120 countries at UN condemn Israel over Gaza violence

Delegations vote, to condemn Israeli actions in Gaza, in the General Assembly on June 13, 2018 in New York. (AFP / Don Emmert)
Updated 14 June 2018
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120 countries at UN condemn Israel over Gaza violence

  • The resolution put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries won 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.
  • At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March. No Israelis have died.

UNITED NATIONS: The UN General Assembly on Wednesday adopted by a strong majority of 120 countries an Arab-backed resolution condemning Israel for Palestinian deaths in Gaza and rejected a US bid to put the blame on Hamas.
At least 129 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests near the border with Gaza that began at the end of March. No Israelis have died.
The resolution put forward by Algeria and Turkey on behalf of Arab and Muslim countries won 120 votes in the 193-member assembly, with 8 votes against and 45 abstentions.
An amendment presented by the United States condemning Hamas for “inciting violence” along the border with Gaza failed to garner the two-third majority needed for adoption.
Addressing the assembly, US Ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed the resolution as biased against Israel 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 favorite political sport. That’s why we are here today,” said Haley.
“I wish everyone supporting this one-sided resolution would put as much energy into encouraging President Abbas to the negotiating table,” she said.
The resolution deplored Israel’s use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate force” against Palestinian civilians and called for protection measures for Palestinians in Gaza and the occupied West Bank.
Arab countries backing the measure turned to the General Assembly after the United States used its veto in the Security Council to block the resolution on June 1.
Unlike the Security Council, resolutions adopted by the assembly are non-binding and there is no veto. The resolution tasks UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres with the drafting of proposals for an “international protection mechanism” for the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank.
These could range from setting up an observer mission to a full-blown peacekeeping force, but action on any option would require backing from the Security Council, where the United States has veto power.
Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour dismissed the US amendments blaming Hamas as “games and gimmicks” and urged ambassadors not to be “fooled” by the US proposal.
“We are asking for a simple thing,” Mansour told the assembly. “We want our civilian population to be protected.”
Turkey’s Ambassador Feridun Hadi Sinirlioglu defended the resolution, saying it was “about taking sides with international law” and showing the Palestinians that the world “does care about their suffering.”
Taking the podium, Israeli Ambassador Danny Danon assailed the measure as an “attempt to take away our basic right to self-defense.” He warned ambassadors that by supporting the resolution “you are empowering Hamas.”
The US amendment condemning Hamas received 62 votes in favor, with 58 against and 42 abstentions. The United States sought to challenge the ruling requiring a two-thirds majority but that was defeated in a separate vote.
“We had more countries on the right side than the wrong side,” Haley said in a statement.
The General Assembly last held a similarly contentious vote on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in December, when it rejected President Donald Trump’s decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and move the US embassy there.
Haley had warned at the time that Washington was “taking names” of countries that supported the resolution. That vote was 128 to 9, with 35 abstentions.
Backed by Arab countries, the Palestinians had lobbied to win as many votes as those cast in support of the Jerusalem resolution.


Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

A Syrian family rides with belongings on a tractor-drawn trailer as they flee from fighting in the southern Syrian province of Daraa on June 21, 2018. (AFP)
Updated 28 min 54 sec ago
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Civilians flee fighting in Syrian southwest

  • Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week
  • Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally

MOSCOW, BEIRUT: Thousands of people have fled opposition-held areas of southwestern Syria being targeted by regime bombardment, a war monitor said on Thursday, as Damascus steps up attacks on an area near the border with Jordan and the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said some 12,500 people had fled opposition-held areas of northeastern Daraa province in the past 48 hours.
The war has pivoted toward the southwest since the Syrian regime and its allies crushed the last remaining pockets of opposition-held territory near Damascus and the city of Homs.
Fighting in the southwest has been contained since last year by a “de-escalation” deal agreed by the US and Russia, Bashar Assad’s most powerful ally.
A major Syrian regime offensive in the area would risk an escalation of the seven-year-old war. The area is of strategic importance to Israel, which is deeply alarmed by Iranian influence in Syria.
Washington has warned it will take “firm and appropriate measures” in response to violations of the “de-escalation” deal.
Assad said earlier this month the regime, at Russia’s suggestion, was seeking to strike a deal in the southwest similar to agreements that have restored its control of other areas through withdrawals of opposition forces.
But he also said there had been no results yet and blamed “Israeli and American interference.” He said the territory would be recovered by force if necessary. Opposition fighters have vowed not surrender “an inch” of the territory to Assad, one of their commanders said earlier this week.

Russia ‘skeptical’ over UN report
Meanwhile, the Russian foreign minister on Thursday said he was “skeptical” about a UN report accusing the Syrian regime of committing crimes against humanity during the siege of Eastern Ghouta. The report published on Wednesday said forces loyal to the Syrian regime had deliberately starved civilians during the siege between February and April, among other crimes.
“We are in principle very skeptical toward the methods of this sort of work, whether it comes to war crimes or the use of chemical weapons,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a press conference in Moscow with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. When
questioned by journalists, Lavrov confirmed he had not seen the
report.

He said it was “based on data obtained through social networks, video that was filmed by witnesses,” rather than being put together on the ground.
The five-year siege, on the outskirts of the capital, ended in April when Damascus regained control of the rebel enclave.
As pro-government forces dramatically escalated their campaign to recapture the besieged enclave, they used tactics that were “largely unlawful in nature,” the UN-commissioned report said.
The tactics, it said, “aimed at punishing the inhabitants of eastern Ghouta and forcing the population, collectively, to surrender or starve.”
Russia has been involved in Syria’s civil war since September 2015. Its military support of the regime changed the course of the war, allowing government troops to retake more than half the country from rebels and the Daesh group.
More than 350,000 people have been killed in Syria’s war since it started in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.