Monday, January 5, 2009

US Blocks UN Security Council Action on Gaza

EU and Britain call for Gaza cease-fire

(CNN) -- International envoys scrambled to the Middle East Sunday to try to end an Israeli assault on Gaza in response to months of rocket fire from Palestinians.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has called for an immediate cease-fire in Gaza.

A European Union team was expected to arrive in Egypt on Sunday before continuing to Israel and the Palestinian territories on Monday. Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, who is now an international envoy focusing on Israel and the Palestinians, was due to meet Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Defense Minister Ehud Barak later on Sunday.

And Russian President Dmitri Medvedev's special representative for the region, Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Saltanov, flew to the region Sunday, the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy will head to the region Monday to meet Palestinian and Israeli leaders, French Foreign Ministry spokesman Eric Chevallier said Sunday. Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas will meet Sarkozy in Ramallah, then head to New York for meetings at the United Nations later in the week.

The flurry of diplomats follows an Israeli ground incursion into Gaza late Saturday after a week of air raids. At least 485 Palestinians have been killed, most of them militants but also including about 70 children and 30 women, Palestinian medical sources said.
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Four Israelis have died in rocket attacks, and a soldier Sunday became the first Israeli combatant killed in action since Israel launched its ground incursion on Saturday night. Israel says it is trying to stop rocket fire from Gaza, which is controlled by the Hamas movement.

The EU said Sunday the rocket attacks did not justify Israel's incursion.

"Even the undisputable right of the state to defend itself does not allow actions which largely affect civilians," the EU presidency said in a statement, calling for a cease-fire.

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown Sunday also called for an "immediate cease-fire."

Brown said the Palestinians "need humanitarian aid, but the Israelis must have some assurance that there are no rocket attacks coming into Israel."

He was speaking on the BBC's "Andrew Marr Show."

He said he had spoken to Olmert three times in the last few days, and that British Foreign Minister David Miliband had also been in touch with top Israeli government ministers about "the guarantees that they need for the action to stop."

He said he had "tried talking" to Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority, but did not say he had spoken to Hamas, which controls Gaza and is the target of Israel's attacks.
"First we need an immediate cease-fire -- and that includes the stopping of the rockets into Israel. Secondly, we need some resolution of the problems over arms trafficking into Gaza. And, thirdly, we need the borders, the crossings open, and that will need some international solution," he said.

He called on "international powers," Egypt, and the Arab League to play a role in ending the crisis, which has left at least 460 Palestinians dead since air raids began in late December, according to Palestinian medical sources.
US Blocks UN Security Council Action on Gaza

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