by AP and Israel Hayom Staff
Nikki Haley: Nothing peaceful about planting explosives, setting off firebombs, burning tires.
U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley addresses the U.N.
Security Council Photo: AP
U.S. Ambassador Nikki Haley on Thursday accused Hamas of "using children as cannon fodder."
Speaking at a meeting of the U.N. Security Council, Haley said, "Hamas has exploited and endangered the very Palestinian people it claims to represent by locating rocket launchers near schools, apartment buildings, hotels, churches, and UN facilities. … Anyone who truly cares about children in Gaza should insist that Hamas immediately stop using children as cannon fodder in its conflict with Israel."
Haley said the use of civilians as human shields is reaching "epic proportions" in the Middle East, accusing Hamas in Gaza and militants in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen of hiding behind innocent men, women and children.
"Iran is the patron and protector of many of these groups that fight from behind the bodies of innocent civilians," she said. "Groups that Iran has sponsored or supported have perfected the tactic of using human shields and inspired others to do the same. Of course, this is part of Iran’s overarching efforts to destabilize the region – efforts that include illegal weapons shipments to Yemen, and invading Israeli airspace with armed drones from Syrian territory."
Haley called the use of human shields a "barbaric practice."
"The use of civilians to intentionally shield otherwise lawful military targets from attack is a war crime," she said.
"The use of human shields deliberately advantages those with no regard for human life, and disadvantages those who seek to minimize civilian casualties. And the use of human shields isn’t confined to any one conflict. It is present across the Middle East in virtually every conflict."
She said the civilians "either provide cover for military infrastructure, or they become victims that rally the international media to their cause."
"For humanity's sake, the Security Council must rise up to address this threat," she said.
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon accused Hamas of orchestrating provocations and confrontations along the border fence and using women and children as human shields ahead of Friday's fifth weekly planned protests.
At least 35 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire and more than 1,500 have been wounded since the protests began March 30 – a casualty toll that drew sharp criticism of Israel from many countries at Thursday's council meeting. Israel and its close ally, the United States, countered the criticism by accusing Hamas of using innocent civilians as human shields.
Hamas "terrorists are hiding while allowing – even hoping – for their people to die," Danon said, calling this "evil in its purest form."
Danon said there is nothing peaceful about Palestinians putting explosives on the fence, firing over it, setting off firebombs, burning tires and throwing Molotov cocktails.
"Israel has an obligation to protect its citizens and we will do so while minimizing casualties to the other side," he said.
Danon also showed council members aerial footage of an Iranian military base located just 5 miles outsides of Damascus that he said serves as a recruitment center for fighters stationed in Syria and Lebanon. He said Iran had deployed around 80,000 radicals from around the Middle East to fight in Syria.
"We will not allow any regime that seeks to destroy us to acquire chemical weapons. Period," he said.
Meanwhile, the U.N.'s top Middle East envoy warned the council the Gaza Strip is "about to explode" and declared the world "must do everything possible to prevent another war" between Israel and the Palestinians as well as elsewhere in the Middle East.
Nickolay Mladenov said that "in this highly charged and dangerous environment," de-escalation is critical.
"Everyone in the Middle East needs to step back from the brink," he said.
He said there has been "an increasing number of dangerous incidents at the fence" by Palestinians, including planting improvised explosive devices – at least one which exploded – and throwing Molotov cocktails, as well as attempting to get through the fence.
Mladenov said he has engaged intensively with all sides to reduce "risks of friction" and welcomed efforts by Egypt and others.
"Israel must calibrate its use of force and minimize the use of live fire. Lethal force should be used only as a last resort," Mladenov said. "Hamas and the leaders of the demonstrations must keep protesters away from the Gaza fence and prevent all violent actions and provocations."
“The loss of life is deplorable, and the staggering number of injuries caused by live ammunition only confirms the sense that excessive force has been used against demonstrators – not once, not twice, but repeatedly,” Zeid said.
Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. ambassador, accused Israel's military forces of targeting civilians in Gaza and engaging in "terrorism."
He insisted the Friday demonstrations at the Gaza-Israel border were peaceful protests by Palestinians demanding "their dignity and freedom."
Mansour urged the Security Council to take immediate action "to de-escalate this dangerous situation."
AP and Israel Hayom Staff
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