Middle East

Palestinian leader accuses Israel of 'genocide' at UN

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas speaks during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York, New York, USA, 26 September 2014
Image caption Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas received loud applause throughout his speech

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has accused Israel of carrying out a "war of genocide" in Gaza in his speech at the UN General Assembly.

Mr Abbas said Israeli "war crimes" in Gaza should be punished, but stopped short of saying he would take the issue to the International Criminal Court.

His speech brought strong condemnation from Israel and from the US, which described it as "offensive".

The 50-day conflict left about 2,100 Palestinians and 73 Israelis dead.

Correspondents say the conflict has weakened Mr Abbas politically, with his rivals in the radical group Hamas, which dominates Gaza, seeing a surge of popularity among Palestinians for fighting Israel.

The UN says that most of the Palestinian dead were civilians. Israel says the high civilian death toll was because of Hamas fighters launching attacks from residential areas, including schools and mosques, drawing return fire.

Earlier this month Israel ordered a criminal investigation into five incidents in which civilians are believed to have died, and is investigating over 100 incidents in total.

'Fundamental questions'

Mr Abbas said the scale of damage in Gaza was unprecedented and surpassed that of earlier wars.

"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," he told the UN General Assembly in New York.

He added that it was "impossible" to return to negotiations with Israel that did not address what he called "fundamental questions".

"There is no meaning or value in negotiations for which the agreed objective is not ending the Israeli occupation and achieving the independence of the State of Palestine with East Jerusalem as its capital on the entire Palestinian Territory occupied in the 1967 war," he said.

Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman said it was a "speech of incitement filled with lies". He said Mr Abbas's remarks "highlight once again how he does not want and cannot be a partner for a reasonable diplomatic agreement".

He went on to accuse the Palestinian leader of "diplomatic terrorism".

Image caption More than 100,000 people were left homeless by the recent 50-day conflict
Image caption Israel says militants deliberately fired at it from civilian sites

US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said President Abbas's speech "included offensive characterisations that were deeply disappointing".

"Such provocative statements are counterproductive and undermine efforts to create a positive atmosphere and restore trust between the parties," she said.

Mr Abbas has previously threatened to take Israel to the International Criminal Court, but did not mention the body in his speech.

The Palestinian leader also said the "hour of independence of the state of Palestine" had arrived. He added that he would be seeking a UN Security Council resolution on a two-state solution, but gave no time frame.

The Israeli delegation was not present in the hall during Mr Abbas's speech.

Israel launched a major military operation in Gaza on 8 July, with the stated aim of stopping militants firing rockets and mortars at its territory.

Following several short-lived ceasefires, both sides agreed to an open-ended truce on 26 August which has so far held.