Palestinians urge U.N. Security Council resolution on ceasefire
UNITED NATIONS, July 22
UNITED NATIONS, July 22 (Reuters) - The Palestinian U.N. envoy appealed on Tuesday for the United Nations Security Council to adopt a resolution calling for a ceasefire in fighting between Israel and Hamas militants as U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon warned that violence had hit alarming levels.
Jordan has drafted a text similar to a 2009 resolution, calling for an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza, council diplomats said. Jordanian Deputy U.N. Ambassador Mahmoud Hmoud said he would circulate a draft document to the 15-member council later on Tuesday.
"The council must play its rightful role and contribute to the urgent efforts to secure a ceasefire," Palestinian U.N. Ambassador Riyad Mansour told the Security Council's quarterly Middle East debate.
"The Security Council still has a responsibility to act to stop the slaughter of innocent men, women and children ... We are not numbers, we are human beings," an emotional Mansour said, showing the council photos of Palestinian civilian victims.
The United Nations says 582 Palestinians have been killed, about three-quarters civilians, including 145 children. Israel's military says it has killed 183 militants, while it has lost 27 soldiers. Two Israeli civilians were killed by rockets.
Israel launched its offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes out of Gaza by Hamas, which was angered by a crackdown on its supporters in the occupied West Bank and suffering economic hardship because of an Israeli-Egyptian blockade.
"Israel is doing its utmost to avoid harming civilians because we believe that every innocent life lost is a tragedy. We deeply regret the losses, but the blame lies with Hamas for hiding behind civilians and using them as human shields," Israeli Deputy U.N. Ambassador David Roet told the council.
"Israel has no interest in being in Gaza. We are fighting in Gaza, but we are not fighting the people of Gaza," he said, adding that the goal of Israel's operation was "to eliminate the rockets, shut down the terror tunnels and demilitarize Gaza."
Both U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon are in the Middle East to help Egyptian efforts to mediate a ceasefire.
Ban, briefing the Council from Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank, urged those with influence over Hamas to push the group to accept a ceasefire.
"The violence has reached even more alarming levels," Ban said. "Yet again, too many civilians, including many children, are paying the price for this latest escalation."
On July 12 the Security Council called for a ceasefire and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of civilians on both sides. The United States, a close ally of Israel, agreed to the statement after the Arab Group threatened to push for a resolution.
(Additional reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Dan Grebler)