The UN Security Council did not discuss during Saturday’s emergency meeting demands made by several Arab countries that it condemn Israel’s Gaza offensive, which was launched in response to the kidnapping of Corporal Gilad Shalit, and the recent arrests of senior Hamas officials in the West Bank.
The discussion was summoned by Algeria, which heads the Arab bloc at the council, and was initiated by Iran in accordance with the Palestinian delegation to the UN.
Israel, for its part, insisted to an emergency session of the 15-nation council that its military presence was limited to a small part of southern Gaza and intended to prevent a kidnapped Israeli soldier from being smuggled out of the area.
Daniel Carmon, Israel's deputy UN ambassador said Israel was doing all it could to minimize harm to Palestinian civilians and planned immediate steps to ease the humanitarian situation on the ground.
Many Middle East leaders recognized that Khaled Mashaal was "the key to resolving this humanitarian crisis" through Shalit's safe return, he said, noting the many pleas for his release directed at the Syrian government.
Palestinian UN Observer Riyad Mansour painted a dire picture of conditions in Gaza, where Israeli forces have bombed water pipelines and the area's sole power plant and attacked the Interior Ministry with missiles.
“In the West Bank, Israel had kidnapped at least 64 Palestinians including eight Hamas Cabinet ministers and 24 members of the Palestinian Legislative Council,” he said.
"The council cannot continue to remain passive in the face of such a military aggression against a defenseless civilian population," Mansour said, calling for approval of a resolution condemning the incursion and urging the prompt withdrawal of Israeli forces and the release of detained officials.
Earlier Mansour accused Israel of trying to re-conquer the Gaza Strip, saying that the IDF operation in which bridges and water infrastructures were destroyed left many Palestinians without food and water.
'Best way to resolve crisis: Shalit's release
“This is a crime against humanity, which is hurting 1.3 million Palestinians. The Gaza Strip is under siege, no one can enter or leave,” he said.
He added that “the Council must adopt an appropriate decision which will not allow aggressiveness.”
US ambassador to the UN John Bolton called for caution. "We should not undermine the limited credibility of the council by engaging in debate and rhetoric merely for their own sake," he said.
The best way to resolve the crisis was for Hamas to quickly and unconditionally release the captured Israeli corporal, Gilad Shalit, he said.
"The United States is of the firm view that a prerequisite for ending this conflict is that the governments of Syria and Iran end their role as state sponsors of terror and unequivocally condemn the actions of Hamas, including Shalit's kidnapping,” Bolton said.
'Israel's performance has been pretty good'
Syria also should arrest Hamas leader and "known international terrorist" Mashaal, who lives in Damascus, and shut down Hamas offices on its territory, he added.
Bolton, however, noted the Group of Eight industrialized nations, including the United States, had on Thursday expressed concern about the Palestinian officials' detention.
"We call on all parties to avoid action that can escalate this situation or harm innocent civilians while acknowledging Israel's unequivocal right to defend itself and the lives of its citizens," the US envoy said.
France called on Israel on Friday to free captured Palestinian ministers and said both sides must move to reduce escalating tensions.
Foreign Ministry spokesman Jean-Baptiste Mattei said France fears that the situation will "feed an escalation and strengthen the most extreme elements, which is doubtless not Israel's objective."
Prior to the emergency meeting Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni spoke to US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice for the fourth time in the last three days. Following the conversation State Department spokesman Adam Ereli said, “Israel has taken actions it deems necessary for its defense. In terms of the protection of innocents, performance has been pretty good.”
He said that Israel’s arrest of the Palestinian Cabinet members from Hamas and dozens of Hamas officials “raises particular concerns.”