US says it will veto Kuwaiti Security Council measure on Gaza violence

Haley and Danon slam resolution urging international protection for Palestinians for not mentioning Hamas role in cross-border flare-up; vote postponed to Friday

Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour, center, attends the UN Security Council emergency session on Israel-Gaza conflict at United Nations headquarters on May 30, 2018 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)
Permanent Observer of Palestine to the United Nations Riyad Mansour, center, attends the UN Security Council emergency session on Israel-Gaza conflict at United Nations headquarters on May 30, 2018 in New York City. (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/Getty Images/AFP)

UNITED NATIONS — The US will “unquestionably” veto an Arab-backed resolution that asks the UN chief to propose measures to ensure “international protection” for Palestinian civilians, ambassador Nikki Haley said Thursday.

Diplomats say the measure could come up for a vote as early as Friday.

The vote was initially expected Thursday evening, but diplomats said it would be delayed after the US proposed changes.

The Kuwait-sponsored draft demands a halt to “the use of any excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” by the Israeli military. It also “deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip at Israeli civilian areas.”

Haley and Israel’s UN ambassador, Danny Danon, sharply criticized the draft for not mentioning Hamas, the terror group that rules Gaza.

US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley attends a UN Security Council meeting, at United Nations Headquarters in New York, on April 13, 2018. ( AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

“It is a grossly one-sided approach that is morally bankrupt and would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians,” Haley said in a statement Thursday evening. “There is not one single mention of Hamas in the resolution, when Hamas is chiefly responsible for the recent violence in Gaza.”

Kuwait’s Ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi, who presented the draft resolution, said the vote was delayed after the US proposed changes.

“We received very late amendments from a member-state, but we have to consider them,” he said.

The Security Council has been deeply divided and paralyzed over dealing with the decades-old Israeli-Palestinian conflict. After a series of emergency meetings about Gaza — the latest just Wednesday — the UN’s most powerful body so far hasn’t been able to agree even on a press statement.

Permanent Representative of Israel to the United Nations, Danny Danon attends a UN Security Council on May 15, 2018, at UN Headquarters in New York. (AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL)

The draft resolution expresses “grave concern” at the escalation of violence and tensions and the deteriorating situation in the Palestinian territories, especially since the start of a series of mass protests at the Gaza border on March 30.

From March 30 to May 14, tens of thousands of Palestinians took part in weekly “March of Return” protests, which Israel says were orchestrated by the ruling Hamas terror group in Gaza and used as cover for attempted attacks and breaches of the border fence.

The deaths of over 100 Palestinians in the recent clashes were met with international outrage and calls for an independent investigation of events. Hamas and other Gaza terror groups have subsequently claimed at least 53 of the casualties as their own members.

The tensions, which had continued to simmer amid near-daily cross-border incidents, broke into the open Tuesday as Hamas and Islamic Jihad launched some 70 rockets and mortar shells at Israeli communities near the Strip. Israel responded with two rounds of airstrikes targeting what it said was terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.

On Wednesday, Haley slammed the council for failing to back a US-drafted measure condemning Hamas and Islamic Jihad for the rocket fire.

“The Security Council has always been quick to pounce on Israel, regardless of the facts or the circumstances,” Haley said Wednesday. “I am very interested in how my colleagues respond when the attacks are directly against Israel.”

Kuwait had blocked the draft, saying its own resolution dealt with the issue.

Kuwait’s resolution calls for urgent steps “to ensure an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire.” It asks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a written report within 60 days ways to ensure “the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation,” including recommendations about “an international protection mechanism.”

The draft also urges immediate, unimpeded humanitarian access and “tangible steps” toward reconciliation between different Palestinian factions.

At Kuwait’s request, the council has held multiple emergency meetings on the border clashes. Tuesday’s torrent of rockets and mortar fire prompted the US to call for Wednesday’s meeting, where UN Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov said the latest escalation in Gaza was a warning of “how close to the brink of war we are every day.”

Eric Cortellessa contributed to this report.

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