue to rule Gaza and “only plant the seeds for the next war.”

Wood also criticized the council after the vote for its failure to condemn Hamas’s October 7 massacres in Israel that sparked the war — in which thousands of terrorists killed about 1,200 people, mostly civilians slaughtered amid brutal atrocities, and took about 240 hostages — or to acknowledge Israel’s right to defend itself.

Israel praised the veto, while the resolution’s sponsor, the United Arab Emirates, said it was “deeply disappointed” by the result.

Abbas, whose PA is seen by the Biden administration as a key player in post-war Gaza, said Saturday that “US policy makes it complicit in the crimes of genocide, ethnic cleansing and war crimes committed by the Israeli occupation forces against Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank and Jerusalem.”

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan also denounced the result Saturday, describing the international body as the “Israel protection council.”

“Is this justice?” asked Erdogan, adding that “the world is bigger than five,” a reference to the five veto-wielding nations in the UN Security Council. “Another world is possible, but without America,” the Turkish leader said.

Iran also reacted angrily to the US veto, warning of the threat of an “uncontrollable explosion” of the situation in the Middle East. “As long as America supports the crimes of the Zionist regime and the continuation of the war… there is a possibility of an uncontrollable explosion in the situation of the region,” Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the top diplomat of the Islamic Republic, told Guterres in a phone call, according to an Iranian foreign ministry statement.

US Ambassador Alternate Representative of the US for Special Political Affairs in the United Nations Robert A. Wood raises his hand during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023 (Charly Triballeau/AFP)

After the vote, Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations Gilad Erdan thanked US President Joe Biden for “standing steadfastly” with Israel. “A little light rejected a lot of darkness,” Erdan said, alluding to the Hanukkah festival which began on Thursday night.

“A ceasefire is possible, only with the return of all the hostages and destruction of Hamas,” Erdan added.

On Saturday Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement expressing appreciation for the veto. Hailing the US position as “correct,” Netanyahu said “other countries too need to understand that it is impossible to support the elimination of Hamas on one hand, and on the other hand call for the halting of the war, which would prevent the elimination of Hamas.”

Therefore, the premier said, “Israel will continue our justified war aimed at eliminating Hamas and at achieving the rest of the war goals that we have set.”

Thirteen members of the council voted in favor of the motion, while the United Kingdom abstained.

The Arab-backed measure, presented by the United Arab Emirates, described the humanitarian situation in Gaza as “catastrophic” and called for the protection of civilians, the immediate and unconditional release of all the hostages Hamas is still holding, and humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip.

A picture taken from southern Israel near the border with the Gaza Strip on December 9, 2023, shows smoke rising above buildings during an Israeli strike on Gaza (JACK GUEZ / AFP)

Israel’s more than two-month military campaign has claimed the lives of over 17,000 in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run health ministry, which does not differentiate between civilian and combatant deaths.

The figures cannot be verified, but the total number is largely in line with an assessment by Israel, which said it believes more than 5,000 of those killed are Hamas operatives. The figures also include many killed by rockets fired by Gazan terror groups at Israeli communities that fall short in the Strip and at least 1,000 terrorists who were killed on October 7.

Israel says it is making an effort to avoid harm to civilians while fighting a terror group embedded within the civilian population. It has long accused Gaza-based terror groups of using Palestinians in the Strip as human shields, operating from sites including schools and hospitals which are supposed to be protected.

The Security Council called the emergency meeting to hear from Guterres, who for the first time invoked Article 99 of the UN Charter, which enables a UN chief to raise threats he sees to international peace and security.

A general view shows a UN Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Yuki Iwamura/AFP)

Guterres said he raised Article 99 — which hadn’t been used at the UN since 1971 — because “there is a high risk of the total collapse of the humanitarian support system in Gaza.” The UN anticipates this would result in “a complete breakdown of public order and increased pressure for mass displacement into Egypt,” he warned.

Gaza is at “a breaking point,” he said, and desperate people are at serious risk of starvation.

Guterres said Hamas’s brutality against Israelis on Oct. 7 “can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people.”

Israel has vowed to destroy Hamas following October 7 while also exercising caution to protect civilians and accusing Hamas terrorists of intentionally using them as human shields. According to Israeli defense officials, Hamas fighters are deeply entrenched inside Gaza’s civilian fabric, with tunnels and command bunkers running beneath residential neighborhoods, hospitals, schools and UN facilities.

Hamas is committed to the destruction of Israel, and one of its leaders said last month that it intends to carry out massacres such as those on October 7 until the Jewish state is eliminated.

The UK’s representative to the UN, Barbara Woodward, said Britain abstained because the resolution did not condemn Hamas and its October 7 atrocities. “Calling for a ceasefire ignores the fact that Hamas has committed acts of terror and is still holding civilians hostage,” she said. “We cannot vote in favor of a resolution which does not condemn the atrocities Hamas committed against innocent Israeli civilians.

Woodward said the UK was “gravely concerned” about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and called for “further and longer” humanitarian pauses in the fighting to deliver aid and free more hostages.

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