Arab nations are asking the U.N. Security Council to condemn Israel's latest military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Council met in emergency session Monday to consider the request. A vote could come Tuesday.
Israeli and Palestinian representatives clashed Monday as the Security Council began debate on a draft resolution on the situation in Gaza.
The measure drafted by the 22-member Arab League condemns Israel's military incursion into Gaza, including in and around the Jabaliya refugee camp. It also demands the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from the area.
Palestinian Ambassador Nasser al-Kidwa charged that Israeli forces killed numerous civilians during a sweep that followed a rocket attack on an Israeli border town that killed two children last week. He spoke through an interpreter.
"There is absolutely no justification for this Israeli hysteria, this widespread killing, this deliberate destruction. There is no justification for war crimes and state terrorism, in all circumstances that would have justified other war crimes, and the violations of international humanitarian law that preceded the recent events," he said.
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman flatly rejected the charges. He called the Gaza offensive a "legitimate defensive action," and accused the resolution's sponsors of trying to blame the victims.
"The Security Council has once again been galvanized into action not because of murder of children because of the defense against those murders. Once again, consequently, there is an attempt to put the victims of terror in the dock rather than murderers themselves," he said. "This recurring phenomenon is both disturbing and alarming."
U.S Ambassador John Danforth was among a long list of speakers addressing the Security Council. He suggested the United States might veto the draft if it is brought to a vote, calling it "not the road to peace, but one more step on a road to nowhere.'
Ambassador Danforth accused the United Nations of taking sides in the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. "Unfortunately, the United Nations, both the General Assembly and the Security Council, instead of saying 'stop it' to both sides, acts as adversary of Israel and the cheerleader of the Palestinians," he said. "That is not the way to peace."
The U.S. ambassador said it is not unreasonable that, after Palestinian rocket attacks on Israeli civilians, that Israel would feel a need to respond.
But the three-hour debate also included several harsh criticisms of the Israeli action.
Earlier, Secretary-General Kofi Annan issued a statement urging both sides to stop military actions in Gaza. More than 60 Palestinians and at least five Israelis have been killed since the Israeli offensive in Gaza began last week.