An Israeli tank runs in southern Israel bordering the Gaza Strip Dec. 29, 2008. Israel rejected French proposal for 48-hour ceasefire on Wednesday and decided to continue its offensive on the ongoing offensive at the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, on Dec. 31, 2008. [Yin Bogu/Xinhua]
The UN Security Council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday evening to discuss the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the Gaza Strip, the UN Spokesperson's Office announced.
The Council meeting is scheduled to begin at 6:00 p.m. EST (23:00 GMT) on Wednesday, and will focus on the Gaza conflict and the current situation in the Middle East, the UN announcement said.
It will be the second emergency Council meeting since early Sunday. After the previous meeting, the Council issued a statement that called for an immediate end to the violence and bloodshed in Gaza.
The announcement came as UN Secretary-general Ban Ki-moon intensified his diplomatic efforts toward a ceasefire after other UN officials voiced their disappointment that Israel has so far rejected the idea of a 48-hour lull.
The 15-member Council is to hold the urgent meeting behind closed doors "with a view to have a formal meeting," which means an open Council meeting at which members can make public statements and consider any document put before them, the announcement said.
Ban is "on full alert" as he intensifies diplomatic efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza fighting, the deputy UN spokesperson, Marie Okabe, said at a press conference here on Wednesday.
Ban is "continuing to work the phones," speaking with Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Tuesday and the foreign ministers of Brazil and Canada on Wednesday, Okabe said, as the surge of Israeli airstrikes on Gaza and Hamas rocket attacks into Israel entered the fifth day.
"He will be on full alert over the coming days as he continues to do what he can to work toward a ceasefire," Okabe said, as humanitarian officials painted a grim picture of the situation in Gaza with many people facing "a life or death situation," grave shortages of vital supplies such as food, and fuel-starved hospitals confronting their largest ever trauma caseloads.
"We're obviously very disappointed that the proposal for a 48-hour lull or ceasefire, whatever you want to call it, has been rejected but we hope that diplomatic efforts to achieve a ceasefire will bear some fruit in the coming days," UN Under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator John Holmes told the same news conference.
(Xinhua News Agency January 1, 2009)