UN Security Council calls for end to violence in Gaza (Lead)

December 28th, 2008 - 4:13 pm ICT by IANS  

New York, Dec 28 (DPA) The United Nations Security Council Sunday called for an immediate end to all military actions in the Gaza Strip, at the end of a four-hour emergency meeting to discuss the situation in the salient which was being pounded by Israeli airstrikes.The closed-door session of 15 UN ambassadors was requested by Libya and convened late Saturday.

There was no explicit condemnation of Israeli air attacks by members after the meeting in New York ended early Sunday.

“The members called on the parties to stop immediately all military activities,” Croatia’s UN Ambassador and Council president Neven Jurica said.

The Council also called on the parties to address the humanitarian situation in the salient.

US Ambassador to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad, also addressing reporters after the meeting, said: “We want an end to the violence.”

What was needed, he said, was for calm to be restored and for the humanitarian needs of the people of Gaza to be addressed. Khalilzad noted that rocket attacks on Israel from the Gaza Strip had “precipitated the current violence.”

Israel unleashed waves of airstrikes against the Gaza Strip Saturday, targeting Hamas installations and personnel, killing 271 people, most of them militants, by mid-morning Sunday.

A further people were reported injured, some 120 of them seriously.

Earlier Saturday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate halt to the renewed violence in the Middle East.

“While recognizing Israel’s security concerns regarding the continued firing of rockets from Gaza, he firmly reiterates Israel’s obligation to uphold international humanitarian and human rights law and condemns excessive use of force leading to the killing and injuring of civilians,” a statement from Ban’s spokesperson said.

“He condemns the ongoing rocket attacks by Palestinian militants and is deeply distressed that repeated calls on Hamas for these attacks to end have gone unheeded,” it added.

Israel’s UN Ambassador Gabriela Shalev Sunday said Israel had “no choice but to go on a military operation” and was going to protect its citizens “who have been under attack from rockets and bombs and mortars for decades.”

Shalev earlier defended her country’s actions in the Gaza Strip in a letter to Ban, which claimed Hamas was solely responsible for the events.

“Israel has exhausted all means and efforts to reach and maintain quiet and to respect the state of calm. Israel’s response is aimed solely against the terrorists and their infrastructures in the Gaza Strip. It is not intended against the civilian population. Israel is committed to prevent a humanitarian crisis,” the letter said.

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