Kuwait floats Security Council statement urging probe of Gaza violence

Kuwait floats Security Council statement urging probe of Gaza violence

Washington once again said seeking to block measure condemning Israeli actions as ‘a violation of international law’; Palestinian UN envoy says IDF ‘massacred’ 9 civilians

A UN Security Council meeting on February 26, 2018. (Eskinder Debebe/UN)
A UN Security Council meeting on February 26, 2018. (Eskinder Debebe/UN)

A week after the US blocked a similar attempt, Kuwait was on Friday once again pushing for the UN Security Council to call for an investigation of Israel’s actions on the Gaza border during recent Palestinian demonstrations.

Kuwait, which represents Arab countries on the council, circulated a draft press statement to members which reinforces the Palestinians’ right to peaceful protest, calls for an independent and transparent probe of the clashes over the past week, and calls for all sides to show restraint and prevent escalation.

On Twitter,  Kuwait’s UN mission said the UNSC “should address this matter and have a unified positions… What is happening is a violation of international law.”

According to Hadashot TV news, US officials were working to prevent the council from adopting the Kuwaiti draft.

Israeli Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon said the council “should condemn Hamas, which uses children as human shields while risking their lives, and must call for the end of these provocations which only increase the violence and tensions.”

Danny Danon, Israel’s ambassador to the UN, speaks at the General Assembly on December 21, 2017, at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Last Satuday the US blocked a similar draft UN Security Council statement urging restraint and calling for an investigation of clashes on the border, diplomats said.

Kuwait presented the proposed statement, which called for an “independent and transparent investigation” of the violence.

The draft council statement also expressed “grave concern at the situation at the border.” And it reaffirmed “the right to peaceful protest” and expressed the council’s “sorrow at the loss of innocent Palestinian lives.”

Tens of thousands of Palestinians gathered along the Gaza border on Friday, burning tires and throwing firebombs and rocks at Israeli soldiers, who responded with tear gas and live fire, the army and witnesses said, as Palestinians held a second “March of Return” protest.

The Palestinian ambassador to the UN said late Friday that nine Gaza civilians were killed and over 1,000 wounded in the clashes, and again urged the UN Security Council to demand an independent investigation into the deaths.

Riyad Mansour told reporters at the UN headquarters in New York that one child was among the dead and a large number of children were injured, at least 48 according to one report. He said his information came from the Hamas-run Health Ministry and Red Crescent officials in Gaza.

Mansour condemned “these massacres in the strongest possible terms” and demanded a halt and an independent investigation.

The IDF said on Friday it thwarted multiple efforts to breach the border fence — and that it used live fire to do so in some instances — as well as attempts to activate bombs against the troops under the cover of smoke.

Palestinian protestors burn tires during clashes with Israeli security forces on the Gaza-Israel border, east of Gaza City on April 6, 2018. (AFP PHOTO / MAHMUD HAMS)

Palestinians burned tires, sending thick plumes of black smoke into the air; others threw Molotov cocktails and stones at Israeli soldiers over the border fence, who responded with tear gas and live fire, witnesses said.

The Hamas-run health ministry said hundreds of people were wounded on Friday, including 293 by live fire. It said 25 of those wounded were in serious condition. Among those hurt were 12 women and 48 minors, the ministry added.

“Rioters have attempted to damage and cross the security fence under the cover of smoke from their burning tires. They also attempted to carry out terror attacks and hurl explosive devices and firebombs,” the IDF said on Friday evening. “Our forces prevented breaches” of the fence.

Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, speaking to protesters on Friday afternoon, warned that the Strip was ready to “explode in the face of the occupation.” Sinwar said the world should “wait for our great move, when we breach the borders and pray at Al-Aqsa,” referring to the major Muslim shrine in Jerusalem.

Yahya Sinwar, leader of the Islamist Hamas terrorist group in the Gaza Strip, speaks during a protest east of Khan Yunis on April 6, 2018 (AFP PHOTO / SAID KHATIB)

Arriving at one of the demonstration sites, Sinwar received a hero’s welcome. He was surrounded by hundreds of supporters who chanted, “We are going to Jerusalem, millions of martyrs.”

Israeli military spokesman Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus said Hamas organizers were trying to use protesters as a diversion to “open up the fence and then to insert terrorists into Israel.” Conricus said snipers were used “sparingly” and only against those that pose a “significant threat.”

Friday’s demonstration was the second of what Gaza’s ruling Hamas terror group said would be several weeks of “March of Return” protests which Hamas leaders say ultimately aim to see the removal of the border and the liberation of Palestine.

Israel has accused Hamas of trying to carry out border attacks under the cover of large protests and said it will prevent a breach of the fence at all costs.

Israel’s defense minister has warned that protesters approaching the border fence endanger their lives, drawing condemnation from rights groups that said such seemingly broad open-fire rules are unlawful.

A leading Israeli rights group, B’Tselem, issued a rare appeal to Israeli soldiers to refuse any “grossly illegal” orders to fire at unarmed protesters.

Last Friday, over 30,000 Gaza residents participated in mass demonstrations, many gathering in five tent encampments that had been set up from north to south along the narrow coastal strip’s border with Israel, each at a distance of about several hundred meters from the fence. Smaller groups, mostly young men, rushed forward, throwing stones, hurling firebombs or burning tires and drawing Israeli fire. Two were killed after opening fire on Israeli troops, Israel said, while others tried to breach or bomb the border fence.

In all, more than 20 Palestinians were killed in Gaza over the past week, most of them last Friday, according to Gaza health officials. This includes a 30-year-old and an 18-year-old who died on Friday of injuries sustained last week, the officials said. Israel has no official death toll figures.

On Thursday, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged Israel to exercise “extreme caution,” and to allow Palestinians to protest peacefully along the border.

The US, by contrast, called Thursday on Palestinians to engage in solely peaceful protests and stay at least 500 meters from Gaza’s border with Israel. President Donald Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt said in a statement: “We condemn leaders and protestors who call for violence or who send protestors — including children — to the fence, knowing that they may be injured or killed. Instead, we call for a renewed focus by all parties on finding solutions to the dire humanitarian challenges facing Gazans.”

Hamas leaders have declared in recent days that they plan “surprises” and that the ultimate goal of the marches is to remove the border and liberate Palestine.

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