Palestinian leader in new UN bid to end occupation

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NEW YORK (AP) — Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel on Friday of conducting a “war of genocide” and a “series of absolute war crimes” during the 50-day summer conflict in Gaza, but stopped short of saying he will pursue war crime charges against the Jewish state at the International Criminal Court.

In his speech at the U.N. General Assembly, Abbas also said he will seek a U.N. resolution to set a deadline for Israel to pull out of Palestinian lands captured in the 1967 war but did not include a three-year deadline as his aides had said he would.

“This last war against Gaza was a series of absolute war crimes carried out before the eyes and ears of the entire world, moment by moment,” Abbas said. The devastation unleashed, he said, “is unmatched in modern times.”

Israel launched thousands of airstrikes against what it said were Hamas-linked targets in Gaza, while Gaza militants fired several thousand rockets at Israel. More than 2,100 Palestinians were killed, a large majority civilians, and some 18,000 homes were destroyed, according to U.N. figures. Sixty-six soldiers and six civilians were killed on the Israeli side.

The devastating war has weakened Abbas domestically, with his Hamas rivals enjoying a surge of popularity among Palestinians for fighting Israel.

He is under pressure at home to come up with a new political strategy after his repeated but failed attempts to establish a Palestinian state through U.S.-mediated negotiations with Israel.

His aides had said he would he would launch a new bid for a U.N. Security Council resolution to set a three-year timetable for Israel to pull out of Palestinian lands captured in the 1967 war. They added that a U.N. rejection of the Palestinian request would prompt Abbas to seek membership in international agencies, including the ICC.

That would open the door to war crimes charges against Israel for its military actions in Gaza and Jewish settlement construction on West Bank land the Palestinians want for a future state.

However, Abbas’ speech appeared markedly less dramatic than what his aides were saying earlier this week.

“We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment,” Abbas said, but he made no mention of the ICC.

He also did not mention a deadline for ending the occupation in his speech, referring instead to a “specific time frame for the implementation of these objectives.”

Turning to the ICC would be considered a major policy shift by Abbas. It would transform his relations with Israel from tense to openly hostile, and badly strain his relations with the United States.

Abbas met with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Tuesday in New York and expressed little optimism his U.N. bid would survive a Security Council vote. The United States will almost certainly veto such a measure, having said the only resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is through direct negotiations between the two sides.

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