In an emergency meeting on Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly adopted an Arab-sponsored resolution calling for greater protection for Palestinians.
It also deplored any use of “excessive, disproportionate and indiscriminate” force by the Israeli military against Palestinian civilians, particularly in Gaza.
The emergency session of the 193-member Assembly, came about following weeks of violence along the border of the Gaza Strip – the Palestinian enclave blockaded by Israel – where hundreds of thousands of Palestinians participated in “the Great March of Return” protests, beginning at the end of March.
Earlier, briefing the Security Council, Nikolay Mladenov, the UN Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, said that the recent hostilities marked the most serious escalation since the 2014 conflict between Hamas and Israel.
He also added that rocket fire across the border between Gaza and Israel shows how close the region is “to the brink of war.”
According to the UN, more than 120 Palestinian civilians were reportedly killed by Israeli forces while participating in the protests against Israel’s years-long blockade. The resolution was adopted by a vote of 120 in favour, 8 against, with 45 abstentions.
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A US amendment which condemned the role played in Gaza by the Hamas extremist group, which controls the enclave, was voted on first.
After several rounds of procedural voting, and delays over tallying votes, the US text secured the support of 62 countries, with 58 against; coming up short of the two-thirds majority support needed.
Assembly President Miroslav Lajčák convened the meeting, following a formal request from Algeria and Turkey, in their respective capacities as Chair of the Arab Group and Chair of the Summit of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
Unlike a resolution on Palestinian civilian protection that was vetoed by the US in the UN Security Council on 1 June, Wednesday’s identical resolution in the Assembly was not subject to the same rules as exist in the Council.
Introducing the amendment before voting, the US Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, said that “the nature of this resolution clearly demonstrates that politics is driving the day.”
“It is totally one-sided. It makes not one mention of Hamas, who routinely initiates violence in Gaza. Such one-sided resolutions at the UN do nothing to advance peace between Israel and the Palestinians,” she said.
Also prior to voting, the Permanent Observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour, said that “our decision to approach to the Assembly was prompted by the Security Council’s failure to act due to the veto cast on 1 June by a permanent member.”
“We therefore firmly reject the bad-faith attempt to insert an amendment that would radically unbalance the text and shift the Assembly’s focus away from the core objective of protecting civilians and upholding international law,” he said.
The adopted text “deplores the firing of rockets from the Gaza Strip against Israeli civilian areas,” but does not single out Hamas as being responsible for such launches.
The US amendment sought to add to the Arab-sponsored text, a paragraph, by which the Assembly would “condemn Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence along the boundary fence, thereby putting civilians at risk.”
Briefing journalists earlier in the day, Spokesperson for the President of the General Assembly, Brenden Varma, said that if the resolution passed, it would represent an “important expression of political will” and an “important recommendation by the General Assembly.” However, it would not be binding in the same way as a Security Council resolution.