Kuwait Urges UN to Deploy 'International Force to Protect Civilians' in Gaza

Kuwait's effort comes after the Security Council couldn't agree even on a statement about the confrontation in Gaza Monday that left nearly 60 Palestinians dead

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The State of Kuwait to the United Nations Mansour Ayyad SH A Alotaibi, left, attends a press conference in Myanmar, May 1, 2018.
The State of Kuwait to the United Nations Mansour Ayyad SH A Alotaibi, left, attends a press conference in Myanmar, May 1, 2018.Credit: Aung Shine Oo/AP

Kuwait is urging the UN Security Council to condemn Israel's use of force against Palestinian civilians "in the strongest terms," especially in the Gaza Strip, and to deploy and international force to protect civilians.

A draft resolution circulated by Kuwait, which is the Arab representative on the council, also demands that Israel "immediately cease its military reprisals, collective punishment and unlawful use of force against civilians, including in the Gaza Strip."

The United States has defended Israel's actions in Gaza and will very likely veto the resolution if it's put to a vote.

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Kuwait's effort comes after the Security Council couldn't agree even on a statement about a confrontation in Gaza Monday that left nearly 60 Palestinians dead. Palestinian officials call it a massacre of protesters demonstrating against a decade-long blockade; Israel says it was defending its border against a militant-fueled mob.

Kuwait tried Monday to get the council to issue a statement expressing outrage at the killings and seeking an independent investigation, among other things. The U.S. blocked the statement, saying it was one-sided and faulting it for not mentioning incitement of violence by Hamas, the Islamic militant group that rules Gaza and led the demonstration.

The Kuwaiti draft resolution calls for measures to be taken to guarantee the safety and protection of the Palestinian civilian population, including through the deployment of "an international protection mission."

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It would reaffirm the council's willingness to respond to armed conflict where civilians are being targeted or aid to civilians is being deliberately obstructed and says this could include considering "appropriate measures" — UN language for sanctions.

The draft calls for "the full lifting of the blockade and the restrictions imposed by Israel on the movement and access into and out of the Gaza Strip." This includes "the immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of the crossing points" to allow humanitarian aid, commercial goods and people to enter and leave in accordance with international law, it says.

The draft expresses "grave concern at the escalation of violence and tensions and the deterioration of the situation" in Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, since March 30 — and at the loss of civilian lives and high casualties.

Palestinian medics raise their hands up while walking towards the Israeli side of the border with Gaza in a try to evacuate injured protesters on May 15, 2018Credit: Khalil Hamra/AP

It urges immediate and unimpeded aid to civilians in Gaza, "immediate and significant steps" to stabilize the situation on the ground.

The draft calls for intensified efforts by Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and the UN Mideast envoy Nikolay Mladenov to help deter violence, protect civilians, and create "an environment conducive to dialogue."

Senior Palestinian official Hanan Ashrawi said Palestinians were looking at past UN operations in various countries to see what form a protection effort might take.

The key is "the ability to affect behavior on the ground and to provide genuine protection," she said at a news conference Wednesday at UN headquarters.

Monday marked the deadliest day of cross-border violence in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas. Capping weeks of protests, about 40,000 Gaza residents descended on the border area Monday. Groups of demonstrators moved closer to the border fence, burned tires and threw stones or firebombs. Some tried to attack the fence.

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Israeli snipers opened fire from across the fence, killing 59 Palestinians and wounding 1,300.

At a Security Council meeting Tuesday, the UN's top Mideast envoy said there was no justification for the killings. Several council members called for an independent investigation and urged Israel to use force proportionally, while also admonishing Hamas to avoid provocation. U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley, meanwhile, said Hamas had stirred the violence and Israel had acted showing "restraint."

Israel said that some of those killed were involved in planting explosives or firing on soldiers and that Hamas was using the border protests as cover to stage attacks.

Hamas said Wednesday that 50 of the dead were members of the organization. Israel said that proves its point, while human rights groups said the protesters' identities were irrelevant if they were unarmed and didn't pose an immediate threat to soldiers' lives when shot.

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