UN Security Council paralyzed over Israel-Gaza violence

A Palestinian man hurls a stone during clashes with Israeli forces on May 15, 2018 near the border fence with Israel east of Jabalia in the central Gaza Strip

The UN Security Council held an emergency meeting Tuesday on the violence in Gaza, with Kuwait preparing a draft resolution to protect Palestinian civilians and the United States defending ally Israel's use of "restraint."

The talks opened at UN headquarters in New York with a moment of silence for the 60 Palestinians who died Monday, the majority killed by Israeli fire, in the bloodiest day in Gaza since 2014.

The deaths overshadowed the opening of the new US embassy in Jerusalem, relocated from Tel Aviv in fulfillment of a campaign promise by US President Donald Trump, whose daughter Ivanka attended the inaugural ceremony.

The embassy move, which dramatically underscored US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital, infuriated the Palestinians and was widely criticized, but on Tuesday the Security Council proved unable, once again, to reach consensus.

Arab ambassadors appeared jointly before reporters to call for an investigation into Israel's "crimes" and for the protection of the Palestinian people.

Kuwait, the only Arab nation with a current seat on the Security Council, said it would circulate a draft resolution on "providing international protection to the Palestinian people."

Kuwaiti ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi said the draft would be circulated "most probably tomorrow." Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said negotiations would then begin to try to get the resolution adopted.

But while Britain and Germany are among those backing an independent investigation, the United States on Monday blocked the adoption of a UN statement that would have called for an independent probe.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley on Tuesday launched a stinging attack on Iranian aggression in the Middle East, deploring a "double standard," condemning Hamas provocation and said ally Israel had acted with restraint.

- Europeans unite -

"No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has," Haley told the council. "In fact the records of several countries here today suggest they would be much less restrained."

To suggest that the violence had anything to do with the relocation of the US embassy was a smoke screen, she said.

"The Hamas terrorist organization has been inciting violence for years, long before the United States decided to move our embassy," she said. "Make no mistake, Hamas is pleased with the results from yesterday," she added.

"The United States deplores the loss of human life," she said.

Britain, France, the Netherlands, Poland and Sweden -- the five European nations on the council -- joined Belgium, Germany and Italy in a statement calling on Israel to "refrain from excessive use of force" and on Hamas "to avoid provocation" and ensure that protests remain non violent.

Nickolay Mladenov, the UN special coordinator for the Middle East peace process, briefed the Security Council by video link from Jerusalem.

"This cycle of violence in Gaza needs to end," he said. "I have repeatedly called on all to exercise restraint, for all necessary steps to avoid an escalation of violence and for all incidents to be fully investigated."

Israel lays the blame squarely with Hamas, accusing Gaza's Islamist rulers of war crimes. Its ambassador urged the Security Council to condemn the faction.

"Only then will justice be served," Danny Danon told reporters. Israel, he said, regretted "every casualty."

"How many Palestinians have to die before you take action" implored the Palestinian envoy. "Why are we the exception? Why are you paralyzed?" he asked the Council.

A Palestinian man hurls a stone during clashes with Israeli forces on May 15, 2018 near the border fence with Israel east of Jabalia in the central Gaza Strip