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US slams Israel in UNSC ahead of Biden visit

Ambassador Richard Mills ripped into Israel and then pledged to additional financial support to UNRWA

Palestinian Mahmoud Najajreh points at his demolished house in Masafer Yatta, south of Hebron, May 31, 2022. (Photo: Reuters/Mussa Qawasma)

Perhaps setting the tone for United States President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel, the U.S. berated the Jewish state at Monday’s United Nations Security Council briefing on the Middle East.

The U.S. deputy representative to the United Nations, Ambassador Richard Mills, began his remarks to the council by condemning terrorism against Israelis. 

“The United States has repeatedly registered our outrage over the string of terrorist attacks against Israelis this year,” Mills said. “And we condemn the rocket attacks launched from the Gaza Strip again this month, which – as you note – broke a two-month pause in rocket fire from Gaza.” 

Referring especially to Israelis who live close to the border with Gaza, Mills said, “many Israelis … live in perpetual fear that they or their families could come under attack at any time. This must stop.”

From then on, however, Mills mostly targeted Israel with harsh rebukes.

The ambassador criticized Israel’s planned evictions of roughly 1,300 Arabs from the South Hebron Hills, an area which was declared an army training zone in the early 1980s.

The area, known as Masafer Yatta, is home to at least eight Bedouin settlements. Israel’s High Court of Justice recently ruled that Israel could proceed with the evictions of these settlements, as the petitioners had not succeeded to prove that they had lived as permanent residents of the area before Israel named it a military training zone. 

“We are … deeply concerned about the potential evictions at Masafer Yatta, which were upheld by Israel’s Supreme Court,” Mills said. “We urge that these evictions not take place.” 

In May, U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Linda Thomas-Greenfield also raised the issue of the evictions in her remarks at the Security Council session on Israel.

In his remarks, Mills mentioned the stabbing of a Palestinian – Ali Hassan Harb – who was killed by Israeli settlers during a brawl near Salfit more than a week ago, according to local Palestinians. Two Israelis have been arrested in the ongoing police investigation.

“We also deplore the escalation of settler violence against Palestinians, including the death of Ali Hassan Harb, a Palestinian in the West Bank who was killed on his family’s agricultural land,” Mills said. 

The U.S. representative continued his rebuke with a mention of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ May report that condemns behavior of the Israel Defense Forces.

“We take note of the May 2022 OCHA report that found over 1,000 Palestinians were injured by live ammunition fired by Israeli forces in 2021, seven times the amount of those injured by live ammunition the prior year,” Mills said.

The U.S. deputy ambassador also mentioned the killing of Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh last month. The Palestinian Authority claims she was killed by the IDF. Israel has not been able to investigate the claim, as the P.A. has refused to release the bullet that killed her. 

“We, like others on this council, are concerned with the killing of Palestinian-American journalist Shireen Abu Akleh. We continue to stress the importance of accountability for Abu Akleh’s tragic death,” Mills said. “The United States will not relent on our calls for transparent accountability for those responsible for this tragedy until justice is done.” 

Despite not having the bullet for the necessary ballistic tests that would ascertain whether the one that killed Akleh had come from an IDF weapon, the U.N. Human Rights Office said on Friday that “it is deeply disturbing that Israeli authorities have not conducted a criminal investigation.” The office added that its own review of the incident had shown that the shot that killed her had come from the IDF. 

Finally, Mills created an equivalence between Hamas’ refusal to release the bodies of two IDF soldiers – Hadar Goldin and Oren Shaul – with the Israeli practice of withholding the bodies of Palestinian terrorists. 

“We are troubled by the ongoing practice of using human remains as a bargaining chip,” Mills said. “We continue to be disheartened by the cruelty of denying a family the ability to properly mourn their loved one. Many Palestinian families also know this suffering, as there are Palestinian remains that have similarly not been returned to their families. Human remains must be returned to their families immediately and unconditionally.” 

Mills reaffirmed the U.S.’ “strong support for a two-state solution.” He also stressed, for the Biden administration, the importance of UNRWA, the U.N.’s Palestinian refugee agency, which he said plays “a critical stabilizing role for the region.” 

In his remarks, Mills pledged to UNRWA additional U.S. financial support this year, on top of the $338 million the U.S. gave in 2021 and the already announced $79 million for 2022. 

In 2018, the Trump administration ended all aid to UNRWA, describing the organization as “irredeemably flawed.”

Read more: UN

The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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