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Palestine seeks strong Security Council message to Israel
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A Palestine envoy on Saturday called for the UN Security Council "to send a very strong message" to Israel requesting "an immediate cease-fire" in the Gaza Strip.

"We expressed the strong desire for the Security Council tonight to send a very strong message by adopting a presidential statement that would request or demand from Israel an immediate cease-fire," Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian UN observer, told reporters.

Mansour made the statement as the Security Council met behind closed doors hours after Israel launched a ground operation into Gaza that followed an eight-day assault on the territory.

Earlier, Palestinian representatives and Arab countries had been pushing the Security Council to adopt a binding draft resolution to condemn Israel and demand an immediate truce.

"When you have 3,000 Palestinians killed and injured in a span of one week and now we are moving into the second phase of this aggression -- the ground phase," Mansour said. "If it is not stopped immediately, then we will have thousands more Palestinian civilians killed and injured."

"This is immoral, this is illegal, and this is unacceptable," he said.

"Now we're in the second week of this aggression, without seeing the Security Council bring its will, and in such a way to bring Israel into compliance with its call" for an immediate cease-fire, he said.

In a statement issued earlier, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon repeated his appeal for an urgent end to the violence and "urged regional and international partners to exert all possible influence to bring about an immediate end to the bloodshed and suffering."

Ban voiced his "extreme concern and disappointment" in an telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmet, the statement said.

The Security Council and Ban repeatedly called upon both Israel and Hamas to immediately end the violence in Gaza and southern Israel.

Israel has cited rocket and other attacks by militants in Gaza against Israeli civilians as the reason for its military offensive and the closure of crossings into Gaza for much of the past two months.

(Xinhua News Agency January 4, 2009)
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