GENEVA (Reuters) - Israel railed against the U.N. Human Rights Council on Friday as it voted to set up a probe into recent killings in Gaza and accused Israel of excessive use of force.
The resolution to send a commission of inquiry to investigate was rejected by the United States and Australia, but backed by 29 members of the 47-state U.N. forum. Another 14 countries, including Britain, Germany and Japan, abstained.
Israel’s ambassador in Geneva, Aviva Raz Shechter, castigated the council for “spreading lies against Israel” during “five hours of ludicrous statements”.
“Simply put, with this resolution, this council has reached a new height of hypocrisy, and the lowest standards of credibility,” she said.
Israel’s Foreign Ministry said it totally rejected the resolution, adding the entire purpose of the council was “not to investigate the truth but to compromise Israel’s right to self-defense and to single out the Jewish state for demonisation”.
Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki welcomed the U.N. decision.
“The Human Rights Council’s formation of an international committee of investigation is a step towards doing justice to the Palestinian people,” he said in a statement. He urged speedy implementation “to stop Israeli war crimes”.
The special session of the Human Rights Council was convened after the bloodiest day for Palestinians in years on Monday, when 60 were killed by Israeli gunfire during demonstrations that Israel said included attempts to breach its frontier fence.
“Nobody has been made safer by the horrific events of the past week,” U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said as he opened the debate.
Israeli forces had killed 106 Palestinians, including 15 children, since March 30, he said. More than 12,000 were injured, at least 3,500 by live ammunition. Israel was an occupying power under international law, obliged to protect the people of Gaza and ensure their welfare, he said.
“But they are, in essence, caged in a toxic slum from birth to death; deprived of dignity; dehumanised by the Israeli authorities to such a point it appears officials do not even consider that these men and women have a right, as well as every reason, to protest.”
Israel says the deaths took place in protests organised by Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, which intentionally provoked the violence, an accusation Hamas denies.
Israel and the United States complain that the Human Rights Council, made up of 47 states chosen by the General Assembly, has a permanent anti-Israel bias.
The United States has stood by Israel during the past week’s violence, which coincided with the opening of a new U.S. embassy in Jerusalem. U.S. chargé d’affaires Theodore Allegra said the Council was ignoring the real culprit: Hamas.
“The one-sided action proposed by the council today only further shows that the Human Rights Council is indeed a broken body,” he said.
Two million people live in Gaza, most of them stateless descendants of refugees from homes in what is now Israel at its founding in 1948.
The territory has been run by Hamas since 2007, during which time Israel has fought three wars against the militant group, which denies Israel’s right to exist.
Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of Gaza for security reasons, which the United Nations says has led to the collapse of Gaza’s economy.
Reporting by Tom Miles, Nidal al-Mughrabi, Stephen Farrell and Dan Williams; Editing by Andrew Roche