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UN Condemns Gaza Militants Over Rocket Attacks

Robert Serry (file photo)

Robert Serry (file photo)

The United Nations has sharply condemned a rise in cross-border attacks by Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip and acknowledged Israel's right to self defense, one day after a rocket exploded close to an Israeli kindergarten.

The U.N. Middle East envoy, Robert Serry, said Wednesday that rocket strikes from Gaza at Israel were in "clear violation of international humanitarian law" and endangered civilians.

The criticism drew a strong response from Gaza's Hamas rulers, who said Serry's remarks reflected "double standards." Hamas says it will file a complaint with the U.N. against Israeli air raids on the Palestinian territory.

Israeli warplanes have carried out air strikes in Gaza over the last few days, including one that killed five Palestinian militants on Saturday, the highest single death toll since a three-week Israeli offensive in Gaza two years ago. Israeli military officials said they carried out the strikes after at least 13 mortar rounds were fired from Gaza into Israel.

Meanwhile, Israeli military officials said they will deploy tanks equipped with a new defense system along the Gaza border after Palestinian militants for the first time used a sophisticated, anti-tank missile believed to be the most advanced weapon in their arsenal.

In parliamentary testimony Tuesday, Israel's military chief, Lieutenant General Gabi Ashkenazi, confirmed militants had fired a laser-guided Kornet missile two weeks ago that penetrated the outer armor of an Israeli tank but did not explode. No one was injured in the incident, the first time such a weapon has been used from the Gaza Strip.

Ashkenazi called the missile, "one of the most dangerous" on the battlefield.

Israeli defense officials said the Kornet came from Iran, the top backer of Gaza's Hamas rulers. Lebanon's Shi'ite Hezbollah militia, also backed by Iran, used the Russian-made Kornets in their 2006 war against Israel, destroying or damaging several dozen Israeli tanks.

Meanwhile, a senior Palestinian official has been quoted saying a draft resolution condemning Israel's West Bank settlement activity is ready to be presented to the United Nations Security Council.

Reuters quoted Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat Wednesday as saying he expects the resolution to be put to a vote in February, after the United States ends its presidency of the council.

Erekat told Reuters he hopes the United States will not use its veto to defeat the measure, which was reportedly drafted with the help of 15 nations.

As the Palestinians only have observer status at the U.N., the resolution will be presented by a full member of the council.