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UN Security Council convenes on Gaza conflict
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UN Security Council convened on Tuesday over the Israel-Hamas conflict in Gaza, intensifying the international diplomatic drive to push for an early end to the ongoing assault.

Arab countries presented a draft resolution to the 15-nation council, calling for an immediate end to the conflict, which has reportedly killed more than 570 Palestinians and wounded some 2,700 others as it moved into its 11th day on Tuesday.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said at an open Security Council meeting on Tuesday that he intended to travel to Israel and the occupied Palestinian territory next week as well as to regional capitals.

"But I do not believe we can wait until then to end the violence. We must achieve that now," Ban said.

At the UN Headquarters in New York, Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas pressed the Security Council to adopt the proposed draft resolution, jointly hammered out by Libya, the only Arab member on the Security Council, and a team of Arab foreign ministers led by Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa.

The draft resolution met with strong objection from the United States, which blocked the approval of a Security Council statement to demand an immediate and durable ceasefire in the region, Palestinian diplomatic sources said.

The resolution called for an immediate and permanent ceasefire in Gaza and demanded full respect of the ceasefire by both parties.

It called for the immediate lifting of the Israeli blockade on Gaza and for the sustained opening of Gaza's border crossing with Israel.

Israel should "ensure the unhindered and safe access of humanitarian aid and other essential supplies," including food, medicines and fuel, to the Palestinian civilian population in Gaza, as well as the safe passage of civilian persons and humanitarian personnel into and from Gaza in accordance with international humanitarian law, it said.

The resolution also urged "the establishment and deployment of an international observer force to monitor implementation of the ceasefire, to ensure the protection and safety of the Palestinian civilian population, and to promote the restoration of calm."

It called for continued efforts aimed at achieving Palestinian national reconciliation and unity under the auspices of Egypt in accordance with the League of Arab States resolution of Nov. 26, 2005.

The UN Security Council session adjourned on Tuesday night and is scheduled to resume at 11:00 a.m. EST (1600 GMT) on Wednesday.  

United Nations Security Council holds a meeting on Gaza crisis at the UN headquarters in New York, the United States, Jan. 6, 2009. [Hou Jun/Xinhua] 

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