United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has expressed concern about what he calls a "dangerous escalation of violence" by Israel.
Mr. Annan was commenting on an Israeli attack on the West Bank village of Beit Rima in which a number of Palestinians were killed. Israeli officials say that those responsible for assassinating Israel's tourism minister lived in the village and that at least four suspects were arrested there.
In a statement read by U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard, Mr. Annan says the Israeli attack at Beit Rima is particularly disturbing because it comes after calls by the United States and many other nations that Israel withdraw from Palestinian-controlled areas.
"The secretary-general reiterates that this further dangerous escalation, quite apart from being a breach of signed agreements, only deepens the cycle of violence in the region where tensions are already at a boiling point," the spokesman said.
The U.N. secretary-general also expressed concern about reports that Israeli forces would not allow Palestinian ambulances to reach the injured. An Israeli military official was quoted as saying the ambulances were barred only while the military operation was actually underway.
On Tuesday, The United Nations Security Council received a proposed resolution on the latest developments in the Mideast. Offered by the Organization of the Islamic Conference, the draft resolution demands the immediate withdrawal of Israeli forces from Palestinian-controlled territory and calls on both sides to work toward a resumption of negotiations. The Council held closed talks on the matter but has not decided if or when to bring the proposed resolution to a vote.