Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas accused Israel Friday of committing a “series of absolute war crimes” during its nearly two-month-long attack on the Gaza strip this summer. In an address to the United Nations General Assembly, he called for a complete removal of Israelis from Palestinian lands beyond the 1967 borders -- just minutes after he submitted an application for U.N membership for Palestine.
"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, according to the Associated Press. "We will not forget and we will not forgive, and we will not allow war criminals to escape punishment.”
The Palestinian leader did not spell out what that punishment should be. He did not say he would take the charges against Israel to the International Criminal Court, nor did he give Israel a deadline to pull out of the occupied territories, according to the AP.
Israeli officials criticized Abbas’ speech and said it "was full of lies and incitement. This is not the way a man who wants peace speaks," according to Haaretz.
The war between Israel and Hamas forces in the Gaza Strip this summer left at least 2,100 Palestinians and more than 70 Israelis dead, and tens of thousands of Palestinians homeless.
The U.N officially "recognized" Palestine as a state at the 2012 General Assembly, but it is not yet a member. Friday’s application for membership was the Palestinian president’s second attempt to join the U.N. in two years. At last year’s assembly, Abbas put Palestine’s application on hold at the request of the Obama administration, which was attempting to keep peace talks with Israel alive.
During that time Palestinian officials tried to negotiate, Abbas said, adding that “all of these sincere efforts and endeavors undertaken by international parties were repeatedly wrecked by the positions of the Israeli government, which quickly dashed the hopes raised by the launch of negotiations last September.”
The new bid for membership came a day after Hamas ceded control of the Gaza strip to the Palestinian Authority, led by Abbas' Fatah party. Fatah and Hamas, the militant organization that has controlled Gaza since 2007, refused to recognize each other as legitimate governments until April 2014.
Hamas relinquishing power could boost Palestine’s chances of becoming a U.N. member, as the United States and several European nations consider the group a terrorist organization. Hamas and Israel also refuse to negotiate with each other, but the two are willing to cooperate with the PA.
“We extend our hands to the Israeli government and the Israeli people for peace-making,” Abbas said. “I say to them: Let us urgently build together a future for our children where they can enjoy freedom, security and prosperity.”