On Gaza, the Security Council finally speaks, calls for cease-fire

Palestinian envoy threatens Israel with draft resolution if cease-fire agreement not reached.

United Nations Security Council 311 (R) (photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
United Nations Security Council 311 (R)
(photo credit: Mike Segar / Reuters)
NEW YORK – The UN Security Council on Saturday called for a cease-fire in Gaza, and expressed its “serious concern” about the crisis, particularly as pertains to the situation of Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
In a short four-sentence statement, the council called for a reinstitution of the November 2012 cease-fire put in place after Operation Pillar of Defense, and said it would support a resumption of peace negotiations toward a two-state solution.
The statement also called for “immediate calm and ending the hostilities in Gaza including the launching of rocket attacks,” and for an “immediate, durable, and fully respected cease-fire.”
There was no word on the state of any Security Council draft resolution on the situation.
The release of the statement was delayed by the Jordanians, who said on Friday that they wished to look over some “elements” with the American delegation.
After the Security Council President Eugène-Richard Gasana of Rwanda read the statement on Saturday, PLO Ambassador Riyad Mansour, alongside Saudi representative Abdullah al-Mouallimi, spoke to the press and said that Israel had killed more than 130 civilians and injured more than 900 in the last week.
“Israel must stop this aggression immediately,” he said.
Mansour said he was privy to a slew of emergency meetings on Friday, in which much frustration was expressed over the “international community dragging its feet.”
“The immediate objective is to have a ceasefire,” Mansour said, adding that “if the Israeli side is not going to listen from this position from the UNSC, then there is the possibility of a draft resolution. All options are on the table.”
Israel’s UN envoy Ron Prosor on Thursday told reporters that Israel would not support a cease-fire, as Operation Protective Edge was intended to fully dismantle Hamas’s bases in Gaza.
The release of the statement comes after a tense week at the UN, in which Israel and the Arab states lashed out at each other and called on the Security Council to condemn the other. The Palestinians said the council needed to “shoulder its responsibility” and condemn Israel’s “war crimes and terrorism,” and Israel called for the council to denounce the Palestinian unity government, a call at which the Palestinians all but sneered on Thursday after the first Security Council meeting on Gaza.
“The Israeli representative and his government...
are failing at convincing anyone that President [Mahmoud] Abbas should dissolve this government,” Mansour told reporters.
“This is an exercise in futility by the Israeli representative, and I thank the position of the international community.
“I am proud to represent the brave Palestinian people,” he said. “I am not a representative of a government that is disrespected and totally isolated.”
Prosor struck back, saying Israel was “dragged into the conflict by Hamas,” and repeated his point that the “international community bought into a bad deal” by supporting the Palestinian unity government.
An official for the US mission told The Jerusalem Post that the US had been in “close contact” with the Israeli mission for every step of the Security Council’s actions ever since the disappearance and deaths of Eyal Yifrah, Gil- Ad Shaer and Naftali Fraenkel, and said that the US stood ready to facilitate a cease-fire.
“In those discussions [in the Security Council], we supported Israel’s right to defend itself and worked with Israel on diplomatic efforts to resolve the ongoing crisis,” the official said.
“No country should have to live under the constant threat of indiscriminate violence against innocent civilians... That said, we remain concerned about the risk of further escalation and reiterate the need for all sides to do everything they can to protect the lives of civilians and restore calm.”
According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the death toll as of Friday afternoon was 114 Palestinians, 88 of whom were civilians. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay released a statement on Friday, highly critical of Israel.
“We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes,” she said. “Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law.”
On Saturday, Canadian Foreign Minister John Baird called Pilay’s criticism “uncalled for,” and said that “focusing her comments on Israel is neither helpful nor reflective of the reality of this crisis.”
“There must be no moral equivalence between Hamas, a listed terrorist organization, and its blatant disregard for human life, and the liberal democratic State of Israel’s duty and obligation to defend its people from cowardly and indiscriminate attacks,” he added.
In another statement on Saturday, British foreign minister William Hague called for a cease-fire, the two-state solution, and to restore Palestinian Authority control over Gaza.