US Thwarts UN Gaza Ceasefire Call

The US thwarted on Sunday, January 4, a UN Security Council statement calling for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, insisting a return to the situation that existed before Israel’s ground invasion was unacceptable.

"The efforts we are making internationally are designed to establish a sustainable, durable ceasefire that’s respected by all," US deputy envoy Alejandro Wolff told reporters after the consultations.

"And that means no more rocket attacks. It means no more smuggling of arms."

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.

A draft statement submitted 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".

It made no mention of Palestinian rocket attacks on Israel, angering Washington.

Wolff said his country believes it was important that the region "not return to the status quo" that had allowed Hamas to fire rockets into Israel.

Israeli infantry backed up by Merkava tanks and Apache helicopters poured into Gaza late on Saturday, January 3, after eight days of massive strikes that have claimed the lives of at least 460 Palestinians, including more than 100 women and children.

The Israeli troops clashed with Palestinian resistance fighters and fierce battles raged in four spots in the north, around Gaza City, Beit Hanun, Beit Lahiya and Jabaliya.

The Israeli army has admitted that thirty soldiers have been wounded, including two severely, in the fighting.

Sad Day

Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi said the impasse had produced "a sad day for the Security Council" as it failed once again "to voice its outrage at the escalation of the situation in Gaza."

Permanent Palestinian observer at the UN Riyad Mansour warned that if the Israeli assault is not stopped immediately, thousands more Palestinian civilians will be killed and injured.

"This is immoral, this is illegal, this is unacceptable, and the Security Council cannot continue to sit on its hands and not force Israel to comply with its position, the position that it adopted on Sunday morning."

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."

As Israel’s closest ally, Washington has regularly vetoed Security Council resolutions it sees as too critical of Israel.

On Thursday, January 1, it blocked a legally binding resolution that would have condemned Israel’s massive airstrikes against Gaza, a coastal enclave of nearly 1.6 million.

In Cairo, Arab League Secretary General Amr Mussa criticized the Security Council, saying the delay in agreeing on a resolution was proof of failure to handle the conflict.

"The continuation of…the international community and the Security Council ignoring this situation is a very dangerous thing."

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the UN Security Council presidency this month, had condemned the Israeli ground operation.

"This dangerous military escalation complicates the efforts undertaken by the international community, in particular the EU and France, the members of the Quartet, and the states in the region to stop the fighting, bring immediate aid to civilians and find a permanent ceasefire."

( and Agencies)

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