The UN Human Rights Council adopted a report on Friday morning condemning Israel's "apparent intentional use of unlawful lethal and other excessive force" against civilian protesters in Gaza.
The vote follows a UN Independent Commission of Inquiry report that claims 183 Palestinians were killed by Israel, including 35 children, in clashes between Israeli forces and Palestinian protesters along the Gaza border. The commission determined that the majority of protesters killed by Israeli forces – 154 out of the 183 – had been unarmed.
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Voting against the move were Australia, Austria, Brazil, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Fiji, Hungary, and Ukraine. Sixteen countries abstained, including India, Iceland, Italy, Denmark, and the United Kingdom.
British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted his opposition to the decision, saying "It cannot be right that Israel – the world’s only Jewish State – is the only nation the UN Human Rights Council dedicates an entire agenda item to. We must stand against discrimination."
Aviva Raz Schechter, Israel's Ambassador and Permanent Representative to the UN, criticized the move in a tweet. If the Commission of Inquiry into the protests "seriously wished to provide an objective report that would contribute towards human rights and the safety of individuals, it would have seen fit to demand Hamas take action in the context of these events," she wrote.
"Rather, the report will only serve to encourage #Hamas's use of the civilian population as shields and as a tool in its efforts to attack Israel, and increase the danger to #civilians on both sides as armed groups in Gaza plan for the year anniversary of these events," she added, referring to the upcoming one-year anniversary of the weekly Gaza demonstrations.
Israel's Foreign Ministry Spokesman, Emmanuel Nahshon, also condemned the vote. In a tweet, he tagged the UN Human Rights Council, saying "dictatorships and hypocrites vote in favor of the singling out, absurd pro Hamas pro terror report." He also noted that the majority abstained or voted against the motion, and said "We will not cooperate with this mockery and will keep protecting Israel and Israelis."
Israel's Ministry of Foreign Affairs released a statement calling the UNHRC's regular condemnations of Israel an "absurd and hypocritical ritual," and said that "findings against Israel are predetermined" before the council adopts them.
"Israel notes with satisfaction that nine countries voted against the biased resolution and that a moral majority of countries did not endorse the resolution," they added. "In effect , this is a vote of no confidence to the report. Israel will continue to exercise its right of self defense and will protect its citizens against terror and aggression.Israel will not cooperate with the Council on the issue."
Several Israeli officials, including Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, rejected the commission's findings. "The council has set new records of hypocrisy and lies out of an obsessive hatred for Israel," the prime minister said. He added that Israel will continue to "fiercely defend its sovereignty and citizens against Hamas attacks and Iran-backed terror organizations."
Commission chairman Santiago Canton expressed regret that the Israeli government had not cooperated in the investigation, and called on Israel to carry out a substantial investigation of its own.
Ambassador Dr. Ibrahim Khreisheh, Permanent Representative of the State of Palestine expressed his support for the move.
"Voting in favor of today's resolutions that condemn Israeli abuses of Palestinian human rights and call for effective mechanisms to end them is an evident fulfillment of your legal and moral responsibilities, as members of the international community, towards international law, UN resolutions, and universal human rights.
"The State of Palestine will continue to make use of all available diplomatic and legal tools to exercise its long-overdue inalienable rights, protect our people and hold Israel accountable for over half a century of systematic oppression, domination, and violence," he said.
On Sunday, Hamas officials announced that the organization is planning on ramping up its weekly Great March of Return demonstrations on the border fence, as well as its significantly more violent nighttime protests. The announcement came after Egyptian officials told Hamas that Israel is unable to meet Hamas' demands for reestablishing quiet on the border.
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