UN security council 298.
(photo credit: Channel 1)
In an emergency session of the UN Security Council, the Palestinians accused Israel on Friday of launching a premeditated military assault in Gaza to sabotage Palestinian unity and collectively punish and terrorize hundreds of thousands of civilians. Israel countered that Gaza has become "a terror base" actively supported by the Hamas-led government.
But no resolution was circulated to council members on Friday, apparently because of US opposition to any council action.
Arab nations had requested the meeting to demand that the UN's most powerful body order a halt to the Israel offensive which followed the abduction of a soldier.
Palestinian UN Observer Riyad Mansour said Israel's air and ground assault on Gaza using warplanes, tank artillery bombardment, and shelling from naval units was "collectively punishing and terrorizing the Palestinian civilian population ... (which) is now under complete siege."
Israel's deputy UN ambassador Daniel Carmon disagreed, saying Israel responded to the capture of Corporal Gilad Shalit "after long weeks of Israeli restraint in the face of numerous attempted kidnappings and unceasing Kassam rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip that have targeted civilians, schools and homes" and traumatized children.
He said the Israeli army's presence is limited "to a very small area in southern Gaza" with the sole aim of preventing Shalit from being smuggled outside the Gaza Strip. "Its objective is not punishment or retaliation," Carmon stressed.
But Mansour accused Israel of planning "a major invasion" of Gaza and mobilizing troops before Shalit was captured on June 25 "to sabotage the recent agreement between President Mahmoud Abbas' Fatah Party and the Hamas-led government.
Israel's goal, he said, is "to ultimately cause the complete collapse" of the Palestinian Authority so Israel can say it has no "partner for peace" and go ahead with unilateral measures.
Carmon countered that Israel completely withdrew from the Gaza Strip last August with the hope of "re-energizing the peace process."
"Instead, the response was ... an increase in terror attacks," he said. "Gaza is now a terror base, actively supported by the elected Hamas government. Israel is under attack day in and day out."
On Thursday night, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan and EU Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana, to discuss recent events in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
She related Israel's position on the continuing incursion into Gaza and the widespread arrests of 64 Hamas officials on Thursday morning. Livni emphasized Israel's right to self defense.
Earlier Thursday, the G-8 foreign ministers' summit of developed countries that convened in St. Petersburg, expressed grave concern at the deterioration of the conflict. The diplomats meeting in Russia condemned the arrests and called upon Israel to show restraint.