UNITED NATIONS — Palestinian officials have asked the U.N. Security Council to act to halt Israel's military operation in Gaza.
In a closed-door meeting of the Council on Wednesday night, U.N. observer Riyad Mansour said Israel was boasting publicly about killing Palestinians after conducting airstrikes that killed Hamas mastermind Ahmed Jabari. In the text of his statement, Mansour said "war crimes are being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people."
"The international community must act to bring to bring an end to Israel's illegal policies and practices against the Palestinian people" he said.
Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor said the strikes were launched in response to days of rocket fire out of Hamas-ruled Gaza. He said no one complained when Palestinians were "raining rockets on Israeli civilians," and that no nation would tolerate that.
"Hamas has turned Gaza into a dump of ammunition and weapons supplies brought in from Iran," he said.
Prosor said some of the representatives on the Council support Israel's "right of self-defense and condemned the indiscriminate shooting of rockets upon innocent Israeli citizens."
U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the Council that the United States "strongly condemned" the rocket fire from Gaza into southern Israel and expressed regret at the ensuing death and injury of innocent Israeli and Palestinian civilians.
But she added that "Hamas claims to have the best interest of the Palestinian people at heart, yet it continues to engage in violence that does nothing but set back the Palestinian cause. Attacking Israel on a near daily basis does nothing to help Palestinians in Gaza not to move the Palestinian people any closer to achieving self-determination and independence," Rice said.
India's Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, the council president this month, said he hoped the closed-door debate would "help de-escalate the situation and impress upon the parties to exercise maximum restraint.
"The violence has to stop," Puri said.
The council adjourned without issuing any collective statement, and no further action was on the schedule.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released statements saying he had spoken to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi about "the worrisome escalation of violence in southern Israel and Gaza and the need to prevent any further deterioration."