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UN Security Council debates Gaza truce plans

Latest update : 2009-01-09

Foreign ministers from UN Security Council members and Arab states met Tuesday to discuss proposals for a ceasefire in Gaza as the death toll from an Israeli offensive on Hamas targets in the territory continued to climb.

REUTERS - Foreign ministers from U.N. Security Council members and Arab states piled pressure on Israel on Tuesday to end its 11-day attack on the Gaza Strip as the number of civilian deaths there continued to mount.

 

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, presiding over a special Security Council meeting on the Gaza crisis, called for an immediate ceasefire that would also ensure an end to Palestinian rocket attacks against southern Israel and the smuggling of weapons from Egypt into Gaza for Hamas militants.

 

He said France expected Israel's response on Wednesday to a ceasefire proposal announced by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak after a meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and "we harbor hope that it will be a positive one."

 

The Mubarak announcement received explicit backing from Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Israeli U.N. Ambassador Gabriela Shalev made no reference to the proposal in her speech to the council.

 

Abbas' Fatah movement was ousted from Gaza in 2007 when Hamas, which does not recognize Israel's right to exist, seized control of the enclave. Gaza has some 1.5 million Palestinians, most of whom are dependent on some form of humanitarian aid.

 

Rice said it was crucial for Abbas' Palestinian Authority to re-establish its control over Gaza.

 

"Our goal must be the stabilization and normalization of life in Gaza," Rice said, adding that any ceasefire plan "has to be a solution that does not allow the rearmament of Hamas."

 

'Pieces of paper'

 

Libya has circulated several versions of a draft resolution that calls for a truce and criticizes Israel. Western diplomats said the text had little chance of passing.

 

Shalev was dismissive of the idea that the council was obligated to weigh in on the conflict. "The credibility of this council is measured not by the pieces of paper it issues, but by the values it upholds," she said.

 

Diplomats said negotiations in New York on a ceasefire resolution may have been overtaken by Mubarak's proposal, which calls for a limited initial truce to allow aid into Gaza and give time for Egypt to broker a permanent ceasefire.

 

Abbas criticized Israel for ignoring calls from around the globe for an end to its military campaign in Gaza -- and for the large number of civilian deaths it has caused.

 

"The Israeli machine of destruction continues to kill, to commit the most heinous of possible crimes despite international unanimity, an unprecedented unanimity in calling for an end of this massacre against innocent civilians that do not deserve such brutality," Abbas said.

 

Other top diplomats attending the council meeting were British Foreign Secretary David Miliband and senior Arab officials like Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud Al-Faisal.

 

Earlier on Tuesday, Israeli fire killed at least 40 Palestinians at a U.N. school in Gaza where civilians had taken shelter. Israel said its troops were returning fire from the school.

 

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said attacks on schools were "totally unacceptable and should not be repeated." He said he would travel to Israel and the Palestinian territories next week to support efforts to end the crisis.

 

More than 600 Palestinians have been killed and at least 2,700 wounded since Israel began the campaign last month with the declared aim of ending rocket attacks by Hamas Islamist militants on its southern towns. Ten Israelis, including three civilians hit by rocket fire, have been killed.  

 

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Date created : 2009-01-07

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