Kuwait urges UN to condemn Israel and protect Palestinians

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — Kuwait is urging the Security Council to condemn Israel’s use of force against Palestinian civilians “in the strongest terms,” especially in the Gaza Strip, and to deploy an international force to protect civilians.

A draft resolution by Kuwait, which is the Arab representative on the council, also demands that Israel “immediately cease its military reprisals, collective punishment and unlawful use of force against civilians, including in the Gaza Strip.”

The draft, obtained early Friday by The Associated Press, calls for “the full lifting of the blockade and the restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip,” including immediately opening all crossing points for humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to enter and leave.

Kuwait’s effort comes after the Security Council couldn’t agree even on a statement about a confrontation in Gaza on Monday where Israeli troops killed nearly 60 Palestinians during mass border protests. It was the deadliest day of cross-border violence in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.

Palestinian officials called it a massacre of protesters demonstrating against a decade-long blockade; Israel said it was defending its border against a militant-fueled mob.

Kuwait had tried to get the council to issue a statement expressing outrage at the killings and seeking an independent investigation, among other things, but the U.S., Israel’s closest ally, blocked it.

At a Security Council meeting Tuesday, the U.N.’s top Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov said there was no justification for the killings — a view echoed Friday by U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein.

The Geneva-based U.N. Human Rights Council also voted 29-2 with 14 abstentions on Friday to condemn “the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians” and authorized a commission of inquiry to look into the deadly crackdown on protesters in Gaza.

Israel’s Ambassador Danny Danon responded to the Kuwaiti draft resolution saying, “The cynicism and attempts to distort reality have reached a new low. Israel will continue to defend its sovereignty and the security of its citizens against the terror and murderous violence of Hamas.”

“This shameful draft resolution is a proposal to support Hamas’ war crimes against Israel and the residents of Gaza who are being sent to die for the sake of preserving Hamas’ rule,” he said in a statement.

The United States has defended Israel’s actions in Gaza and will very likely veto the resolution if it’s put to a vote. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley said Tuesday that Hamas had stirred the violence and Israel had shown “restraint.”

U.N. diplomats said Security Council experts are expected to meet Monday to discuss the draft.

Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told The Associated Press on Friday that he hopes the United States doesn’t veto the resolution and engages in negotiations.

“What is happening is threatening international peace and security,” he said. “So the Security Council has to shoulder its responsibility. If a party like the United States stops the Security Council from shouldering that responsibility, shame on them.”

“We will intensify the negotiations in the next few days,” Mansour also said. “Hopefully we will act on it sometime next week.”

In the event of a U.S. veto, he said “we have other options” which he wouldn’t specify.

The resolution’s supporters can always go to the General Assembly, whose resolutions reflect global opinion but are not legally binding. That route was taken in December when the 193-member world body voted overwhelmingly to denounce President Donald Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.

The Kuwaiti draft resolution calls for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population, including through the deployment of “an international protection mission.”

That language is very similar to a Security Council resolution adopted in March 1994, soon after Israeli-American Baruch Goldstein walked into the Ibrahim Mosque in Hebron during Ramadan and killed 29 unarmed Palestinians and wounded at least 125 others. It called for “measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilians throughout the occupied territory, including, inter alia, a temporary international or foreign presence.”

The draft resolution would also reaffirm the council’s willingness to respond to armed conflict where civilians are being targeted or aid to civilians is being deliberately obstructed and says this could include considering “appropriate measures” — U.N. language for sanctions.

It expresses “grave concern at the escalation of violence and tensions and the deterioration of the situation” in Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, since March 30 — and at the loss of civilian lives and high casualties. And it urges immediate and unimpeded aid to civilians in Gaza and “immediate and significant steps” to stabilize the situation on the ground.

The draft calls for intensified efforts by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and U.N. envoy Mladenov to help deter violence, protect civilians, and create “an environment conducive to dialogue.”

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Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz in New York contributed to this report.

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