UN: (Agencies: 4/1/2009): The UN Security Council late Saturday failed to agree on a statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip in the wake of Israel’s ground invasion of the Palestinian territory that had sparked worldwide condemnation.
After nearly four hours of closed-door consultations, members of the council emerged without reaching agreement that would have asked Israel and Hamas to end eight-day hostilities that have claimed the lives of at least 460 Palestinians.
The meeting was the Security Council‘s third since the conflict erupted on December 27.
A draft statement submitted earlier for the council’s consideration by Libya on behalf of the Arab League had expressed "serious concern" about the ground invasion and called on the parties "to observe an immediate ceasefire and for its full respect".
However, the document made no mention of the ongoing Hamas rocket attacks on Israeli territory that Israel said prompted its retaliatory offensive against Gaza, and the British and US ambassadors said the draft seemed too partial.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called for an "immediate" halt to the violence and urged Israel to allow humanitarian aid into the impoverished Palestinian territory.
A statement released by Ban’s office before the Security Council meeting said the secretary general had spoken to Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and "conveyed his extreme concern and disappointment."
"He called for an immediate end to the ground operation, and asked that Israel do all possible to ensure the protection of civilians and that humanitarian assistance is able to reach those in need," the statement went on to say.
Permanent Palestinian observer at the United Nations Riyad Mansour warned that if the Israeli assault is not stopped immediately, thousands more Palestinian civilians will be killed and injured.
UN General Assembly President Miguel d’Escoto of Nicaragua called the Israeli incursion "a monstrosity."
"And once again, the world is watching in dismay the dysfunctionality of the Security Council," D’Escoto argued.