Israel ignores UN ceasefire demand

Israel said today it will not stop its offensive in the Gaza Strip despite a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Israel said today it will not stop its offensive in the Gaza Strip despite a UN Security Council resolution calling for a ceasefire.

Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s office said the military “will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given.”

The statement said Palestinian rocket fire today showed the Security Council’s call for a ceasefire “is not practical.”

The statement is the first official Israeli response to the council’s resolution which was passed late last night.

The Israeli refusal came as jets and helicopters continued to bombard Gaza and Hamas fired a barrage of rockets into southern Israel. By midday 19 Palestinians had been killed taking their death toll to about 760 in the two-week-old conflict, at least half of them civilians.

Mr Olmert’s statement said Israel “has never agreed to let an external body decide its right to protect the security of its citizens.”

The military “will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given,” read the statement.

The rockets that continued to fall in Israel on Friday “only prove that the UN’s decision is not practical and will not be kept in practice by the Palestinian murder organisations.”

Israel launched its assault on Dec. 27 in an attempt to halt years of rocket fire from the Hamas-controlled territory.

Despite the devastating offensive, Hamas continued to bombard residents of southern Israel. Rockets hit across southern Israel, including in and around Beersheba and Ashkelon, which – like other cities within rocket range of Gaza - have largely been paralysed since the fighting began.

The UN Security Council resolution was approved last night by a 14-0 vote, with the United States abstaining. The resolution “stresses the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza.”

Israel and Hamas were not parties to the council vote and it is now up to them to stop the fighting. But a Hamas spokesman said the Islamic militant group “is not interested” in the cease-fire because it was not consulted and the resolution did not meet its minimum demands.

The Security Council action came hours after a UN agency suspended food deliveries to Gaza, and the Red Cross accused Israel of blocking medical assistance after forces fired on aid workers. It also followed concerns of a wider conflict after militants in Lebanon fired rockets into northern Israel yesterday, although the border has been quiet since.

The United States abstained from the Security Council vote even though it helped hammer out the resolution’s text along with Arab nations that have ties to Hamas and the Palestinians in the Israeli-occupied territories.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said it “fully supports” the resolution but abstained “to see the outcomes of the Egyptian mediation” with Israel and Hamas, also aimed at achieving a cease-fire.

The resolution expresses “grave concern” at the escalating violence and the deepening humanitarian crisis in Gaza and emphasises the need to open all border crossings and achieve a lasting solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict.

It also calls on UN member states “to intensify efforts to provide arrangements and guarantees in Gaza in order to sustain a durable cease-fire and calm, including to prevent illicit trafficking in arms and ammunition and to ensure the sustained reopening” of border crossings.

In addition, the resolution “condemns all violence and hostilities directed against civilians” and calls for “unimpeded humanitarian access to Gaza.”

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