(Recasts with draft resolution circulated)
By Michelle Nichols
UNITED NATIONS, July 22 (Reuters) - Jordan circulated to the U.N. Security Council on Tuesday a draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire between Israel and Palestinians in the Gaza Strip and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the Hamas-dominated coastal enclave.
It welcomes an Egyptian-led bid to end fighting between Israel and Hamas militants and “condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians and all acts of terrorism,” according to a draft obtained by Reuters.
A similar resolution was adopted by the 15-member Security Council in 2009, with 14 votes in favor. The United States, a close ally of Israel, abstained because Washington first wanted to see the outcome of Egyptian mediation efforts at the time.
Israel launched its latest offensive on July 8 to halt missile salvoes 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.
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.
The draft U.N. resolution expresses “grave concern in particular at the resulting heavy civilian casualties among the Palestinian civilian population, including among children” and at the deepening humanitarian situation in Gaza.
“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 earlier on Tuesday.
“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 photos of Palestinian civilian victims.
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.
On July 12 the Security Council called for a cease-fire and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of civilians on both sides.
“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 said on Tuesday.
“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.”
Ban, briefing the council from Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, urged those with influence over Hamas to push the group to accept a cease-fire.
“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.” (Additional reporting by Mirjam Donath; Editing by Dan Grebler and Ken Wills)