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'Tragedy' in Gaza condemned

China Daily | Updated: 2018-05-17 08:10
Palestinians run away from tear gas fired at them by Israeli forces during a protest in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, on Tuesday. [Photo/Agencies]

Diplomats call for independent investigation into killings

United Nations Security Council members have condemned the killing of Palestinians by Israeli soldiers on the Gaza border, with some insisting on an independent probe into the incident.

At the request of Kuwait, a public briefing of the Security Council was convened under the agenda item "the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question".

The meeting was held in response to Monday's violence in Gaza, which led to the deaths of at least 60 Palestinians at the hands of Israeli security forces.

Bolivian Ambassador to the UN Sacha Llorenti said the situation was not a conflict, but an "occupation", emphasizing that the two sides were painfully unequal in the current equation.

The unilateral decision by the United States to transfer its embassy to Jerusalem had inflamed the situation, he added, recalling that UN Security Council Resolution 478 prohibited such actions.

The US, which supported the occupying power, was not merely an obstacle to peace, it was now part of the problem, not the solution, he said.

Nickolay Mladenov, special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, described Monday as a day of tragedy for the people of Gaza.

"My heart weighs heavy today as I begin by expressing my condolences to the families of those killed yesterday (Monday) and the last six weeks of demonstrations," he said, calling upon all to condemn the actions that had led to the loss of so many lives in the strongest possible terms.

Israel had a responsibility to calibrate its use of force and not to use lethal actions except as a last resort, when under imminent threat of death or serious injury, he said.

Reaffirming the right to peaceful protest, the Russian representative said that his country condemned the use of force against civilians.

Inquiry

Karen Pierce, British UN ambassador, said that "the death toll alone warranted such an inquiry, which should be made public and hold perpetrators to account".

An "independent and transparent investigation" was necessary, including on Israel's use of live fire in such situations and attacks on that country's defense forces.

Riyad Mansour, permanent observer of the State of Palestine to the UN, said employing such force against civilians could be defined as terrorism.

The US blocked a Security Council statement drafted on Monday that called for an independent investigation into the incident.

"The cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end," Mladenov said.

"The secretary-general and I have repeatedly called on all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation and for all incidents to be fully investigated."

He said an estimated 35,000 Gazans had participated in demonstrations on Monday, while other Palestinians had marched in the West Bank cities of Ramallah, Bethlehem, Hebron, Jericho, Nablus and East Jerusalem, speaking out against the relocation of the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Meanwhile, the Turkish Foreign Ministry has told Israel's consul general in Istanbul to return to Israel "for some time", state-run Anadolu news agency said on Wednesday, after clashes on the Gaza border.

Turkey had already withdrawn its ambassador in Tel Aviv for consultations and told the Israeli ambassador to Ankara to leave, while Israel ordered the Turkish consul in Jerusalem to leave for an unspecified period of time.

Turkey has been a vocal critic of the violence in Gaza and the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem.

Xinhua and Reuters contributed to this story.

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