The Associated PressUNITED NATIONS (AP) — The United Nation’s Middle East envoy said there was no justifying the killings of more than 50 Palestinians by Israeli fire at the Gaza border, and several Security Council members called for an independent investigation. But the council had no unified message Tuesday as the United States said Israel had acted with “restraint.”
While some members said the U.N.’s most powerful body needed to speak as one to try to calm the volatile situation — and the Palestinian envoy implored, “When are you going to act?” — a proposed statement had stalled Monday after the United States blocked it.
Still, Kuwait’s envoy said he planned to propose a council resolution on protecting Palestinian civilians.
As the council met Tuesday, U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley laid blame for Monday’s violence on the Hamas extremists who rule Gaza, and insisted it had nothing to do with the opening of a U.S. embassy in contested Jerusalem, a move that infuriated Palestinians.
Saying that Hamas had incited people to lob flaming objects toward the Israeli side of the border fence and urged protest marchers to breach it, Haley asked: “Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border?
“No one would. No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has,” she added.
Israel has said its troops were defending its border and accused Hamas militants of trying to attack under the cover of the protest.
But Nikolai Mladenov, the U.N.’s Middle East envoy, said there was “no justification for the killing” and “no excuse.”
He called on Israel to use force proportionally and avoid using deadly force except as a last resort, a message echoed by the council’s European members. In a joint statement after the meeting, they said that Hamas needed to avoid “provocations” and violence, but that Israel’s military must “exercise maximum restraint” in using lethal force.
Some of them and others, including China, called for an independent probe into the events at the Gaza border. “The death toll alone warrants such a comprehensive inquiry,” British Ambassador Karen Pierce said.
U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres also proposed an investigation, after a deadly protest in Gaza in March.
Many council members also re-emphasized their distance from the U.S. decision to open an embassy in Jerusalem and recognize it as Israel’s capital.
The United States says it has the right to decide where to put its embassy, and Haley said Tuesday the decision simply recognized “reality.”
Kuwait had tried to get council members to sign on Monday to a statement that 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.