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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 19 December 2018

Emergency Gaza UN General Assembly meeting called by Arab states

It comes as four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on Friday

A Palestinian protester stands in clouds of black smoke from burning tire barricades during clashes following their weekly Friday protest near the border east Gaza City on, 08 June 2018. Protesters called for the right of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East to return to homes they fled in the war surrounding the 1948 creation of Israel. EPA / Mohammed Saber
A Palestinian protester stands in clouds of black smoke from burning tire barricades during clashes following their weekly Friday protest near the border east Gaza City on, 08 June 2018. Protesters called for the right of Palestinian refugees across the Middle East to return to homes they fled in the war surrounding the 1948 creation of Israel. EPA / Mohammed Saber

The UN General Assembly is to hold an emergency meeting next Wednesday to vote on an Arab-backed resolution on Gaza, the body's president Miroslav Lajcak announced Friday.

The resolution will condemn Israel, and will be similar to one vetoed by the United States in the Security Council last week, which called for protecting Palestinians from Israeli aggression, according to diplomats.

It comes as four Palestinians were killed by Israeli fire on the Gaza border on Friday, as weeks of deadly clashes with protesters continued.

Resolutions adopted by the General Assembly have no binding value, unlike those passed by the Security Council.

"We will work next week to get the maximum number of votes," a diplomat from a country that supported the measure told AFP.

But despite the non-binding nature of the vote, organisers of recent Gaza marches said the move was a positive one.

"Any step towards alleviating the suffering of Gazans is welcome. But the main aim is breaking the siege of Gaza because the siege is ruining the lives of people here," Ahmed Abu Artema, the activist who conceived of the idea of the the Great March of Return protests, told The National.

"Based on previous experiences, these meeting were disappointing for the Palestinians. There were promises made, but nothing was implemented on the ground."

Arab countries turned to the General Assembly in December after the US vetoed a Security Council vote on a resolution to condemn its decision to move its embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Fourteen members of the Security Council backed the December resolution, though the US as well as the council's four other permanent members retain a right to veto.

The measure then received 128 votes out of 193 in the General Assembly.

A diplomatic source said the emergency meeting had been pushed by the Organization of Islamic States and the Arab League.

Several European countries have tried to dissuade Palestinians and Arab countries from demanding a vote in the General Assembly after last week's US veto.

"Everyone told them not to do it," said a diplomat on condition of anonymity, arguing the resolution could be counterproductive if it doesn't receive at least as many votes as the one obtained in December on Jerusalem.

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Danny Danon, Israel's ambassador to the UN, condemned the planned resolution.

"It is unfortunate that instead of condemning the terrorists of Hamas, some countries are looking to satisfy their domestic political needs by bashing Israel at the United Nations," Danon said in a statement.

It is not entirely clear what form of protection the Palestinians of Gaza are seeking, from observers to a full blown peacekeeping force.

Arab states have recently turned to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to make proposals on this matter.

But according to a diplomat who asked for anonymity, he said he needed a mandate from the Security Council to look further into the issue.

On Friday, four Palestinians were killed in the Gaza Strip by Israeli soldiers near the border fence during new clash-ridden protests in the blockaded enclave.

At least 124 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire since protests broke out along the Gaza border on March 30. There have been no Israeli casualties.

Protests peaked on May 14 when at least 61 Palestinians were killed in protests to coincide with the controversial opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem

Israel maintains a crippling blockade of Gaza it says is necessary to isolate Hamas.

Critics say it amounts to collective punishment of the territory's two million residents.

The territory has been controlled by Hamas for more than a decade, during which it has fought three wars against Israel. Israel and Egypt maintain a blockade of the strip, citing security reasons, which has caused an economic crisis and collapse in living standards there over the past decade.

On Thursday Israel dropped leaflets in Gaza urging Palestinians not to take part in protests or try to breach the fence on Friday, "and not to allow Hamas to use you for its narrow factional interests, which Iran is inspiring".

There have been no Israeli casualties from the more than two months of confrontations but farmland on the Israeli side has been damaged by fire from the kites and balloons.

Emmanuel Nahshon, spokesman for Israel's Foreign Ministry, described Gaza protesters on Twitter as "hateful morons" and "Hamas Jugend", the latter a play on "Hitler Youth" in German.

Israel has long refused to admit Palestinian refugees, saying they belong in a future Palestinian state. Statehood talks have been frozen since 2014.

Organisers in Gaza said that the protests will continue in the coming days and weeks. They had tagged this Friday's demonstrations as the Friday of Jerusalem to commemorate the 1967 war in which Israel captured East Jerusalem, with the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Updated: June 9, 2018 04:46 PM

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