Israel's UN ambassador, Dan Gillerman, lashed out at Syrian and Sudanese representatives during the Security Council's monthly session on the Middle East on Tuesday, calling them "assassins" "killers." Gillerman's remarks came after the Syrian ambassador said "statements on terror against Israel sound cynical when coming from the representative of a terrorist state, which aspires to conquer all Arab nations." Gillerman retorted, saying "the assassins of Damascus" and "the killers of Darfur" had no standing to criticize Israel. Addressing the council, Gillerman slammed the "trend" of equating the "lawful actions" of a state defending its citizens with the "violence of terrorists," in a bitter exchange at the. "The misguided tendency to accept the status quo of terrorism is simply unacceptable," said Gillerman. "Such parity, which is often in the name of an ill-conceived balance, undermines the strength and credibility of moderate states to bolster one another and isolate the extremists." UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the session by urging Israelis, Palestinians and the international community to increase efforts to reach a peace settlement during 2008. "It is my hope that we can achieve this ambitious goal," Ban said. "I believe all of us must ask ourselves, and the parties, two simple questions: If not this, what? If not now, when?" "This [peace] process is too important to be allowed to lose momentum through inaction or indifference, or to be overwhelmed by violence," Ban said. "It is essential that it receives the support of the international community, including this council." The PLO's UN observer, Riyad Mansour, attacked Israel for its "violent occupation," the continuation of "illegal settlement building," and human rights violations. Mansour once again reminded the council of a statement by Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i, who told Army Radio on February 29 the Palestinians face a bigger "shoah" if they increase their rocket attacks on Israeli communities from Gaza. Two days later, Vilna'i told Army Radio: "It's clear to everyone that I used ['shoah'] to mean 'disaster' or 'catastrophe.'" Mansour said Israel continued to ignore international law and acted without "law, morality and humanity." Gillerman called on the world's nations to demonstrate support for the negotiations toward a lasting peace in the region. "This is the mandate of the international community. This is its calling. This is its duty," he said. "This collective resolve must be shown first and foremost by this council." The Israeli ambassador told the international body that the current lull in Hamas rocket fire was superficial. "The bombs keep ticking, albeit quietly," warned Gillerman, who said Hamas was using this lull to smuggle in and produce more rockets in the Gaza Strip. Gillerman also spoke of the continuing flow of weapons across the Syrian-Lebanese border, the rearming of Hizbullah, which he said "poses an extremist threat to the region." "The relationships between Iran, Syria, Hamas and Hizbullah are continually reinforced for us," said Gillerman. "Clearly, Syria and Iran both play host to and support global and local terrorist organizations. The international community must press to end that support." US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad suggested that such discussions might not be the "most effective" way to create the environment necessary for peace. After the meeting, Mansour told reporters the Palestinians were "willing not to participate in these discussions, in exchange for practical steps that get us closer to our objective." AP contributed to this report.