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UNSC shocked but doesn't condemn Israeli attack

The Council expresses "extreme shock and distress" at the Israeli shelling of Qana village that killed 57 people.

india Updated: Jul 31, 2006 11:50 IST

The UN Security Council expressed "extreme shock and distress" at the Israeli attack that killed at least 57 people in the southern Lebanese village of Qana.

A resolution passed unanimously by the 15-nation Security Council was directed at "the shelling by the Israeli defence forces of a residential building in Qana, in southern Lebanon, which has caused the killing of dozens of civilians, mostly children, and injured many others."

After sessions earlier in the day, the vote late Sunday concluded six hours of meetings. The resolution was read aloud by Jean-Marc de La Sabliere, the French representative to the UN and current president of the Security Council.

The US blocked a stronger statement that would have directly condemned Israel. The Israeli military says that the Qana incident was a "tragic" accident of war.

The Security Council also discussed the Israeli announcement that for 48 hours it would limit air strikes in southern Lebanon to targets that directly threatened Israel.

At the emergency session, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan criticised Israeli actions, saying: "We must condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. I am deeply dismayed that my earlier calls for an immediate cessation of hostilities were not heeded."

The cessation would give Israel time to investigate Sunday's deaths of at least 57 people in Qana, while allowing Lebanese civilians a period of safe passage to leave the area.

Israel and Hezbollah, the Shia militia based in southern Lebanon, have been battling since July 12, when Hezbollah fighters captured two Israeli soldiers at the Lebanese border.

Diplomats at the UN said that the news of the temporary cessation of air strikes received a positive response among Security Council members.

Washington has previously blocked attempts to demand an immediate ceasefire, favouring Israel's contention that a durable end to hostilities is not possible without the disarmament of Hezbollah, which has continually launched missiles into northern Israel since July 12.

The closed-door session at UN headquarters in New York included Israeli Ambassador to UN Dan Gillerman. Earlier on Sunday, Gillerman offered apologies for civilian casualties in Lebanon while noting that Hezbollah celebrates civilian deaths caused by its rocket strikes into Israel.