Ban condemns Israel after bloody day in Gaza

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Israel for using "excessive" force in the Gaza Strip and demanded a halt to its offensive after troops killed 61 people on the bloodiest day for Palestinians since the 1980s.

Ban condemns Israel after bloody day in Gaza
Addressing an emergency session of the Security Council in New York after four days of fighting in which 96 Palestinians have been killed, many of them civilians, Ban also called on Gaza's Islamist fighters to stop firing rockets.

The 1.5 million Palestinians crammed into the blockaded, 45 km (30-mile) sliver of coast, enjoyed a relative respite early on Sunday from Israeli air strikes and raids. Two Israeli soldiers died in a ground assault on Saturday. An Israeli civilian was killed by a rocket in a border town on Wednesday.

"While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children ... I call on Israel to cease such attacks," said Ban.

"I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks and call for the immediate cessation of such acts." he said.

But there was no sign the government was ready to call off an offensive that took troops deeper into Gaza on Saturday and in larger numbers than at any time since Israel ended a 38-year occupation in 2005.

Senior Israeli diplomat Daniel Carmon dismissed suggestions Israel was guilty of war crimes.

Palestinian officials said the day's bloodshed was the worst since an "intifada" or uprising against Israeli occupation broke out in 2000, halting an earlier peace process. Not since a first intifada in the 1980s had so many died in a day, they said.

No resolution against Israel!

Diplomats said the Security Council was unlikely to adopt a Libyan resolution that condemns Israel's killing of civilians.

European diplomats said they believed the world body should at least make some comment on bloodshed which some say jeopardizes the new U.S.-backed peace talks between Israel and Abbas, who holds sway now only in the occupied West Bank.

Abbas's chief peace negotiator Ahmed Qurie called off a meeting scheduled for Monday with his Israeli counterpart, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni, Israeli officials said.

But Abbas, who echoed widespread Palestinian outrage at Israel's tactics by calling it "more than holocaust," had taken no decision to abandon the peace process, aides said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is due to meet Abbas and Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert this week to try to accelerate faltering negotiations which President George W. Bush hopes can forge a peace deal before he leaves office in January.

Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said: "If Israeli aggression continues, it will bury the peace process."


Agencies
Last Mod: 02 Mart 2008, 13:32
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