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    UN Security Council Hears Harsh Criticism of Israel's Gaza Offensive

    The U.N. Security Council has held an emergency meeting to hear criticism of the Israeli military offensive in the Gaza Strip. The Palestinian representative charged Israel with using the capture of an Israeli soldier as a pretext for a long-planned military offensive.

    The chief of the Palestinian observer mission at the U.N. Friday described the Israeli operation in Gaza as "flagrant military aggression". In a sharply worded address to the Security Council, Ambassador Riyad Mansour charged that the military offensive was premeditated, and aimed at sabotaging Palestinian unity. "Well prior to the capture of the Israeli soldier on the 25th of June from a military outpost on the Gaza border, Israel, the occupying power, has been issuing a series of threats and declarations about the intention to launch a major invasion of the Gaza Strip," he said.

    Mansour urged the Council to condemn the Israeli operation, order an immediate end to hostilities, take action to protect civilians, and demand the release of Palestinian officials detained by Israel.

    Israel replied with a spirited defense of its actions. Deputy Israeli Ambassador to the U.N. Daniel Carmon told the Council everything possible is being done to prevent harm to Palestinian civilians and ease humanitarian conditions in the region. But he warned that the Israel now considers its pullout from Gaza a mistake.

    "Israel disengaged from the Gaza Strip last August, with the hope of creating a window of opportunity and re-energizing the peace process. Instead, the response was an actualization of Israel's worry, an increase in terrorist attacks. Gaza is now a terror base, actively supported by the elected Hamas government. Israel is under attack day in and day out," he said.

    Washington's U.N. Ambassador John Bolton suggested that best way to end the offensive would be to immediately release the captured Israeli soldier. He charged Syria with stoking regional tensions, and called on Syrian President Bashir al Assad to help resolve the crisis.

    "The United States is of the firm view that a prerequisite for ending this conflict is that the governments of Syria and Iran end their role as state sponsors of terror and unequivocally condemn the actions of Hamas, including this kidnapping," he said.

    Arab nations had requested the late Friday Council session, and more than 25 countries joined in criticizing the Israeli offensive. But the Palestinian representative offered no resolution, and the meeting ended inconclusively.

    The United States has in the past vetoed draft Council resolutions on Israel, arguing they were not balanced.

     

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