UPDATE 6-UN holds emergency session on Israel strikes, takes no action

Reuters Middle East

* Council deadlocked on Israeli-Palestinian conflict

* Obama, UN chief spoke with leaders of Israel and Egypt

* Ban urges Netanyahu to avoid "new cycle of bloodshed"

UNITED NATIONS, Nov 14 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council

held an emergency meeting on Wednesday night to discuss Israeli

strikes against the Gaza Strip b u t took no action, as Israel

threatened a wider offensive in the Palestinian enclave to stem

rocket salvoes by Hamas militants.

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the

15-nation Security Council this month, told reporters after the

90-minute closed-door meeting that council members had only

agreed to issue a communique stating that an emergency meeting

took place and other procedural details.

Speaking on behalf of India, not the Security Council, Puri

expressed the hope that the fact the council meeting took place

would help to ease tensions in the Middle East and prevent an

escalation of the conflict.

"The message that must be taken from this meeting is the

violence must stop," he said, adding that the council was

prepared to meet again on Gaza if necessary.

The Palestinians Authority had asked the council to issue a

statement urging Israel to halt its offensive, but no such

declaration was agreed.

Israel launched a new major offensive against Palestinian

Hamas militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing Hamas' military

commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the

enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of

hell."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office said

earlier in two separate statements that he spoke on the

telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and

President Mohamed Mursi of Egypt.

"(Ban) expressed his concern (to Netanyahu) about the

deteriorating situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip,

which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket

fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of

a Hamas military operative in Gaza," the United Nations said.

Ban also voiced his expectation that "Israeli reactions are

measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed."

He also discussed with Mursi "the need to prevent any

further deterioration," the United Nations said.

U.S. President Barack Obama also spoke with Netanyahu and

Mursi and reiterated U.S. support for Israel's right to

self-defense in light of rocket attacks from Gaza, the White

House said.

"The president urged Prime Minister Netanyahu to make every

effort to avoid civilian casualties. The two agreed that Hamas

needs to stop its attacks on Israel to allow the situation to

de-escalate," the White House statement said.

'MALICIOUS ONSLAUGHT'

The emergency Security Council meeting came at the request

of Egypt, Morocco and the Palestinians.

"Once again the international community is witness to

Israel's malicious onslaught," the Palestinian Authority's U.N.

envoy, Riyad Mansour, told the Security Council.

"The Israeli occupying forces are now mobilizing on the

ground as we speak," Mansour said. "Fear and panic are spreading

among the Palestinian civilian population."

The militant group Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority,

controls Gaza.

U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice told the council there was "no

justification for the violence that Hamas and other terrorist

organizations are employing against the people of Israel,"

according to the written text of her statement. "We call on

those responsible to stop these cowardly acts immediately."

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters as he left

the council that "we need to see how the situation develops."

Speaking to reporters, Israeli Ambassador Ron Prosor urged

the international community to condemn "indiscriminate rocket

fire against Israeli citizens - children, women." He was

referring to escalating Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.

A group of Arab ambassadors appeared before reporters ahead

of the council meeting. Speaking on their behalf, Sudanese

Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman urged the council to

condemn Israel's "barbaric heinous attack."

In a letter to the Security Council, Mansour also called for

an end to "extrajudicial killing."

Prosor described the Hamas military commander killed by

Israel, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, as a "mass murderer" who had been

planning fresh attacks against Israeli citizens.

The council's failure to take any action was not a surprise.

It is generally deadlocked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,

which envoys say is due to the U.S. determination to protect

Israel.

A new Gaza war has loomed for months as waves of Palestinian

rocket attacks and Israeli strikes have grown more intense and

frequent.

Mansour said the Israeli action was intended to draw

attention away from the Palestinians' plan to seek an upgrade of

its observer status at the United Nations from that of an

"entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing

Palestinian statehood.

Israel and the United States have made clear they would

oppose the Palestinian upgrade, which would give it the right to

join international bodies like the International Criminal Court,

where it could file legal complaints against Israel.

U.N. diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was

tentatively scheduled for Nov. 29. A senior Western diplomat

said the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes out

of the 193-nation General Assembly, which would ensure the

success of their upgraded status at the United Nations.

Prosor told the council that the Palestinian push for a

status upgrade was "march of folly."

"The Palestinian leadership is marching down a road that can

only lead to more conflict, instability and violence," he said.

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