WASHINGTON – The United Nations Security Council unanimously called late Sunday night for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian cease-fire" in the fighting between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Yet after a night without rockets, Code Red sirens blared in Ashkelon around 7 am; Iron Dome intercepted the rocket fired at the city.
While this was the council's strongest statement yet on the Gaza war, it was not a resolution and therefore not binding.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke with UN chief Ban Ki-moon, according to a statement from his office, in which he voiced his dismay with the announcement. "It does not include a response to Israel's security needs and the demilitarization of the Gaza Strip," he said.
Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour also did not hide his disappointment.
He said the council should have adopted a strong and legally binding resolution a long time ago demanding an immediate halt to Israel's "aggression," providing the Palestinian people with protection and lifting the siege in the Gaza Strip so goods and people can move freely.
"You cannot keep 1.8 million Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip in this huge prison," Mansour told reporters. "That is a recipe for disaster. It is inhumane, and it has to be stopped and it has to be lifted."
Israeli UN ambassador Ron Prosor also criticized the statement - though from a very different perspective - saying it lacked balance because it didn't mention Hamas, the firing of rockets into Israel or Israel's right to defend itself.
The Security Council statement, drafted by Jordan, "urged all parties to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire into the Eid period and beyond" and "calls on parties to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected ceasefire, based on the Egyptian initiative."
The council's presidential statement also called on the parties "to engage in efforts to achieve a durable and fully respected cease-fire, based on the Egyptian initiative."
International diplomats have hoped that a temporary lull in the fighting could be expanded into a more sustainable truce to end the bloodshed.
Earlier Sunday night, US President Barack Obama spoke to Netanyahu on the phone, also demanding an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that would later lead to a permanent end to hostilities in Gaza based on the 2012 ceasefire agreement reached at the end of Operation Pillar of Defense.
Obama also reiterated American support for the Egyptian ceasefire initiative.
The US president once again condemned Hamas' rocket fire, and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself, while at the same time expressing Washington's growing concern of the rising number of Palestinian and Israeli casualties and the worsening humanitarian condition in Gaza.
The President underscored the enduring importance of ensuring Israel’s security, protecting civilians, alleviating Gaza’s humanitarian crisis, and enacting a sustainable ceasefire that both allows Palestinians in Gaza to lead normal lives and addresses Gaza’s long-term development and economic needs, while strengthening the Palestinian Authority," a White House statement said.
"The President stressed the US view that, ultimately, any lasting solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict must ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza," it went on to say.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.