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Israel, Palestine trade accusations

Israeli and Palestinian officials trade harsh words during a UNSC meeting amid violence which killed 108 Palestinians and three Israelis in the past month.

world Updated: Jan 31, 2008 12:48 IST

Israeli and Palestinian officials traded harsh words during a UN Security Council (UNSC) meeting, which heard that military actions on both sides have killed 108 Palestinians and three Israelis in the past month.

"There is no balance and no justice in the continuation of such a situation in the occupied Palestinian territory," Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour said on Wednesday. "Once more, Israel remains unaccountable for its human rights violations and its grave breaches of the fourth Geneva Convention."

Mansour was referring to the convention that protects civilians in conflict zones.

Rockets fired into southern Israel by the militant group Hamas have led to a series of deadly strikes on the Gaza Strip by Israel, which has also closed its border to Gaza and restricted supplies.

"Hamas does not have the word 'humanitarian' in its vocabulary," Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman retorted to Mansour.

Gillerman said more than 4,200 rockets and mortars have been fired into southern Israel since Hamas took over Gaza more than a year ago. He said the 230,000 Israelis who live in the south of the country have had no normal life.

Mansour also took a swipe at the US, which has sought a balanced reaction by the council and said ending the latest round of violence is the responsibility of both sides. The Arab nation bloc at the UN mostly accused the US of siding with Israel.

The Palestinian diplomat said the situation in Gaza remains that of "a foreign occupation of an entire people with the daily violation of their basic rights by means of collective punishment, military aggression and other illegal measures."

The exchange between Mansour and Gillerman took place during the monthly session of the council on the situation in the Middle East. But this time around, the council allowed speakers to debate publicly on the situation in contrast to closed-door discussion in previous meetings.

The UN said the Palestinians continued to endure power and water cuts by Israel, but it did not protest an Israeli Supreme Court decision Wednesday that said reductions of fuel and electricity supply to Gaza since September were legal.

B Lynn Pascoe, UN undersecretary general for political affairs, said UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon had "noted with concern" the Israeli decision to impose the sanctions on the 1.4 million Palestinians in Gaza who "should not be punished for the unacceptable actions of the militants and extremists".

Pascoe briefed the UNSC on developments in the Middle East in the past month, saying the military activities on both sides also injured 229 Palestinians and 24 Israelis.

Pascoe said the levels of violence had abated significantly in the last week, despite Palestinian militants firing 77 rockets and mortars into southern Israel and the Israeli Defence Force launching four incursions and air strikes into Gaza.

The 15-nation council Tuesday shelved a proposed statement that would have condemned the violence because of deep disagreement among its members.

Arab diplomats blamed the US for the council's failure to take a stand on Gaza, while the US was opposed to any declaration by the council that it considered unbalanced.