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Live: Furious Israel ambassador shreds UN charter during debate on Palestine membership

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NEW YORK − During a furious speech on Friday, Israel’s United Nations ambassador physically fed a copy of the U.N. charter into a shredder to illustrate what he said was the General Assembly’s disregard for the document by allowing a vote on Palestinian membership to the world body.

The stunt came as the General Assembly prepared to vote on a resolution asking the Security Council to make Palestine, which has U.N. observer status, a full member.

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan ripped his colleagues for wanting to “advance the establishment of a Palestinian terror state led by the Hitler of our time.”

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour, speaking just before Erdan, deplored the death toll in Gaza and cited the anti-war protests at Columbia University as he implored the assembly to vote “Yes.”

More: ‘Not supplying the weapons’ to Israel if there’s a major Gaza offensive, Biden says

Humanitarian officials told USA TODAY aid shipments to Gaza has slowed to a trickle since Israel seized the vital Rafah border crossing with Egypt and Hamas fighters launched a rocket attack on the Kerem Shalom crossing between Israel and Gaza.

Israeli troops battled fighters from Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the eastern part of Rafah as Israeli jets appeared to target tall buildings in bombing sorties, aid officials said. Israel has ordered an estimated 100,000 residents − roughly the population of Burbank, California − to evacuate for their own safety.

On Thursday night, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel was strong enough to fight alone after President Joe Biden warned that U.S. arms shipments to the country could be stopped if he orders a full-scale invasion of Rafah in Gaza.

“If we need to stand alone, we will stand alone,” Netanyahu said in a video message ahead of Israel’s Independence Day next week. “I have said that if necessary − we will fight with our fingernails.”

Follow along for live updates from USA TODAY.

Ambassador Gilad Erdan of Israel closed his speech the assembly by producing a small, hand-held document shredder, into which he fed a small prop copy of the United Nations charter.

“You are shredding the U.N. charter with your own hands,” he said. “This day will go down in infamy.”

−Dan Morrison

Israeli Ambassador Gilad Erdan ripped the General Assembly for wanting to “advance the establishment of a Palestinian terror state led by the Hitler of our time.”

“It makes me sick,” he said. Erdan called the General Assembly a “shameless body” welcoming “a terror state into its ranks” and raised the Holocaust repeatedly. He told the silent assembly that elections in Palestine would raise Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar the Palestinian presidency. “He owes you his deepest gratituted,” Erdan said.

“You know that the Palestinians are the exact opposite of peace-loving,” he said.

Erdan accused Mansour, his Palestinian counterpart, of shedding “crocodile tears,” noting that no Palestinian officials had denounced Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack.

−Dan Morrison

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour cited the anti-war protests at Columbia University as he implored the General Assembly to pass a vote urging the Security Council to make Palestine a full member of the U.N.

Mansour described the Palestinian flag as flying in solidarity with Gaza around the world, “and on the campus of Columbia University.”

New York police arrested 282 people at Columbia University and the City College of New York on April 30 after demonstrators refused to leave protest encampments.

Mansour called the flag “a symbol raised by all those who believe in freedom.”

“Voting ‘yes’ is the right thing to do,” he said.

−Dan Morrison

Representing a group of Arab states, Ambassador Mohamed Abushahab of the United Arab Emirates is submitting the draft resolution asking the Security Council to “reconsider and support” the Palestinian Authorities bid for full membership.

“Voting against this resolution would be a moral and legal abandonment,” he told the assembly.

He called for a vote at 11am.

Last month the U.S. vetoed a move at the Security Council to make Palestine a full U.N. member.

−Dan Morrison

An emergency special session of the U.N. General Assembly has opened. Members expect a vote Friday − mostly symobolic − on a draft resolution to make Palestine a full member of the world body. Full membership can only be approved by the U.N. Security Council, where the U.S. holds one of five vetoes. The U.S. and Israel oppose the vote.

Watch the livestreamed proceedings here.

−Dan Morrison

Gilad Erdan, Israel’s Ambassador to the UN, slammed his General Assembly colleagues for allowing a vote on Palestinian statehood.  

“The UN, in a shameful violation of its own charter, will vote to grant the Palestinian Authority the rights and privileges reserved only for UN member states even though it doesn’t meet the criteria for statehood and failed to receive the recommendation of the Security Council,” Erdan told USA TODAY in a text message.

“This is a reward for terrorism and will only strengthen Hamas and make peace impossible,” he said. “It is one of the most destructive resolutions ever presented in the UN made possible due to the antisemitism and political interests that are so prevalent at the UN.”

The Palestinian Authority’s foreign ministry said on X, the former Twitter that the assembly would vote Friday “on a new draft resolution regarding the right of the State of #Palestine to full membership, enhancing its status in the UN system, and its natural place among the countries of the world.”

−Kim Kjelmgaard

The main United Nations aid agency for Palestinians closed its headquarters in East Jerusalem after local Israeli residents set fire to areas at the edge of the sprawling compound on Thursday, the agency said.

Philippe Lazzarini, the head of UNWRA, said in a post on the social media platform X that he had decided to close the compound until proper security was restored. He said Thursday’s incident was the second in less than a week.

“This is an outrageous development. Once again, the lives of UN staff were at a serious risk,” he said.

“It is the responsibility of the State of Israel as an occupying power to ensure that United Nations personnel and facilities are protected at all times,” he said.

−Reuters

More: Israeli failed to prove Hamas has deeply infiltrated UN aid agency, report says

In his message late Thursday night, Netanyahu looked back to Israel’s foundational 1948 war, when the new state was attacked by a coalition of Arab countries after it declared independence in the wake of a U.N. plan to partition the-then British Mandate into two states, one Jewish, one Arab.

“In the War of Independence 76 years ago, we were the few against the many. We did not have weapons. There was an arms embargo on Israel, but with great strength of spirit, heroism and unity among us − we were victorious,” Netanyahu said.

The Excerpt: Will the pro-Palestinian college protests lead to lasting change?

His government has vowed to enter Rafah to crush Hamas militants behind the Oct. 7 border attacks that triggered the Israel-Hamas war. Israel’s military says it has dismantled at least 18 of Hamas’ 24 battalions. However, it believes thousands of Hamas fighters are hiding in Rafah.

On Wednesday night, President Joe Biden told CNN that he would withhold offensive weaponry from Israel if Netanyahu goes forward with an all-out invasion of Rafah.

“Civilians have been killed in Gaza as a consequence of those bombs and other ways in which they go after population centers,” Biden told CNN. The U.S. has paused a planned shipment of heavy bombs to its Middle East ally.

Israel’s operation in Rafah has so far appeared to be limited in scope.

Escape from Gaza Palestinians are paying tens of thousands of dollars to an Egyptian company to escape

But world leaders fear an even larger humanitarian crisis there. And even without a full-scale Rafah invasion, medical facilities in Gaza’s southernmost city have been overwhelmed.

About 80,000 people have fled Rafah this week as Israeli tanks mass on the edge of the city and humanitarian aid is choked off by border closures, U.N. agencies said Thursday.

Fact check: Misspelled pro-Palestinian message is from Canadian protest, not Columbia University

“The toll on these families is unbearable,” the U.N. Relief Works Agency said on social media. “Nowhere is safe.”

Meanwhile, negotiations over reaching a truce agreement between Israel and Hamas have appeared to stall.

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