Liberman vows to defend troops amid calls for probe into Gaza clashes
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Liberman vows to defend troops amid calls for probe into Gaza clashes

Defense minister tells soldiers, 'Just as you protect us from Hamas terror, we will protect you from international inquiries and hypocritical gangs'

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman gives a statement to the media during his visit in Katzrin, May 11, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)
Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman gives a statement to the media during his visit in Katzrin, May 11, 2018. (Basel Awidat/Flash90)

Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman promised to protect IDF soldiers from international investigations Friday, following a damning session of the UN Human Rights Council earlier in the day.

“Dear soldiers, just as you protect us from Hamas terror, we will protect you from international inquiries and hypocritical gangs that operate against Israel,” Liberman said in a tweet.

The UN human rights chief slammed Israel’s handling of deadly clashes along the Gaza border as “wholly disproportionate,” and backed calls for an international investigation.

Addressing a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on the violence in which the Hamas-run health ministry says more than 100 Gazans have died in six weeks, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that “killing resulting from the unlawful use of force by an occupying power may also constitute willful killings, a grave breach of the Fourth Geneva Convention.”

United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein attends a special session of the United Nations Human Rights Council on May 18, 2018 in Geneva. (AFP/Fabrice Coffrini)

He pointed out that while 60 Palestinians were killed and thousands injured in a single day of violent protests that coincided with Monday’s move of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, “on the Israeli side, one soldier was reportedly wounded, slightly, by a stone.”

“The stark contrast in casualties on both sides is … suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response,” he told the council.

“Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week,” he said.

Zeid said he supported the call for an investigation “that is international, independent and impartial, in the hope the truth regarding these matters will lead to justice.”

Israeli ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, slammed the special session Friday, saying it was “politically motivated and won’t improve the situation on the ground by even one iota.”

“The unfortunate outcome of Monday’s riots can only be attributed to Hamas’s cynical exploitation of its own population, in a violent campaign against Israel,” she said.

The council session, she went on, would only serve to “empower Hamas and reward its terror strategy and its use of civilians as human shields to advance its terror activities against the citizens of Israel.”

“Israel is conducting independent and transparent investigations on any credible accusation or reasonable suspicion of alleged wrongdoing,” she added. “The IDF maintains a robust, multi-layered investigations system, with numerous checks and balances to ensure impartiality.”

US representative Theodore Allegra also charged that the UN session was “blatantly taking sides and ignoring the real culprit for the recent outbreak of violence, the terrorist organization Hamas.”

The special UN session came after seven straight weeks of mass protests and clashes along the Gaza border with Israel.

Israel has blamed the Hamas terror group that rules the Strip for the violence in Gaza, saying it co-opted the protests and has used them as cover to attempt border infiltrations and attacks on Israelis. On Wednesday, a Hamas official said 50 of the 62 killed on Monday and Tuesday were members of the group and the Islamic Jihad terror group claimed another three as its members.

Hamas’s Salah Bardawil (right) acknowledges 50 Hamas fatalities among the 62 killed on Israel-Gaza border, May 16, 2018 (Screenshot)

The council was due to consider a draft resolution calling for the urgent dispatch of “an independent, international commission of inquiry” — the UN rights council’s highest-level of investigation.

The draft resolution, which was presented by Pakistan on behalf of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation and backed by 47 UN member states, said investigators should probe “all violations of international humanitarian law and international human rights law … in the context of the military assaults on large-scale civilian protests that began on 30 March 2018.”

It said the aim should be to “establish the facts and circumstances” around “alleged violations and abuses including those that may amount to war crimes and to identify those responsible.”

The resolution did not criticize the Hamas terror group for its actions.

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