The US blocked a United Nations Security Council statement Saturday morning, which called for an independent inquiry into Friday’s violence in Gaza that left at least 17 Palestinians dead and more than 1,400 injured, two UN diplomats tell CNN.
Following Friday’s escalated confrontations, Kuwait drafted a statement asking the Security Council to take action.
It is unclear if other countries would have also objected, UN diplomats tell CNN. If one country objects, then the statement cannot be adopted.
But Israel’s UN Ambassador Danny Danon lodged a complaint with the United Nations Security Council for holding an emergency session on the first night of Passover – a major Jewish holiday – according to a statement released by Israel’s UN Mission on Sunday.
Danon claimed Kuwait intentionally called for the session as Israel’s UN Mission was observing Passover, thus barring their participation while they observed a religious holiday.
He said the move “exploited procedural rules” and is “antithetical to the spirit of the UN,” according to the Israeli Mission statement.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres had called for an independent inquiry into Friday’s violence.
Guterres made his comments late Friday before the emergency UN Security Council meeting to address the issue. UN spokesman Farhan Haq relayed his statement to the media.
“This tragedy underlines the urgency of revitalizing the peace process aiming at creating the conditions for a return to meaningful negotiations for a peaceful solution that will allow Palestinians and Israelis to live side by side peacefully and in security,” Guterres was reported as saying.
In the statement shown to CNN, five points were expressed, one being from members of the Security Council calling for an “independent and transparent” inquiry into Friday’s violence in Gaza, adding for “respect for international human rights law and international humanitarian law, including protection of civilians.”
Israel’s Defense Minister, Avigdor Lieberman, flatly rejected calls for an inquiry into the deaths of Palestinians killed during the Friday protests in Gaza.
Speaking on Israeli Army Radio Sunday, Lieberman called those wanting an inquiry hypocrites for attacking Israel before looking into the large-scale killings of Syrians and other groups.
US Deputy Political Coordinator Warren Miller said at Friday’s meeting that the US is “focused on taking concrete, near term steps that will improve humanitarian economic conditions in Gaza and the lives of the Palestinians living there.”
“We’re also hard at work for a plan for peace that will provide a brighter future for both, Israel and the Palestinians. Violence furthers neither of those goals,” Miller added.
Day turned deadly
Friday marked Land Day, when Palestinian land was confiscated by Israel in 1976.
The day quickly turned into the bloodiest day in Gaza since the 2014 war as Palestinian protesters and Israeli military clashed along the fence. Thousands of Palestinians had marched to Gaza’s border with Israel. Funerals were held Saturday for those killed during the clashes.
A series of protests are planned through mid-May.
In northern Gaza, CNN witnessed at least two dozen people being taken away by ambulances in a half-hour span as protests started Friday across Gaza. CNN also saw a small number of protesters throwing rocks. People were injured by live rounds, rubber bullets and tear gas. The majority were young men, although one woman was also among the injured.
A spokesman for the Palestinian Ministry of Health told CNN that doctors were already running out of essential emergency medicine and blood for transfusions due to the high number of injured.
In an article on its website, the United Nations reported that Tayé-Brook Zerihoun, the deputy UN political affairs chief, told Friday’s Security Council meeting that around 30,000 people participated in and around the march at various locations in Gaza.
Peaceful protests but also stone-throwing
Soon after the demonstrations started, the UN report said that “the situation turned deadly in several spots.”
“Some of the casualties were reportedly the result of live ammunition used by Israeli security forces during the March. Other casualties followed armed clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces, including the shelling of a Hamas observation point,” the United Nations said.
“Reports indicate that most of the demonstrators stayed well away from the border fence and were not violent,” the United Nations reported Zerihoun as saying.
“However, there are also reports that some protesters engaged in stone-throwing and violent behavior; some reportedly carrying weapons,” Zerihoun said.
He reportedly told the Security Council that Israeli security forces said that militants tried to get through the fence in attempt to plant explosives.
In a briefing Saturday, IDF spokesman Brig. Gen. Ronen Manelis said there had been three attempts at throwing projectiles, including live fire and Molotov cocktails at Israeli soldiers across the fence.
However, there appears to be a disparity in the number of Palestinians injured by live bullets. Manelis said only “a few scores were hit by live ammunition,” while the Palestinian Ministry of Health in Gaza said 758 people were injured.
Manelis said the protests were organized by Hamas, the militant political group that controls Gaza, adding that if these continue the IDF will “hit targets deep inside Gaza.”
The work of ‘terror activists’?
Manelis said that most killed in Gaza were known as “terror activists,” whom Israel had already identified by name and affiliation. He did not elaborate further regarding identities of those killed.
Israel’s UN Ambassador Danon added that Hamas “exploited” women and children by using them as human shields during Friday’s protests in Gaza, according to a statement released by Israel’s UN Mission on Sunday.
Confrontations further escalated late Friday. Israeli fighter jets targeted three Hamas sites after an IDF position was shot at in northern Gaza, according to an IDF statement. Tank fire also targeted the three sites following an exchange of fire.
CNN’s Ian Lee reported from Gaza, Richard Roth reported from New York and Hilary Clarke wrote from London. CNN’s Ingrid Formanek, Amir Tal, Jennifer Deaton and Sheena McKenzie contributed to this report.