Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the United Nations, says Israel acted with “restraint” when it responded to mass protests along the Gaza border, killing 60 Palestinians in the process.
The protests – fuelled by a controversial US embassy move to Jerusalem and the Nakba commemoration of Israel’s founding – made Monday the bloodiest day in Gaza since a 2014 war between Israel and Hamas.
The Israeli army estimated that more than 40,000 Palestinians took part in the protests at a dozen sites along the border fence, and said its soldiers were following “standard operating procedures” to push back Palestinians seeking to break through the border fence.
“Who among us would accept this type of activity on your border? No one would,” Nikki Haley told the UN Security Council in an emergency meeting on Tuesday, a day that saw two more Palestinians killed on the border. “No country in this chamber would act with more restraint than Israel has.”
Haley said the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on Monday “does not undermine prospects for peace in any way.”
“Those who suggest that the Gaza violence has anything to do with the location of the American embassy are sorely mistaken. Rather, the violence comes from those who reject the state of Israel in any location,” Haley said.
The UN Middle East peace envoy Nikolay Mladenov said there was “no justification” for the Israeli response and called Monday a “day of tragedy.” He urged the international community to refrain from taking unilateral action that steers Israel and Palestine away from the peace process.
International criticism has poured down on Israel for its use of force on the border, with Belgium, Ireland and Turkey all summoning their Israeli ambassadors.
Turkish broadcasters said the Israeli top envoy was told “return to Tel Aviv for a while.” State broadcaster TRT said the ambassador was being told to leave.
In an apparent tit-for-tat, Israel then requested the Turkish consul general in Jerusalem leave the country.
The moves fall short of formal expulsions but come after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Israel committed “genocide” in killing dozens of Palestinians along the Gaza border.
Meanwhile in South Africa, demonstrators took to the streets in solidarity with Palestinians on Tuesday, with anti-apartheid icon Archbishop Desmond Tutu declaring himself “broken-hearted” over the violence.
In a phone call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, French President Emmanuel Macron denounced the killing of civilians and urged Israel to protect civilians and allow peaceful protest, according to a source close to the Elysee Palace.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel showed understanding for Israel’s security interests in a call with Netanyahu, but stressed that the violence should not be a means to achieving political goals, her spokesman Steffen Seibert said.
The move comes after the US on Monday blocked the adoption of a joint UN Security Council statement calling for an independent investigation.