US Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley speaks at UN headquarters in New York.
(photo credit: LUCAS JACKSON/REUTERS)
Hamas must stop its “outrageous practice” of using Palestinians in Gaza, particularly children, as human shields when it attacks Israel, US Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley told the Security Council on Thursday, at its monthly meeting on the Middle East.
“Anyone who truly cares about children in Gaza should insist that Hamas immediately stop using children as cannon fodder in its conflict with Israel,” Haley said. “This is an issue that transcends the usual debates in this chamber. It is quite simply an issue of decency. Humanity itself loses when the barbaric practice of human shields is tolerated and unanswered.”
She also took to task ISIS, Iran and Houthi gunmen in Yemen for their use of human shields, saying the practice had reached epic proportions in the region.
“It’s difficult to think of a more cowardly act – even for a terrorist – than hiding behind innocent civilians,” Haley said. “Anyone who cares about the lives of Yemenis or Palestinians should demand accountability for the militants who exploit them,”
Haley spoke against the backdrop of the ongoing Hamas protests at the Gaza border, called the “Great March of Return,” which began on March 30 and come to a peak on Fridays. Participants in the rallies hope to break through the security fence and enter Israel en masse.
IDF soldiers have killed at least 38 Palestinians, who were close to the fence or who broke through it. Israel claims they were mostly Hamas terrorists while Palestinians claim Israel has targeted innocent civilians.
The PLO’s Ambassador to the UN Riyad Mansour slammed the soldiers at the border, saying: “Such willful targeting of civilians is terrorism.”
The men, women and children at the border are peacefully protesting “an oppression that cannot be endured,” Mansour said. “Restraint should be seen as extraordinary and such protest is a natural response to this illegal, cruel occupation.”
“Why are civilians, including children, being targeted with live ammunition in a blatant shoot-to-kill-and-maim,” Mansour said. Those who were shot were killed “for being Palestinians” and for being “non-Jews” in an ongoing Israeli campaign of “ethnic cleansing,” he said.
He called on the Security Council to condemn Israel’s actions at the Gaza border and added that the failure of the 15-member international body’s “failure to address the situation, cannot be justified.”
THE EUROPEAN UNION, as well as countries like France and Bolivia, asked the Security Council to speak out against Israel.
The US, one of five countries with veto power in the council, has twice blocked it from issuing such a statement in the last four weeks.
Ambassador to the UN in New York Danny Danon charged that as part of the “Great March of Return” Palestinians were attacking Israel along the border fence.
“There is nothing peaceful about placing explosives on the fence separating Israel from Gaza,” said Danon. He added that Palestinian had also shot at soldiers by the fence as well as set off firebombs and burned tires and thrown Molotov cocktails.
“The majority of those killed [by the Gaza fence] were confirmed members of terrorist organizations,” he said. “Israel has an obligation to protect our citizens and we will do so while minimizing civilian casualties to the other side, but let me be clear: Israel will never apologize for defending our country. It is Hamas that is fully responsible for every Palestinian injury and death that has resulted from these incidents,” Danon said.
He asked the member states how they would react if “armed terrorists were marching on the border of Kuwait, what would you do to protect the people of Sweden or Bolivia if a violent mob threatened to infiltrate your countries?”
Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, called on Israel to minimize its use of live fire and on Hamas to keep protesters away from the fence.
He warned that the protests would continue for the next few weeks and could spread to the West Bank and beyond.
“There has also been an increasing number of dangerous incidents at the fence, including the planting of improvised explosive devices – at least one of which has detonated – the throwing of Molotov cocktails and attempts to breach the fence,” Mladenov said.
Ahead of the Security Council meeting, Israeli NGO B’Tselem – The Israel Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories sent a letter to Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calling on him to ensure that the UN does its utmost to protect Palestinian lives along the Gaza border.
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