The U.N. General Assembly has overwhelmingly adopted a resolution deploring Israel's military attacks in the Gaza Strip. U.S. and Israeli envoys sharply criticized the measure.
The non-binding resolution was approved by a 156 to 7 margin in a special emergency session of the 192-member General Assembly. The United States, Australia, and four small Pacific island states joined Israel in voting no. Seven other nations abstained.
The measure is similar to one vetoed by the United States last Saturday in the Security Council. It deplores Israel's military operations in Gaza, especially the killing of Palestinian civilians at Beit Hanoun earlier this month.
Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton, who cast the U.S. veto Saturday, argued that the General Assembly measure would do no good, and might harm the credibility of the United Nations. "Unfortunately, this type of resolution serves only to exacerbate tensions by serving the interests of elements hostile to Israel's inalienable and recognized right to exist. In doing so, it deepens suspicions about the United Nations and will lead many to conclude that the organization is incapable of playing a helpful role in the region," he said.
Israel's Ambassador to the U.N. Dan Gillerman slammed the resolution in a sharply-worded speech to the Assembly. He blamed Palestinian authorities for the deaths at Beit Hanoun. "Let there be no mistake. These dead Palestinians may have been killed by Israeli shells, but they are the victims of the Palestinian Authority. It is the Palestinian Authority who is directly responsible for their deaths and for the tragedy of its own people," he said.
The head of the Palestinian observer mission to the U.N. Riyad Mansour criticized the United States for vetoing the resolution in the more powerful Security Council. But he said overwhelming vote in the General Assembly sends a powerful message to the Palestinian people.
"I am sure and confident that this vote will be giving the Palestinian people a small hope in the right direction that one of these days, that their national rights will be accomplished, and occupation will be terminated, and they will become a free and independent nation living side by side in Israel, and we hope that day will be with us very soon," he said.
The resolution calls on Secretary General Kofi Annan to set up a fact-finding mission to investigate the Beit Hanoun incident, and to report back to the Assembly within 30 days. The United States and others had objected to authorizing $131,000 for the mission, saying it duplicated a similar effort approved this week by the U.N. Human Rights Commission.
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