NEW YORK - Ambassador to the UN Danny Danon demanded on Tuesday that the United Nations Security Council condemn Hamas for inciting tens-of-thousands of Palestinians to breach the Gaza-Israel border in order to attack Jewish civilians one day after deadly riots left 60 people dead.
“Over the past month, Israel had to defend itself from the violent rioters along the security fence with Gaza,” Danon said during an emergency meeting of the UNSC, beginning his remarks with a promise to stick “just to the facts.”
“These were not demonstrations, these were not protest, these were violent riots. They have repeatedly attempted to sabotage and breach the fence with the explicit goal of killing Israelis.”
Danon accused Hamas of wanting “death over peace,” and condemned the terrorist organization for exploiting their own people and using them as a collective “human shield.”
“Hamas has committed war crimes not only against Israeli civilians but also against its own people – turning them into human shields for their own cynical gain. Every casualty that has resulted from the recent violence is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes,” the ambassador added.
IDF soldiers shot dead dozens of Palestinian rioters on the Gaza border on Monday when the high-profile opening of the US embassy to Israel in Jerusalem by the Trump administration raised tension to boiling point after weeks of demonstrations.
The U.S. officially opens its embassy in Jerusalem as dozens killed in Gaza protests, May 14, 2018 (Reuters)
More than 1,700 people were also wounded in the violent demonstrations, with protesters lobing rocks, Molotov cocktails and kites attached to burning cans of petrol while IDF soldiers responded with live fire and crowd-control procedures.
The bloodshed drew calls for restraint from western allies across the globe, including Germany, France and Britain, with regional power Turkey calling it “a massacre.”
Ankara also said it would recall its envoy to the Jewish state back home and announced on Tuesday that it had expelled Israel’s Ambassador Eitan Na’eh.
South Africa also said that they would be withdrawing its ambassador in protest following Monday’s violence.
"We condemn in the strongest terms this odious massacre committed by Israel occupation forces," Riyad Mansour, Ambassador of the Permanent Observer Mission of the State of Palestine to the United Nations, remarked before Israel addressed the UNSC.
Israel's "occupation is the main source of violence in the region," Mansour continued, adding, "for those who do not acknowledge it live in a different reality. "
"Let us investigate what’s happening on the ground... Palestinians will accept the findings come what may.”
Mansour also slammed the United States during the meeting, calling both its decision to move the American Embassy to Jerusalem and support of Israel at the UNSC a “provocation,” accusing the Trump administration of allowing the Jewish state to “commit more crimes against the Palestinian people” with “impunity.”
The US “should not close their eyes to situation on the ground,” Mansour added.
Minutes before the UNSC emergency meeting, Danon told reporters that “Hamas once again is guilty of inciting its people in Gaza, turning protests into violent clashes on the border” and using weapons in an effort to “infiltrate Israel.”
“What will they would do if a mob charged at your border with explosives and weapons,” Danon asked in a question directed at his colleagues on the Security Council just outside the executive body chamber.
Presenting a photograph of the Kerem Shalom crossing, usually used for humanitarian aid and had been burned by the rioters, Danon said, “Had the rioters broken down the fence and infiltrated Israel, there can be no doubt that the damage to Israeli towns and villages would have looked like this.”
“Hamas has committed war crimes not only against Israeli civilians but also against its own people – turning them into human shields for their own cynical gain. Every casualty that has resulted from the recent violence is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes,” Danon told reporters.
When asked why Israel was using live ammunition against demonstrators, leading to the deadliest day of fighting since Operation Protective Edge in 2014, Danon rejected any suggestion that those present on the Gaza-Israel border were there with the intention to protest.
“Those were not protestors, they were terrorists,” Danon insisted during the media stakeout.
Palestinian media reported that at least six Palestinians under the age of 18 were killed during the clashes.
The chamber held a moment of silence for those who died during Monday’s clashes just before the UNSC meeting commenced. Notably absent was US Ambassador Nikki Haley and Ambassador Danon.
A spokesperson for Danon said that “we weren’t in the room” for the moment of silence and that it was “a last minute addition.”
A representative for Haley later confirmed that she was not in the room at the beginning of the meeting, but refused to provide comment as to the reason.
On Monday, Danon released a statement blaming the terror organization Hamas for deliberately provoking a confrontation on the border and accused the terror organization of “war crimes.”
“Condemn Hamas for the war crimes they commit. Not only does Hamas incite tens of thousands of Palestinians to breach the border and hurt Israeli civilians, but Hamas also deliberately endangers Palestinian civilians. The murder of Israeli civilians or deaths of the people of Gaza – each one of them is a desirable outcome for Hamas,” the ambassador said in the statement..
“Every casualty on the border is a victim of Hamas’ war crimes, every death is a result of Hamas’ terror activity, and these casualties are solely Hamas’ responsibility,” Danon added.
The UNSC meeting was called following a request by Kuwait, which has a seat on the 15-member executive body, and demanded the UNSC condemn Israel for its actions on Monday.
“The council needs to provide protection to unarmed Palestinian protesters on the ground immediately,” Kuwaiti Ambassador to the UN Mansour al-Otaibi said during the UNSC session.
In contrast to the violent scenes in Gaza, Israeli dignitaries and guests attended a ceremony in Jerusalem to open the US Embassy following its relocation from Tel Aviv.
The move fulfilled a pledge by US President Donald Trump, who in December recognized the holy city as the Israeli capital.Netanyahu thanked Trump for “having the courage to keep your promises.”
US Senator Tim Kaine, the top Democrat on the foreign relations subcommittee that covers the region, told Reuters the situation was “tragic” and said “It’s not viewed as the US trying to solve a problem, it’s viewed as the US just stepping away from the problem, and that’s sad.”Reuters contributed to this report.
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