The United Nations Security Council held a closed-door meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the escalating conflict in Gaza and Israel’s south
Both the Israeli and Palestinian envoys were given permission to attend and speak in the emergency session, which was convened at Egypt’s request.
Israeli envoy Ron Prosor defended Israel’s decision to launch an offensive on Gazan terror groups following a four-day volley of rocket fire on towns in the south of Israel.
“We have demonstrated maximum restraint for years, but the Israeli Government has a right and a duty to respond to these attacks,” he told the council. “Israel will not play Russian Roulette with the lives of our citizens.”
He added no one complained when Palestinians were “raining rockets on Israeli civilians,” and that no nation would tolerate that.
“Hamas has turned Gaza into a dump of ammunition and weapons supplies brought in from Iran,” he said.
Prosor said some of the representatives on the council support Israel’s “right of self-defense and condemned the indiscriminate shooting of rockets upon innocent Israeli citizens.”
Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour slammed Israel for its offensive against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip. Some 50 airstrikes were carried out against military targets in the Palestinian enclave, leaving at least 10 dead, including Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari.
Mansour said Israel was “vulgarly and publicly boasting about its willful killing of Palestinians” after taking out Jabari, whom Prosor had characterized as a “mass murderer” hours earlier.
“Once again the international community is witness to Israel’s malicious onslaught, using the most lethal military means and illegal measures against the defenseless Palestinian civilian population,” Mansour, told the Security Council, according to a text of his speech given to reporters. “A direct firm message must be sent to Israel to cease immediately its military campaign against the Palestinian people and to abide … by its obligations under international law.”
He added that Israel was preparing a ground offensive and fear and panic were spreading throughout the Strip.
The council’s Arab bloc, led by Sudan, called for the body to condemn Israel.
Any such move is likely to be vetoed by the United States, which earlier Wednesday issued a statement condemning Hamas and standing behind Israel’s right to defend itself.
US Ambassador Susan Rice spoke in favor of Israel, saying it was not right for Hamas and other groups to terrorize Israel’s populace.
Both Prosor and Mansour earlier turned to the 15-nation panel to condemn the other side for the latest round of fighting.
Mansour, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, sent a letter to the Indian president of the Security Council Wednesday, calling on the body to stop Israel before he said it launched a ground offensive.
“This escalation, which continues at this moment, demands the attention of the international community, including the Security Council, with the aim of averting the further deterioration and destabilization of the situation on the ground and the fueling by Israel of yet another deadly cycle of violence and bloodshed,” Mansour wrote.
Prosor defended Israel’s actions, which he said were needed in the fact of “indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli citizens, children, women.”
Prosor added that Israel had shown restraint for a long time and that the IDF’s actions in Gaza were “well defined.”
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon spoke to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu about the situation, which he described as “alarming.”
” [Ban] expressed his concern about the deteriorating situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza,” a statement from his press office read. “The secretary general reiterated his strong condemnation of rocket fire out of Gaza and noted his expectation that Israeli reactions are measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed that could cause additional civilian casualties and have dangerous spillover effects in the region.”
Ban also spoke with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi “about the worrisome escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza and the need to prevent any further deterioration,” a statement read.
On Saturday the Cairo-based Arab League is to hold an emergency meeting on the situation in Gaza.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.