U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned of the risk of an “all-out escalation” in Israel and the Gaza Strip during an emergency meeting Thursday of the U.N. Security Council.
In his briefing to the council, Ban said Islamic militant groups Hamas and Islamic Jihad have fired more than 550 rockets into Israel in the past several days, and Israel’s military has responded with more than 500 airstrikes on Gaza.
He said the only way to prevent an Israeli ground offensive is for Hamas to stop firing rockets. He urged the international community to speed up efforts to halt the escalation and reach a sustainable cease-fire.
“We must not let spoilers prevail. We must keep the situation from getting any further out of control. Any further spiral of violence could have alarming, unforeseen consequences,” Ban said.
Nearly 90 Palestinians have been killed and two Israelis injured since the latest round of violence erupted following the kidnapping and killing of three Israeli youths and an alleged reprisal killing of a Palestinian teenager.
Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour urged the Council to act to protect the lives of Palestinian civilians, de-escalate the current crisis and salvage the peace process.
“A firm message must be sent by the council to Israel to immediately cease its aggression against the Palestinian people and to abide by its obligations under international law. Moreover, it is high time that Israel, the occupying power, be held accountable for its countless human rights violations and war crimes,” said Mansour.
Palestinian leaders have previously warned that they would consider taking Israel to the International Criminal Court in The Hague to be tried for violations against Palestinians.
Israel’s envoy, Ron Prosor, noted that in the hour the council met, six more rockets were fired from Gaza into Israel.
Prosor said Operation Protective Edge is intended to protect Israeli citizens.
“Over the last few years, Hamas has built up a massive military machine with 10,000 rockets. Israel is now acting to dismantle that machine,” Prozor said.
After the meeting, Prosor said if the Palestinians want peace, the Palestinian Authority must end its partnership with Hamas. He said Israel cannot negotiate with a unity government that includes a terrorist organization that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist. The envoy also urged the Security Council to condemn Hamas and its rocket attacks and support Israel’s right to defend itself.