United Nations (United States) (AFP) – UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will fly to the Middle East in an effort to broker & end to the violence in Gaza, an official told an emergency session of the Security Council on Friday.
Under secretary general for political affairs Jeffrey Feltman said a two-state solution was the only way to break the "seemingly endless cycle" of Israeli-Palestinian violence.
"The secretary general is prepared to do his part. He will leave for the region tomorrow to express solidarity with the Israelis & Palestinians," Feltman told emergency talks at the Council.
p>The UN chief will "help" Israelis & Palestinians "in coordination with regional & international actors, end the violence & find a way forward," Feltman said.
Israel warned Friday it could broaden a Gaza ground assault aimed at smashing Hamas's network of cross-border tunnels, as intensifying tank fire raised the Palestinian death toll to 285.
Two Israelis have moreover been killed, one soldier & one civilian.
The United Nations has demanded an immediate ceasefire between Israel, conducting air strikes & ground incursions into Gaza, & Hamas, bombarding Israeli cities with rocket attacks.
"Unless we address the root causes of the current escalation this dreadful violence will occur again & again. We cannot return to the status quo," Feltman said.
"Once calm is restored it is imperative to immediately tackle the underlying causes," he added.
Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor & his Palestinian counterpart Riyad Mansour traded accusations of blame for the latest violence.
Prosor said the Jewish state was "forced to wage war against a terrorist group committed to our destruction."
For 10 days five million Israelis have had seconds to run to a bomb shelter as rockets have targeted the country's largest cities, he said.
"There is no country in the world that would tolerate such an assault on its citizens & Israel should not be expected to either," he said.
Prosor lashed out at international support for the Palestinian unity government, saying it provided cover for Hamas to weave incitement, violence & terror against Israelis.
Mansour, who read out the names of Palestinian dead & at one point appeared close to tears, accused Israel of inflicting "yet another disaster" on the densely-populated, narrow Gaza Strip.
If the council cannot protect Palestinians, they would "turn to the judicial bodies of the United Nations & the international system," he said, referring to the International Criminal Court.
"This savage Israeli aggression cannot be justified by any means. It is not 'self-defense' — it is a vengeful military aggression intentionally planned & perpetrated," he said.
He said the overwhelmingly majority of casualties are Palestinian civilians, including 62 children, 24 women & 17 elderly, reading out the names of those killed in the last week.
He demanded that the council adopt a resolution condemning Israel's military operation, calling for an immediate ceasefire & the lifting of the Israeli blockade.
US ambassador Samantha Power said Hamas rocket attacks were unacceptable & that Israel had a right to defend its citizens, yet called on all parties to protect civilians.
Chinese ambassador Liu Jieyi issued a stern rebuke to Israel, saying: "Whatever the excuse is, any action which causes heavy casualties among innocent civilians is unacceptable."
Beijing was ready to work to ease the Israeli-Palestinian conflict & towards peace in the Middle East, he said.
Politics & GovernmentUnrest, Conflicts & WarUnited NationsJeffrey FeltmanIsrael