Top UN rights body votes for inquiry on Gaza clashes

Marwan Shtewi, 32, lies on the bed while his mother's Fatma, stands near him at the surgery's ward of Shifa hospital in Gaza City, Wednesday, May 16, 2018. Shtewi was shot in his hand and abdomen by Israeli troops during a protest east of Gaza City on Monday. With few prospects and little to fear, Shtewi is among the crowds of young men who put themselves on the front lines of violent protests along the border with Israel, risking their lives in a weekly showdown meant to draw attention to the dire conditions of Gaza. (AP Photo/Adel Hana)

BERLIN - The U.N. Human Rights Council voted Friday to set up a commission of inquiry to look into a deadly crackdown on protesters in Gaza by Israeli forces.

Meeting in a special session in Geneva, the council voted 29-2 with 14 abstentions to back a resolution that also condemned "the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by the Israeli occupying forces against Palestinian civilians."

Israel condemned the resolution, which was put forward by a group of countries including Pakistan, and the United States decried it as an example of a biased focus on Israel by the council. Both lamented that it didn't mention Gaza's Hamas rulers, whom Israel blames for the violence.

Israeli troops firing into Gaza killed nearly 60 Palestinians at mass border protests on Monday.

The "independent, international commission of inquiry" mandated by the council will be asked to produce a final report next March.

During Friday's session, the U.N.'s top human rights official backed calls for an international inquiry and questioned Israel's assertion that its security forces tried to minimize casualties.

"There is little evidence of any attempt to minimize casualties on Monday," said U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein.

Some demonstrators threw Molotov cocktails, used sling-shots, flew burning kites into Israel, and attempted to use wire-cutters on border fences, but "these actions alone do not appear to constitute the imminent threat to life or deadly injury which could justify the use of lethal force," added Zeid, a Jordanian prince.

He said that "the stark contrast in casualties on both sides is also suggestive of a wholly disproportionate response."

Israel and the United States have repeatedly accused the 47-member council of anti-Israel bias.

Israeli ambassador Aviva Raz Schechter said Friday's session and the call for a commission of inquiry "are yet again politically motivated and won't improve the situation on the ground by even one iota."

"The unfortunate outcome of Monday's riots can only be attributed to Hamas' cynical exploitation of its own population in a violent campaign against Israel," she said.

"It is regrettable that so many member states allow themselves to be misled by the false narrative of so-called peaceful protests."

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