UN calls emergency meeting on Gaza as Arab world slams Israel

Closed-door session of Security Council requested by Kuwait; Jordan, Egypt, Arab League and Turkey accuse Israel of using disproportionate force against rioters

A Palestinian protester slings stones towards Israeli soldiers during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, March 30, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)
A Palestinian protester slings stones towards Israeli soldiers during clashes with Israeli troops along the Gaza Strip border with Israel, east of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, Friday, March 30, 2018. (AP/Adel Hana)

The UN Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Gaza Friday night, after Palestinian officials said 15 Palestinians were killed and over 1,400 more injured in deadly clashes with Israeli troops during a massive border protest.

The meeting, to be held at the request of Kuwait, was to begin at 6:30 p.m. New York time, a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. It was to be held behind closed doors, meaning Israeli and Palestinian representatives would not be able to attend.

The move came as Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said he had asked the United Nations to immediately work toward providing protection for the “defenseless” Palestinians.

Friday’s clashes were the deadliest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict since the 2014 Gaza War. Israeli troops used live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas to keep thousands of Gazans from trying to approach the border fence. The military said protesters threw firebombs and rocks at soldiers, rolled burning tires at them and in one incident opened fire.

The IDF spokesman Ronen Manelis said the IDF faced “a violent, terrorist demonstration at six points” along the fence. He said the IDF used “pinpoint fire” wherever there were attempts to breach or damage the security fence. “All the fatalities were aged 18-30, several of the fatalities were known to us, and at least two of them were members of Hamas commando forces,” he said in a late afternoon statement.

Israel was condemned by the Muslim world over the violence, with many accusing it of using “disproportionate force” against Palestinian rioters.

“We strongly condemn Israel’s use of disproportionate force against Palestinians during the peaceful protests today (Friday) in Gaza,” Turkey’s foreign ministry said in a statement Friday.

Palestinian protestors wave their national flag during a demonstration commemorating Land Day, near the border with Israel, east of Gaza City, on March 30, 2018. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

The Turkish foreign ministry expressed “concerns” over the casualties. “It is necessary that Israel rapidly ends use of force that would further raise the tensions in the region,” it said. “We are inviting the international community to fulfil its responsibility to convince Israel to give up on its hostile attitude.”

Jordanian minister Mohammed Momani said Amman was holding Israel responsible for the use of “excessive force” against what it said were peaceful demonstrators, the state-run Petra news agency said.

A picture taken on March 30, 2018 shows Palestinians fleeing as tear gas grenades begin to drop during a demonstration near the border with Israel east of Gaza City to commemorate Land Day. (AFP/Mahmud Hams)

Egypt also condemned the use of “violence” against what it said were unarmed civilians and called on Israelis to avoid excessive force.

The Arab League put out a statement condemning Israel “for its brutal handling of peaceful demonstrations,” according to the UAE-based al-Bayan news outlet.

Ahead of the meeting, Israel’s ambassador to the UN told the Security Council that Hamas was intentionally endangering the lives of innocent civilians, and urged member states not to be

“Today we saw yet another example of Hamas exploiting civilians as they sent children to the fence with Israel intentionally endangering their lives. The international community must not be deceived by Hamas’ attempts to conceal their crimes,” Ambassador Danny Danon said in statement.

Gazan leaders have vowed that Friday’s protests were only the beginning of a new campaign against Israel. Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar said the demonstrations would continue until there was no longer a border. The protests are expected to culminate with a march “through” the border fence on May 15.

Hamas is an Islamist terror group that seeks to destroy Israel. It seized control of Gaza from Abbas’s Fatah in 2007.

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