* Unclear if Security Council to meet on Gaza strikes
* Council has trouble reaching consensus on Mideast crisis
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday urged the U.N. Security Council to take a stand on Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza Strip, which it said amounted to "illegal criminal actions."
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor responded by calling on the international community to condemn "indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli citizens - children, women." He was referring to five days of escalating Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.
In a letter to Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the 15-nation council this month, Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said a "message must be sent to Israel to cease its military campaign against the Palestinian people under its occupation, including the cessation of extrajudicial killing."
"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 said.
Israel launched a new major offensive against Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing Hamas' military commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of hell."
Speaking to reporters, Prosor described the Hamas military commander, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, as a "mass murderer" who had been planning fresh attacks against Israeli citizens.
The U.N. press office said the Security C ouncil planned to hold closed-door consultations on an Egyptian request for an emergency meeting at 6:30 p.m. EST (2330 GMT).
"There is an expectation that ground forces might move into the Gaza Strip very shortly," Mansour told reporters. "The situation is escalating."
"We want the Security Council to act in accordance with its responsibilities to stop this aggression against our people," he said, without providing details of what action he wanted.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has urged Hamas and Israel to avoid escalating the Gaza fighting.
A new Gaza war has loomed for months as waves of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes have grown more intense and frequent.
EGYPT CONDEMNS RAIDS
Prosor said Israel's action in Gaza was "well-defined."
"This cannot continue," he said of the Hamas rocket fire. "We have shown for a very long time a lot of restraint," he said, noting that Israel is obliged to defend its citizens.
"We are not interested in escalation," he told a Security Council meeting.
It is the militant group Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, that controls Gaza.
Mansour said the Israeli action was intended to draw attention away from the Palestinians' plan to seek an upgrade of its observer status at the United Nations from that of an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Israel and the United States have made clear they would oppose the Palestinian upgrade, which would give it the right to join international bodies like the International Criminal Court, where it could file legal complaints against Israel.
U.N. diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was tentatively scheduled for Nov. 29. A senior Western diplomat said the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes out of the 193-nation General Assembly, which would ensure the success of their upgraded status at the United Nations.