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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

US seeks to condemn Hamas by name in landmark UN resolution

Measure is one of departing US ambassador Nikki Haley’s last acts and comes with the peace process in trouble

The resolution will be one of outgoing US ambassador Nikki Haley’s last actions at the UN. AP 
The resolution will be one of outgoing US ambassador Nikki Haley’s last actions at the UN. AP 

The United States will on Thursday ask the United Nations to explicitly condemn Hamas, the dominant Palestinian group in the Gaza Strip that has fought three wars with Israel since 2008, by name for the first time.

The measure – one of outgoing American ambassador Nikki Haley's last actions at the body – has won EU backing, the American mission to the UN said in a statement.

Its main provision asks UN members to “condemn Hamas for repeatedly firing rockets into Israel and for inciting violence, thereby putting civilians at risk”, according to a draft text.

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The resolution also demands that Hamas “and other militant actors including Palestinian Islamic Jihad cease all provocative actions and violent activity, including by using airborne incendiary devices”.

The latter is probably a reference to the firebomb balloons and kites that have been launched from Gaza, the Palestinian territory that Hamas controls along with Israel, across the border.

Palestinians in Gaza view the balloons and kites as legitimate resistance against Israel’s more than decade-long blockade. Israel says those releasing them are guilty of terrorism and has responded militarily.

Monica Grayley, spokeswoman for the president of the current UN General Assembly, told reporters on Monday the resolution would be put to a vote among its 193 members at 3pm local time on Thursday.

The US measure – a draft of which contains seven points – is likely to add to tension over the current lack of progress towards peace between Israel and Palestinians.

The chances of it passing through the General Assembly – which on Friday alone adopted six separate resolutions condemning Israel – look slim, despite the EU's agreement to support the US measure. Adoption would require 97 votes among member states. So-called non-aligned nations, which are a majority in the assembly, customarily follow the Palestinians’ lead in such votes.

Beyond its main two points, it also calls for “tangible steps towards intra-Palestinian reconciliation, including in support of the mediation efforts of Egypt, and concrete steps to reunite the Gaza Strip and the West Bank under the Palestinian Authority and ensure its effective functioning in the Gaza Strip”.

The administration of US President Donald Trump, however, is largely seen as hostile towards Palestinians, having earlier this year broken historical convention by moving the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The US has also cut funds to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), and closed the Palestine Liberation Organisation’s mission in Washington.

The US is reportedly getting ready to release early next year its own plan to resolve the conflict, but Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has already dismissed the unpublished proposals, saying America is no longer regarded as an honest broker.

Ms Haley, in her post throughout Mr Trump’s tenure, said that she would be leaving by the end of the year, in a surprise announcement in early October. She routinely railed against the UN’s treatment of Israel, but no successor has yet been named.

The resolution against Hamas would have been presented on Monday, but the Palestinian representative at the UN pushed for a delay, the US mission said.

Its statement added: “The issue before the United Nations on Thursday is not whether it supports one form or another of a Middle East peace plan. The issue is as plain as the resolution’s text. Each country will be asked to vote for or against the activities of Hamas, along with other militant groups like Palestinian Islamic Jihad. If the UN cannot bring itself to adopt this resolution, then it has no business being involved in peace discussions.”