By Delia M. Arias De Leon
UNITED NATIONS – As Hamas continues to target Israeli civilians with rockets and use Palestinian civilians as human shields, United Nations members calling for an investigation of Israel’s defensive operation to shut down the terrorist infrastructure in Gaza.
The Geneva-based United Nations Human Rights Council adopted a resolution Wednesday calling for an international investigation into alleged violations committed by Israel during its ongoing military defense operation.
The meeting was convened a meeting at the request of Egypt, Pakistan and the state of Palestine, which has been granted observer status at the U.N.
Member states during the meeting “condemned in the strongest possible terms” Israel’s military operation and passed a resolution demanding an “immediate cessation of Israeli military assaults” on what they referred to as the “Occupied Palestinian Territory.”
Of 47 countries, 17 abstained and 29 voted in favor of the resolution. Only the United States voted against it.
Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu was outraged by the vote, calling it a “travesty.” In a public Facebook post, he argued the U.N. had it exactly backwards.
“Rather than investigate Hamas, which is committing a double war crime by firing rockets at Israeli civilians while hiding behind Palestinian civilians, the UNHRC calls for an investigation of Israel, which has gone to unprecedented lengths to keep Palestinian civilians out of harm’s way.”
Navi Pillay, U.N. high commissioner for human rights, claimed “there seems to be a strong possibility that international law has been violated, in a manner that could account to war crimes,” referring to air strikes and the shelling and bombing of hospitals that have occurred during Israel’s military operation.
Pillay also condemned Hamas for “indiscriminate attacks on Israel” but did not delve deeper into Israel’s claims that Hamas has been purposefully and strategically hiding rockets in densely populated areas.
Israel’s envoy to the UNHCR, Eviatar Manor, responded to the accusations.
“There can be no moral symmetry between a terrorist aggressor and a democracy defending itself,” Manor said.
After the resolution was passed, he questioned how naming and shaming Israel would achieve anything and wondered when the U.N. would realize Hamas was the one perpetrating war crimes.
The UNHRC vote followed a week of intense debating at the United Nations Security Council at the U.N.’s New York City headquarters, which failed to produce a resolution while showcasing decidedly pro-Palestinian sentiments.
Throughout the course of UNSC debates, a majority of states condemned Israel’s actions and demanded an immediate cease-fire and de-escalation of the conflict. During an emergency session Tuesday morning, Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour went so far as to pull out graphic pictures of the dead and wounded, stating, “We are not just numbers, we are human beings.”
Israel’s permanent representative to the United Nations, Ron Prosor, in return, emphatically reminded U.N. representatives that the Palestinian government, Hamas, has been designated by several countries as a terrorist group.
If Israel were to lay down its arms, there would be no more Israel, he said.
“The equation is simple” he stated during the Tuesday emergency meeting. “When it is quiet in Israel, it will be quiet in Gaza. … Israel is fighting in Gaza, not against the people of Gaza.”
However, the international community’s reprobation of Israel’s defensive strategy is only likely to worsen. Thursday morning, a United Nations-run school in Gaza sheltering civilians came under attack, killing dozens, including children and U.N. staff.
Israel contends it sought to evacuate the building but Hamas refused, because the terrorist organization wanted to maintain the civilians as human shields.
UNRWA spokesman Chris Guiness tweeted that over the course of the day, UNRWA tried to coordinate a cease-fire window for civilians to leave the school but the request was not granted.
The Israel Defense Forces denied the claim, according to by Israel National News.
“This morning we sought a cease-fire in the area and a humanitarian evacuation of civilians, but Hamas refused – because they wanted to keep civilians in the area to protect their fighters who were firing on the IDF.”
After the incident, the U.N. secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, at a press conference with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, said both sides must stop fighting and start talking.
“I am telling to the parties – both the Israelis and Hamas and Palestinians – that it is morally wrong to kill your own people. The whole world has been watching, is watching, with great concern. You must stop fighting, and enter into dialogue. Whatever grievances you may have, this is wrong. Why are you continuing to kill people? There are many other ways to resolve this issue without killing each other.”
Delia M Arias De Leon writes for WND and is stationed at the United Nations in New York City.