US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley said Tuesday Israel had acted with exceptional “restraint” in clashes on the Gaza border a day earlier in which over 60 Palestinians were killed.
Haley was a rare voice slamming the Hamas terror group and speaking out in favor of Israel at an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council called over Monday’s deadly fighting.
After ambassadors joined in a rare moment of silence for those killed, Haley said Israel was facing Hamas extremists who incited people who lobbed flaming objects toward the Israeli side of the border fence and urged protest marchers to breach it.
“Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday,” she said.
Rejecting criticism of Israel voiced by other UN ambassadors, Haley said that none of their countries would have acted with the same moderation.
“Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would,” she charged. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”
Gaza’s Hamas-run health ministry said that 60 Palestinians were killed and more than 2,700 were wounded the day before amid the biggest riots and rallies in a weeks-long campaign of protests against Israel, known collectively as the “March of Return.”
Tens of thousands of Palestinians joined Hamas-organized protests on the Gaza border and hundreds of others clashed with Israeli troops on the outskirts of Jerusalem and in other locations in the West Bank, marking the 70th anniversary of what they call the Nakba, or “catastrophe,” of Israel’s creation in 1948, as well as protesting the relocation of the US embassy to Israel’s capital on Monday afternoon.
Israel has blamed Hamas for the deadly violence, saying the terror group encouraged and led the protests, which included attacks on Israeli troops and attempts to breach the border fence. The IDF had said Sunday that Hamas planned to send armed terrorists through any breach in the fence to “massacre” Israelis.
The Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad terror groups acknowledged Tuesday that 13 operatives from the organizations were among the 60 reported killed by IDF fire at the Gaza fence protests a day prior. Israel said at least 24 of the dead were members of terror groups.
Haley insisted the violence had nothing to do with the opening of a US embassy in contested Jerusalem, saying that Gaza’s Hamas rulers have been inciting violence there for years. Palestinians condemned the embassy opening as taking Israel’s side in their conflict.
“Those who suggest the violence has anything to do with the embassy in Jerusalem is sorely mistaken,” she said, “rather it comes from people who will not accept Israel in any part of Israel.”
The protests, a day before the traditional Nakba Day, came as the US inaugurated its embassy in Jerusalem, a move that has drawn fierce Palestinian anger as well as international protests.
Speaking after a slew of envoys condemned Israel’s actions and called for an end to the bloodshed, Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the council needed to speak out against Hamas.
“Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility,” Danon said.
“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’s war crimes,” he claimed.
In his response, the Palestinian UN envoy slammed the US for blocking the adoption of a Security Council statement that would have called for an independent probe of the deadly violence, said the Haley was “letting the Palestinian people down.”
“We have come to the Security Council many times to stop the Israeli oppression against our people, who are crushed by the Israeli occupation, our people who have been suffering for over 70 years,” Ambassador Riyad Mansour said.
In an apparent snub, Haley left the hall Mansour began to speak.
The draft statement, obtained by The Associated Press, would have expressed “outrage and sorrow” at the killings, sought an “independent and transparent investigation,” and called on all sides to exercise restraint.
It also would have demanded that all countries comply with a decades-old Security Council resolution that called on them not to have embassies in contested Jerusalem.
“We have begged you to prevent another massacre by Israel, the occupying power. We only ask for one thing, a transparent investigation of what is going on on the ground,” Mansour said. “How many Palestinians have to die before you take action? … Why does the Security Council do nothing? Why are you paralyzed? How long are you going to follow this double standard?”
Kuwait’s envoy, who requested the meeting, said that Israel was violating international law and that the council needs to offer protection unarmed Palestinians.
“The Palestinian people are looking to the United Nations and the Security Council to activate what this organization has taken upon itself in order to achieve the maintenance of international peace and security,” said Kuwaiti Ambassador Mansour Al-Otaibi.
Despite the US’s position, several countries, including Britain, Germany, Switzerland, and Belgium, have said they would support an independent investigation into the deaths.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the European Union have previously called for an independent probe, with 115 Palestinians killed by Israeli forces since protests and clashes began on the Gaza border on March 30.
“The United Kingdom supports an independent investigation into what has happened,” Alistair Burt, British minister for Middle East affairs, told parliament.
He called for “greater restraint” in the use of live fire, while adding it was “deplorable but real that extremist elements have been exploiting these protests.”
French President Emmanuel Macron condemned the “violence of the Israeli armed forces against the protesters.”