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Statement on Gaza Stalls in UN Security Council

Following a day of debate, the U.N. Security Council could not agree on language for a statement condemning the deterioration of the situation in the Gaza Strip. From U.N. headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.

The draft statement circulating among the 15-member council expresses concern about "the steep deterioration of the humanitarian situation" in Gaza due to Israel's continued closure of all border crossings, and the cutting of electricity and reduction of fuel to the Palestinian territory's one and a half million residents. But it fails to mention the hundreds of rockets Hamas militants have fired into southern Israel in the last week.

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he could not support the Libyan-authored draft as it stands.

"As is, it is not acceptable,"said Zalmay Khalilzad. "Many other colleagues have spoken also in the council that it does not talk about the rocket attacks, the attacks on innocent Israelis."

Libya's U.N. Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi, who is also the Security Council's president this month, told reporters following the marathon session that the council would meet again Wednesday afternoon to discuss a revised draft and hopefully it would be adopted. Passage of the non-binding text requires approval by all 15 council members.

"It was circulated to the members late last night so some of them have expressed that they need to refer to their capitals, but I think most of them are accepting the draft as a base of discussions," said Giadalla Ettalhi.

The U.N.'s political chief, Lynn Pascoe, told the council that the situation in Gaza and southern Israel has escalated dramatically since the 15 of January, when an Israeli air and ground offensive killed 19 Palestinians, most of them militants. The offensive was in response to rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel.

Pascoe says 42 Palestinians have been killed and more than 100 injured in Israeli military operations in the past week.

"Among the dead are a number of Palestinian civilians, who have been killed in ground battles between the IDF [Israeli Defense Forces] and militants and in Israeli air strikes and targeted killing operations," said Lynn Pascoe.

He noted that rockets launched from Gaza have injured 11 Israelis and a Palestinian sniper killed an Ecuadorian laborer on an Israeli kibbutz.

The Palestinian and Israeli envoys traded blame over the situation.

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian U.N. Observer, criticized Israel's blockade as a form of collective punishment, and urged the Council to take action to press Israel to reopen the border and ease other restrictions. While Israel's delegate, Gilad Cohen, said the situation in Gaza did not develop overnight, but was the result of what he said were "wrong choices" the Palestinians have made to adopt terrorism and violence over peace and negotiations with Israel. He said Israel faces an "impossible situation" but would protect its citizens from these rocket attacks.