UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council on Sunday urged Israel and Palestinian militants to cease all violence in Gaza after the U.N. secretary-general condemned what he called Israel’s “excessive” use of force.
Israel killed 61 people in the Gaza Strip, making Saturday the bloodiest day for Palestinians since an uprising against Israeli occupation began in 2000. Two Israeli soldiers were killed in the fighting.
“Members of the Security Council are deeply concerned about the loss of civilian life in southern Israel and Gaza and condemn the escalation of violence,” the council said in a statement read by Russian Ambassador to the United Nations, Vitaly Churkin, the council’s current president.
“These events underscore the need for all parties to immediately cease all acts of violence,” the statement said.
The statement was agreed at a 5-hour emergency meeting of the Security Council called to discuss an upsurge in Israeli-Palestinian fighting.
The wording was much softer than the speech U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon gave to the council when the session began on Saturday. Ban sharply condemned both the Israeli assaults and the rocket attacks against Israel.
“While recognizing Israel’s right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children,” Ban told an emergency session of the council.
“I call on Israel to cease such attacks,” he said.
Ban said there had been 26 Palestinian rocket attacks against Israel on Saturday alone.
“I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism,” he said.
Some delegations had wanted the council statement to echo Ban’s speech. But diplomats said the Libyans objected to the use of the word “terrorism” to describe the rocket attacks.
The United States was uncomfortable with the idea of the council using Ban’s description of Israeli force as “excessive” but might have accepted it if the word “terrorism” had been used to describe the rocket attacks, the diplomats said.
The permanent Palestinian observer to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, said Israel’s actions, including the closure of all border crossings into Gaza, were “war crimes.”
Israel’s Deputy Ambassador Daniel Carmon dismissed the idea that the Jewish state was guilty of war crimes. He said Hamas was to blame because it was behind the rocket attacks.
The emergency meeting was called by Security Council member Libya on behalf of the Arab League and at the request of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
The Libyan delegation circulated a draft resolution to council members condemning Israel without mentioning the rockets fired from Gaza against southern Israel.
Several Western diplomats said the resolution was unacceptable at present and would have to be revised to condemn the rocket attacks to be acceptable to the United States and European council members.
The Security Council will come back to the Libyan draft resolution next week after the 14 other council members have had a chance to make comments and propose changes.
Despite widespread concern for the humanitarian plight of Gazans, the council has been deadlocked on the closure of Gaza’s borders because Libya and some other Arab states have been reluctant to condemn the rocket attacks against Israel and Hamas’ seizure of power.
Editing by Jackie Frank