UN 'gravely concerned' about Israeli ground invasion to Gaza: Envoy

UN is "gravely concerned" about any ground invasion of Gaza by Israel, which would simply worsen a conflict that has already killed hundreds, the UN envoy said.

UN 'gravely concerned' about Israeli ground invasion to Gaza: Envoy

The United Nations is "gravely concerned" about any ground invasion of Gaza by Israel, which would simply worsen a conflict that has already killed hundreds, the U.N. Middle East envoy said on Friday.

Israel is seven days into a campaign of air strikes into Palestine's Gaza Strip and its armored forces are massed on the Gaza border in preparation for a possible ground operation.

Asked by journalists about such an attack, U.N. envoy Robert Serry said, "We are gravely concerned about that prospect because that would just mean another cycle of violence and a further escalation of the conflict. This must stop.

"With Israeli tanks on Gaza's border, it is absolutely imperative now that we find an immediate and lasting way out to avoid an even deeper and deadlier conflict," Serry said by video link from Jerusalem

More than 430 Palestinians have been killed in the conflict so far and 2,000 wounded. Four Israelis have been killed.

Serry said that if a ceasefire could be achieved, "new conditions on the ground" would be needed to prevent a return to the situation that existed before the Israeli attack.

Serry also restated his support for a mechanism to monitor any ceasefire, an idea that has been floated by both Israelis and Palestinians. He would not go into detail on how such a mechanism would work, but said the United Nations was willing to play a role.

Security Council diplomats were working on Friday on the text of a resolution submitted on Wednesday by Arab states aimed at halting the Gaza violence. Western diplomats said the original draft was unbalanced, stressing Israeli actions but only hinting vaguely at the Palestinian rocket attacks.

Diplomats said the drafting work was expected to continue over the weekend and into next week, when senior Arab officials are due in New York to press the Arab case.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is expected on Sunday and ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and possibly elsewhere will arrive by Monday, diplomats and U.N. officials said.

Egypt, which a senior Palestinian official said on Friday had begun contacts with Hamas on ways of restoring a ceasefire, has urged Arabs to compromise over the U.N. text. Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said on Thursday, "We should show some flexibility to convince others of our demands."

Reuters
Last Mod: 03 Ocak 2009, 18:43
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