U.S., Britain derail U.N. cease-fire statement

(JTA) — The United Nations Security Council failed to agree on a statement calling for an immediate cease-fire in the Gaza Strip.

The Security Council met in a four-hour emergency session Saturday night just hours after Israel began its ground invasion of Gaza. It was the council’s third meeting since the Gaza operation, dubbed Operation Cast Lead, began Dec. 27.

The United States and Britain rejected a draft statement that had been submitted earlier by Libya, representing the Arab League, calling for an immediate cease-fire and expressing concern about Israel’s operation. It made no mention of Hamas rocket attacks on Israel.

"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," the Palestinians’ permanent observer at the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, was quoted as saying by the French news agency.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for an immediate end to the ground operation and demanded that Israel continue to allow humanitarian assistance to reach Gaza civilians. Ban made the demands in a telephone conversation with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert shortly after the ground operation began.

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