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Palestinian envoy pleads for UN action to stop Gaza violence

July 23, 2014 11:08 A.M. (Updated: July 23, 2014 7:49 P.M.)
UNITED NATIONS (AFP) -- The Palestinian envoy to the United Nations held up photographs of children slain in Gaza and read out names of the dead on Tuesday as he pleaded for action from the Security Council.

"On behalf of the Palestinian people, we ask: What is the international community doing to stop this bloodletting, to stop Israel's atrocities?" Riyad Mansour said during a debate on the Gaza crisis.

Wearing a black ribbon, he showed photographs of families overcome with grief and of children's corpses, and read out the names of young victims who lost their lives. "Umama Al-Hayyeh, age 9; Dima Isleem, age 2; Mohamad Ayyad, age 2; Rahaf Abu Jumaa, age 4..."

During an emergency session on Sunday, the Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire and demanded protection for civilians, but it fell short of taking the stronger step of adopting a formal resolution.

"Without decisive action, the Council's resolutions and statements ring hollow as defenseless civilians find no relief from the murderous Israeli war machine," said Mansour.

Jordan submitted a draft resolution that called for an immediate ceasefire, protection for civilians and the withdrawal of Israeli forces from the Gaza Strip.

The draft text, seen by AFP, calls for lifting the Israeli blockade of Gaza and renewed efforts to achieve a two-state peace deal for Israel and Palestine.

It remained unclear when the measure would come up for discussion before the divided Council, with the United States expected to raise objections over the text.

Envoys from some 60 countries lined up to address the Security Council as Israel kept up its barrage of shells and air strikes and Hamas militants hit back with rockets, pushing the Palestinian death toll to more than 600 -- including more than 150 children -- in a conflict now in its third week.

Israel's 'last resort'

Israel's deputy envoy asserted that his country was acting in self-defense against Hamas, which it accused of using Palestinian casualties as "fuel for a propaganda machine."

"This is not a war we chose. It was our last resort," said David Roet.

Arab countries however questioned Israel's claim that it was acting in self-defense, pointing to the heavy toll among Palestinian civilians, in particular women and children.

"The Torah says an eye for an eye. It never claimed 100 eyes for just one," said Egypt's Ambassador Mootaz Ahmadein Khalil.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon told the Council by videolink from Ramallah that his efforts to secure a ceasefire had reached a "highly sensitive moment" and voiced hope for results "in the very near future."

World leaders have expressed alarm over the rising death toll, with US Secretary of State John Kerry also holding talks in Cairo to shore up Egypt's efforts to broker a truce.

US Ambassador Samantha Power warned that the humanitarian crisis could worsen in Gaza and stressed that "the only solution is an immediate ceasefire."

More than 100,000 Palestinians have fled their homes and are sheltering in schools run by the UN relief agency UNRWA.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
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