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UN Security Council holds emergency meeting on situation in Gaza, demands civilian protection

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Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor speaks during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the worsening situation in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, Sunday, July 20, 2014. The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting on Sunday killed Palestinians and Israelis and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhoods. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

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Israeli U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor speaks during an emergency meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the worsening situation in Gaza at United Nations headquarters, Sunday, July 20, 2014. The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting on Sunday killed Palestinians and Israelis and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighborhoods. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The U.N. Security Council emerged from an emergency session late Sunday on the worsening situation in Gaza expressing "serious concern" about the rising civilian death toll and demanding an immediate end to the fighting.

The council met at the request of Jordan, which proposed a more strongly worded draft resolution for consideration. The resolution, obtained by The Associated Press, expressed "grave concern" at the high number of civilians killed in Gaza, including children, and called for an immediate cease-fire, "including the withdrawal of Israeli occupying forces from the Gaza Strip."

The first major ground battle in two weeks of Israel-Hamas fighting on Sunday killed at least 65 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers and forced thousands of terrified Palestinian civilians to flee their neighbourhoods.

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon has called Israel's latest incursion "atrocious," and said it must do far more to protect civilians.

The draft resolution called for the protection of civilians, the lifting of the "Israeli restrictions imposed on the movement of persons and goods into and out of the Gaza Strip" and immediate humanitarian assistance to civilians in Gaza.

But Jordan's proposed resolution was not discussed, and the acting council president, Rwanda's U.N. Ambassador Eugene-Richard Gasana, emerged to read elements of a more limited press statement that called for the need to improve the humanitarian situation in the region and welcome Egypt's efforts to broker a cease-fire.

The Palestinian United Nations envoy, Ambassador Riyad Mansour, was disappointed. "We were hoping for the Security Council to adopt a resolution to condemn the aggression against our people," he told reporters. But he said Sunday's council statement was "a test" for Israel to see if it would comply.

Before the meeting, Mansour issued a challenge to the council, asking reporters, "If the world body in charge of peace and security is not stopping the killing of our people, where shall we go?"

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin stepped out of the meeting briefly and complained to reporters that the council had been summoned to meet without a specific proposal to discuss.

"Why have this meeting?" Churkin asked. "The Security Council is put in a very awkward position. Obviously, nothing is going to come out of it."

After the meeting, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Samantha Power, tweeted: "Gaza ceasefire would let us address urgent humanitarian needs & underlying issues. Must work to get off this dangerous path & restore calm."

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