Palestinian president pleads with UN Security Council for help in Gaza

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas has urged the United Nations Security Council to call for Israel to immediately cease aggression in the Gaza Strip. He also called for the lifting of the "suffocating siege" of Gaza. Israel began ground operations in Gaza on Saturday.

"I call on the council to take the first necessary step to save my people in Gaza: a resolution calling for an immediate full cessation of Israeli aggression," he told the 15-member council. According to medics, the Israeli invasion has cost the lives of 660 Palestinians, 220 of which are children.

"The loss of civilian life in Gaza and Israel is a source of deep concern for me," said United States President-elect Barack Obama.

Current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has told the Council that the United States is deeply concerned about the "clearly worsening" situation.

"We need very much to find a solution to this problem in the short term," she said. "But it really must be a solution this time that doesn't allow Hamas to use Gaza as launching pad against Israeli cities. It has to be a solution that does not allow the rearmament of Hamas, and it must be a solution that finds a way to open crossings so that Palestinians in Gaza can have normal life."

In the face of such terrorism we have no choice.

—Gabriela Shalev, Israel's envoy to the United Nations

Meanwhile, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has been pushing for an immediate ceasefire.

"[Egypt] invites the Israelis and Palestinians for an urgent meeting to reach arrangements and guarantees that would not allow the repeat of the current escalation," Mr. Mubarak said. Mr. Abbas expressed support for the invitation. Israel is yet to respond.

Israel's envoy to the United Nations, Gabriela Shalev, made no mention of the proposal by Mr. Mubarak in her speech to the Security Council. She stated, however, that the incursion had dealt heavy blows to the infrastructure of Hamas. She reiterated that Israel had no choice in the face of such attacks but to act.

"In the face of such terrorism we have no choice," Ms. Shalev said. "We have to defend ourselves - not from the Palestinian people, but from the terrorists who have taken them hostage."

While denying that there is a crisis in the Gaza Strip, the office of Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert will open what it calls a "humanitarian corridor" into the territory.

"This involves opening up geographical areas for limited periods of time during which the population will be able to receive the aid and stock up," the office said.