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UN Security Council may agree position on Gaza - Russian envoy

RIA Novosti

07/01/2009 12:48 UNITED NATIONS, January 7 (RIA Novosti) - Two days of UN Security Council discussions on Gaza could end on Wednesday with a resolution or non-binding presidential statement, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Alexander Yakovlev said.

Israel launched a ground offensive in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, after a week of airstrikes targeting the radical Islamic group Hamas, which runs the territory. More than 650 Palestinians have died since the assault began.

The Israeli military announced on Wednesday that there would be a three-hour break each day in its operations in the Palestinian enclave to allow residents to receive humanitarian aid and to leave dangerous areas.

During the first day of Security Council deliberations on Tuesday, Libya introduced a draft resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire and international monitors. The document would require significant changes to come to a vote, and international efforts are focusing on a ceasefire plan proposed by Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"The Security Council will consider what decision it can adopt after its discussions tomorrow," Yakovlev said late Tuesday after the day's talks ended. "It could be a presidential statement, or a resolution - all options are open."

Tuesday's session was attended by Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, Arab League head Amr Musa, and the foreign ministers of France, the United States, Britain, Turkey and seven Arab countries.

The deputy foreign minister stressed the diplomatic efforts Russia was making to resolve the conflict, with presidential envoy Alexander Saltanov in the Middle East.

"We are in close contact with the countries of the region and international organizations," Yakovlev said, declaring Russia's support for an "immediate ceasefire by both parties."

"It is very important not to allow a humanitarian crisis to build up in Gaza," he said. "It is also important that the Israelis abandon their full-scale operations in Gaza, and that the Palestinians cease rocket bombardments of southern Israel."

Yakovlev also said that Russia had sent several planeloads of emergency supplies to Gaza, the latest of which landed in Egypt late Tuesday carrying 24 tons of tents, electrical generators and other goods.

According to the latest data, 660 Palestinians have been killed, including 215 children and 89 women, and more than 3,000 injured as a result of Israeli airstrikes and ground operations.

Israel's bombing campaign destroyed more than 750 facilities in the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, which according to Israel were connected to terrorist activities. Tel Aviv said the campaign was an "all-out war" to prevent rocket attacks on Israeli border towns from Gaza.

Palestinian militants have launched some 500 rockets on Israel in response to the aerial bombing.

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