Thursday, January 1, 2009

UN fails to make progress on Gaza

UN fails to make progress on Gaza

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The UN Security Council has discussed a draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire to halt the Israeli-Palestinian violence.

But the meeting failed to vote on the Libyan draft after ambassadors from the US and UK said it contained nothing about Palestinian attacks on Israel.

The draft condemned Israel's military action and called on it to cease.

Earlier, Israeli PM Ehud Olmert rejected calls for a 48-hour truce to allow more humanitarian aid into Gaza.

In New York, the Palestinian envoy to the UN, Rijad Mansour, demanded a binding resolution to secure an immediate truce.

But the Israeli ambassador, Gabriela Shalev, said her country would continue to do whatever necessary to protect itself against what she called terrorism.

The US ambassador at the UN - who as one of the permanent Security Council members can veto any resolution - said that he believed it was up to Israel and Hamas themselves to agree to a ceasefire, and that the UN should not impose one.

France's President Nicolas Sarkozy has said he would visit the region in a bid to end the crisis, which has seen five days of Israeli raids and Hamas rocket fire.

But Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has threatened to pull out of peace talks.

He called the Israeli bombardment of Gaza "barbaric and criminal aggression" and said he "would not hesitate to stop" peace talks with the Israelis "if they go against our interests and offer a support to aggression".

After meeting his cabinet on Wednesday, Prime Minister Olmert said conditions were not right for a ceasefire, but he did not rule one out in the future.

"If conditions will ripen, and we think there can be a diplomatic solution that will ensure a better security reality in the south, we will consider it. But at the moment, it's not there," he was quoted by aides as telling the cabinet.

"We did not launch the Gaza operation only to end it with the same rocket firing that we had at its start," Mr Olmert said.

In the last five days, Israeli jets and attack helicopters have hit Hamas targets, including security compounds, government buildings, smuggling tunnels under the border with Egypt and homes belonging to militant leaders.

Palestinian officials say 391 Palestinians have died in the Israeli air strikes; four Israelis have been killed by rockets fired from Gaza, which is under Hamas control.

The southern Israeli town of Beersheba was hit, the deepest penetration by rockets so far.

International calls have been mounting for both sides to call off the attacks as hospitals in Gaza struggle to cope with the scale of the casualties and supplies of food and fuel run low.

The UN Security Council meeting on the eve of the new year was convened at the request of the Arab League.

Arab League foreign ministers meeting in Cairo want a binding UN resolution to ensure an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and a lifting of the Israeli blockade of the territory.

France's President Sarkozy said he would travel to the Middle East on Monday because "France's duty was to look everywhere for the roadmap towards peace".

He will first meet Israeli Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni in Paris on Thursday.

Hamas conditions

Israel has massed forces along the boundary with Gaza and has declared the area around it a "closed military zone" leading to speculation a ground offensive into the tiny coastal strip could be imminent.

"Our people will defeat those tanks," said the Hamas leader in Gaza, Ismail Haniya, adding that Hamas would only discuss a ceasefire if Israel first stopped its bombing.

"If the aggression is halted unconditionally and the blockade is lifted and the [border] passages are opened, we then can discuss all issues in a positive manner," he said in a televised address.

US President George W Bush repeated his earlier statement that the onus was on Hamas to take the first step to ending hostilities by halting rocket fire into Israel.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Egypt Blames Hamas For Violence in Gaza
Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit has made a public statement of Egypt's assessment of where the blame for the current Gaza conflict resides and blame is being placed with Hamas and it's leadership.
Egypt's foreign minister said on Thursday that Hamas must ensure rocket fire stops in any truce deal to halt Israel's assault on the Gaza Strip, criticizing the Palestinian group for giving Israel an excuse to launch the bombardment.
The problems Gheit appears to be referencing would be the daily Kassam rocket and mortar attacks which Hamas has allowed, encouraged and supported on the towns of Southern Israel. He criticized Hamas, saying Egypt had seen "the signals that Israel was determined to strike Hamas in Gaza for the past three months. They practically wrote it in the sky."
"Such an outspoken complaint from Egypt to Hamas signals a significant deterioration in the working relationship between the Militant Hamas and Moderate Egypt.
While the Hamas leadership was safely tucked away in bunkers, the Hamas leadership had left the rank and file security personnel, police and public to their own devices and to protect themselves.
"Where are the Hamas leaders now, when the residents of Gaza are getting killed? All of Hamas's leadership is in bunkers," stated Muhammad Bassiouny