Security Council responds to Israeli strikes on Gaza (+video)
On Wednesday night the U.N. Security Council called an emergency meeting following Israel's new offensive strikes against Palestinian militants in Gaza. An Israeli strike was responsible for killing the commander of the Hamas militants.
The U.N.¬†Security Council¬†met in a closed emergency meeting on Wednesday night to discuss Israeli strikes against the¬†Gaza Strip¬†as¬†Israel¬†threatened a wider offensive in the Palestinian enclave to stem rocket salvoes by¬†Hamas¬†militants.
Diplomats said U.N. political affairs chief¬†Jeffrey Feltman¬†was briefing the 15-nation council. Israeli and Palestinians envoys will also have a chance to speak.
Separately, U.N. Secretary-General¬†Ban Ki-moon's press office said in two separate statements that he spoke on the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister¬†Benjamin Netanyahu¬†and President Mohamed Mursi of¬†Egypt.
"(Ban) expressed his concern (to Netanyahu) about the deteriorating situation in¬†southern Israel¬†and the¬†Gaza Strip, which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from¬†Gaza¬†into¬†Israel¬†and the targeted killing by¬†Israel¬†of a¬†Hamas¬†military operative in¬†Gaza," the U.N. said.
Ban also voiced his expectation that "Israeli reactions are measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed."
He also discussed with Mursi "the need to prevent any further deterioration," the¬†United Nations¬†said in a second statement.
"The president urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every effort to avoid civilian casualties. The two agreed that¬†Hamas¬†needs to stop its attacks on¬†Israel¬†to allow the situation to de-escalate," the¬†White House¬†statement said.
Israel¬†launched a new major offensive against Palestinian¬†Hamas¬†militants in¬†Gaza¬†on Wednesday, killing¬†Hamas' military commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of hell."
"Once again the international community is witness to¬†Israel's malicious onslaught, using the most lethal military means and illegal measures against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population," the¬†Palestinian Authority's U.N. envoy,¬†Riyad Mansour, told the¬†Security Council.
He urged the council to act. "A direct firm message must be sent to¬†Israel¬†to cease immediately its military campaign against the Palestinian people and to abide ... by its obligations under international law," Mansour said, according to a text of his statement distributed to reporters.
"The Israeli occupying forces are now mobilizing on the ground as we speak," Mansour said. "Fear and panic are spreading among the Palestinian civilian population."
Speaking to reporters, Israeli Ambassador¬†Ron Prosor¬†urged the international community to condemn "indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli citizens - children, women." He was referring to escalating Palestinian rocket attacks from¬†Gaza.
A group of Arab ambassadors appeared before reporters ahead of the council meeting. Speaking on their behalf, Sudanese Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman urged the council to condemn¬†Israel's "barbaric heinous attack."
In a letter to Indian Ambassador¬†Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the 15-nation council this month, Mansour said the council should also call for an to "extrajudicial killing."
It was unclear what a¬†Security Council¬†meeting would achieve since the 15-nation body is generally deadlocked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which envoys say is due to the U.S. determination to protect Israeli.
A new¬†Gaza¬†war has loomed for months as waves of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes have grown more intense and frequent.
Mansour said earlier the Israeli action was intended to draw attention away from the Palestinians' plan to seek an upgrade of its observer status at the¬†United Nations¬†from that of an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Israel¬†and the¬†United States¬†have made clear they would oppose the Palestinian upgrade, which would give it the right to join international bodies like the¬†International Criminal Court, where it could file legal complaints againstIsrael.
U.N. diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 29. A senior Western diplomat said the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes out of the 193-nation¬†General Assembly, which would ensure the success of their upgraded status at the¬†United Nations.