US will 'unquestionably' veto UN draft on protecting Palestinians
Washington will "unquestionably veto" a UN draft resolution calling for the protection of Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, US Ambassador Nikki Haley said on the eve of a Security Council vote on Friday.
The text put forward by Kuwait on behalf of Arab countries was described by Haley as a "grossly one-sided approach that is morally bankrupt and would only serve to undermine ongoing efforts toward peace between the Israelis and Palestinians".
The vote is scheduled for 3pm (9pm GMT) on Friday.
The US circulated its own rival draft resolution blaming Hamas for the recent flare-up in Gaza and demanding that the Islamist movement and Islamic Jihad "cease all violent activity and provocative actions, including along the boundary fence", according to the text seen by AFP.
It was unclear whether there would be a vote on the US text, which could fail to garner enough support.
Kuwait presented its draft two weeks ago, initially calling for an international protection mission for the Palestinians as protests turned violent on the Israeli-Gaza border.
At least 122 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire during protests since the end of March.
A final, watered-down version however urges "the consideration of measures to guarantee the safety and protection" of Palestinian civilians and requests a report from Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on a possible "international protection mechanism".
"The United States will unquestionably veto Kuwait’s draft resolution," Haley said in a statement.
It would be the second time that Haley has resorted to US veto power to block a UN measure on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
In December, Haley vetoed a measure that rejected President Donald Trump's decision to move the US embassy to Jerusalem after all 14 other council members supported it.
Deadlock at the UN
The council has been deadlocked for weeks over how to respond to the violence against Palestinian protesters in the Gaza Strip - even as a UN envoy warned this week that the crisis could escalate into all-out war.
"The resolution calls on Israel to immediately cease its actions in self-defence, but makes no mention of Hamas' aggressive actions against Israeli security forces and civilians," Haley said in a statement.
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She also delivered a blunt warning to European countries and other council members that choosing to "vote in favour of this resolution will clarify their own lack of fitness to take part in any credible negotiations between the two parties".
Meanwhile, UN envoy for the Middle East, Nickolay Mladenov, this week warned the Security Council that Gaza was "close to the brink of war" following a serious escalation between Israel and Palestinian militants in the Hamas-ruled enclave.
On Tuesday, an exchange of fire began with a barrage of rocket and mortars into Israel from Gaza, prompting Tel Aviv to respond with strikes on 65 sites in the Gaza Strip, marking the worst flare-up since the 2014 war in the besieged Palestinian enclave.
Diplomats have said the Palestinians may turn to the UN General Assembly to win support for the measure if the vote fails at the Security Council as expected.
A draft resolution requires nine votes to be adopted in the 15-member council and no veto from the five permanent members - the UK, China, France, Russia and the US.
Meanwhile, the International Red Cross said Gaza is facing an "epic" crisis after the weeks of violence left more than 13,000 Palestinians wounded and dozens killed, adding even more pressure to the enclave's already overburdened healthcaresystem.
"The recent demonstrations and violent activities along the Gaza border... have triggered a health crisis of unprecedented magnitude," Robert Mardini, who heads the ICRC's Near and Middle East operations, told reporters.
Mardini said that in the seven weeks since the demonstrations and violence began "we have exceeded the wounded caseload of the August 2014 war”.
Warning that the Gaza health system was on "the brink of collapse", he said ICRC would boost its assistance over a six-month period to reinforce medical facilities "which are clearly struggling to cope".
"The whole Gaza is a sinking ship," he said.