UN officials condemn ‘outrageous’ killings of Gaza protesters

UN officials condemn ‘outrageous’ killings of Gaza protesters

By Luke Vargas   
Palestinian demonstrators gather near a security fence separating Israeli from the Gaza Strip. May 14, 2018. Courtesy: IDF
Palestinian demonstrators gather near a security fence separating Israeli from the Gaza Strip on Monday. (Courtesy: IDF)

Israeli military spokespeople have defended the decision to use force against violent 'rioters' during heated clashes along a security fence separating Israeli from the Gaza Strip.

UNITED NATIONS  Top U.N. officials condemned the killing of at least 50 Palestinians by Israeli security forces in the Gaza Strip on Monday and warned that medical facilities in Gaza are running out of provisions to treat the wounded.

“Israel security forces must exercise maximum restraint in the use of live fire,” a spokesperson for Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a statement, while also acknowledging that “Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations have a responsibility to prevent all violent actions and provocations.”

The statement went on to note with concern that hospitals in Gaza “report that essential medical supplies, drugs and equipment have already been exhausted.”

U.N. human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein was less equivocal in his response to Monday’s violence, solely blaming Israeli troops for “outrageous violations” of human rights.

“Shocking killing of dozens, injury of hundreds by Israeli live fire in Gaza must stop now,” Zeid said in a statement posted to social media. “The right to life must be respected. Those responsible for outrageous human rights violations must be held to account. The int’l community needs to ensure justice for victims.”

Earlier on Monday, the U.N.’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination said it was “alarmed by the disproportionate use of force displayed by the Israeli Security Forces (ISF) against Palestinian demonstrators” in recent weeks.

The committee noted that Palestinians living in Gaza have been subjected to a near-total blockade by Israel since 2007, and have become the targets of increasing “racist hate speech and incitement to racist violence against Palestinians by Israeli governmental officials and members of the ISF.”

In sharp contrast to comments from the United Nations, top U.S. officials maintain Israel has the right to use force to protect itself and blame the Palestinian militant group Hamas, which governs Gaza, for staging violent protests and placing civilians in harm’s way.

“As we have seen from the protests of the last month and even today, those provoking violence are part of the problem and not part of the solution,” President Donald Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, said Monday at the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem.

Deputy White House spokesperson Raj Shah echoed that assessment, telling reporters that, “we believe that Hamas as an organization is engaged in cynical action that is leading to these deaths.”

Jonathan Conricus, a spokesperson for the Israeli Defense Forces justified the army’s response to Monday’s protests in a video, accusing demonstrators of hoping to breach the Israeli border and attack civilians in a nearby kibbutz.

“You can see what the intention is here. They want to get across the fence,” he said, gesturing to a map highlighting the proximity of a small Israeli community to the Gaza border. “And to do what? For sure not to send out any flowers.”

At the request of the government of Kuwait, the U.N. Security Council will meet in emergency session on Tuesday to discuss Monday’s violence.

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