The UN General Assembly on Wednesday condemned Israel for excessive use of force against Palestinian civilians, in a resolution adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries.
The 193-member world body rejected the United States’ efforts to blame Gaza’s Hamas rulers for the violence that has killed over 120 Palestinians in the past two and half months.
The resolution deplores Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians and calls for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Presented by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries, the measure won a decisive 120 votes, with eight votes against and 45 abstentions.
The resolutions are not legally binding but carry political weight.
Australia, the Marshall Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Solomon Islands and Togo joined Israel and the US in voting against the resolution, which comes weeks after Washington vetoed a similar resolution in the 15-member UN Security Council.
At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli forces in Gaza border protests since March 30 to commemorate 70 years since the Nakba (or Catastrophe), when about 750,000 Palestinians were driven out from their homes.
The largest number of deaths occurred on May 14, the day the US moved its embassy in Israel to Jerusalem from Tel Aviv. Palestinians and their supporters said most protesters were unarmed civilians and Israel used excessive force against them.
“We need protection of our civilian population,” Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour told the General Assembly before the vote, adding that the resolution was “intended to contribute to a de-escalation of the volatile situation”.
“We cannot remain silent in the face of the most violent crimes and human rights violations being systematically perpetrated against our people,” Mansour said.
Despite international condemnation of its use of lethal force, Israel said many of the dead were armed and that the Israeli army was defending itself against attacks on the border fence with Gaza. Washington has maintained Israel’s right to defend itself.
The resolution also asked UN chief Antonio Guterres to report back within 60 days on proposals “on ways and means for ensuring the safety, protection and well-being of the Palestinian civilian population under Israeli occupation, including … recommendations regarding an international protection mechanism.”
While the General Assembly text condemned the firing of rockets from Gaza into Israeli civilian areas, it did not mention Hamas, the group that governs Gaza.
US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as “one-sided” and accused Arab countries of trying to score political points at home by seeking to condemn Israel at the United Nations.
“For some, attacking Israel is their favourite political sport. That’s why we are here today,” Haley told the Assembly.
An amendment presented by the US that condemned Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-thirds majority needed for adoption.
In December 128 countries defied President Donald Trump and voted in favour of a UN General Assembly resolution calling for the US to drop its recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.