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(photo credit: AP)
The UN Security Council has passed a statement expressing "extreme shock and distress," but not condemnation of Israel's bombing of Kana by the IDF that apparently led to many civilian deaths.
The presidential statement, passed by the 15-member council Sunday evening in an emergency session, amended stronger language in an earlier draft circulated by the UN spokespersons office, to say it "strongly deplores this loss of innocent life and the killing of civilians in the present conflict."
"The Security Council expresses its concern at the threat of escalation of violence with further grave consequences for the humanitarian situation, calls for an end to violence, and underscores the urgency of securing a lasting, permanent and sustainable ceasefire," the final document said.
Other items in dispute by diplomats that included "calling for a cessation of the current violence" were removed from the statement after the last consultations by the council.
Objections by Qatar to strengthen language in the statement continued discussions late into the evening before the statement was passed.
"The Security Council expresses its extreme shock and distress at the shelling by the Israeli Defense Forces of a residential building in Kana, in southern Lebanon, which has caused the killing of dozens of civilians, mostly children, and injured many others," the final statement began.
The statement also calls for the council to "work without further delay to adopt a resolution for a lasting settlement of the crisis."
UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Sunday repeated his call for an immediate halt to violence between Israel and Hizbullah, condemning an IAF airstrike that killed at least 54 people and telling the UN Security Council he was "deeply disturbed" that his previous calls for a cease-fire had gone unheeded.
Annan spoke at an emergency meeting of the council that he convened after the airstrike in Kana early Sunday. He said the council had a responsibility to demand an end to the violence.
"We meet at a moment of extreme gravity first and foremost for the people of the Middle East but also for the authority of this organization and especially this council," Annan said. "Action is needed now before many more children, women and men become casualties of a conflict over which they have no control."
The council has so far been unable to take a stand on the fighting even though it has now continued for three weeks. That is partly because the United States, unlike other members of the council, has refused to back Annan's calls for an immediate cease-fire.
In unusually frank terms, Annan said the council risked undermining its own authority if it does not take action. He said that was made clear by the attacks on UN headquarters in Beirut earlier Sunday.
"People have noticed its failure to act firmly and quickly during this crisis," Annan said.
Lebanese special envoy Nouhad Mahoud also criticized the council for its lack of action and said Israel was committing war crimes.
"Israel is committing atrocities against humanity," Mahoud said. "The fact that such massacres are yet ... to be taken up by resolutions of this august council - that fact does not mean that the truth is to remain hidden."
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman called it a "horrible, sad and bloody Sunday." While he apologized for the airstrike that killed the civilians in Kana, he said there was no comparison between Hizbullah, which intentionally targets Israeli civilians and uses Lebanese civilians as human shields, and Israel, which tries to avoid civilian casualties.
"Those people including women and children who were killed in this horrible tragic incident may have been killed by Israeli fire but they are the victims of the Hizbullah," Gillerman said. "They are the victims of terror. If there were no Hizbullah this would never have happened."
Gillerman said Hizbullah must be disarmed before any cease-fire occurs. Otherwise, he said, Hizbullah will rise again - "not just against us and not just against the people of Lebanon, but against the whole region and civilization as we know it."