Arab nations called Tuesday for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council and immediate action to end what they say is Israel's "outrageous onslaught" against Palestinians, especially in Gaza.
Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour and ambassadors representing Arab, Islamic and non-aligned nations told reporters after meeting the council president that they expect a meeting to be held very soon.
Rwanda holds the council presidency this month. Chantel Uwizera, spokeswoman for Rwanda's UN Mission, told AP the emergency meeting will likely take place Thursday morning.
The Arab call for Security Council action came as Israel stepped up its offensive on the Gaza Strip, pummeling scores of targets and killing at least 22 people. The offensive has set off the heaviest fighting between Israel and the Islamic militant group Hamas which controls Gaza since an eight-day battle in November 2012.
Israel launched the offensive Tuesday to end rocket fire from Gaza that has reached deeper into Israel and intensified in recent weeks amid tensions over the killing of three Israeli teenagers and the apparent revenge killing of a Palestinian teenager.
Israel's UN Ambassador Ron Prosor told reporters that Israel offered Hamas a cease-fire "through every possible channel" but it refused.
"Hamas dragged us into this conflict," he said.
Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah Al-Moualimi, speaking on behalf of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, expressed outrage at Israel's "barbaric onslaught" and "disproportionate application of force," which he called "unprecedented in scale and in scope against the Palestinian people."
Mansour, pointing to the escalating death toll of Palestinian civilians, demanded that the council "shoulder its responsibility and stop this aggression against our people."
That will likely prove difficult because of deep divisions in the council — where the US strongly supports Israel — that have blocked any significant action on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Mansour said Israel's aim is to do everything possible to break the unity government which Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, who heads the Palestinian Authority, formed in late June with Hamas "into two pieces."
"The Palestinian people are one," he said. "The government is one ... We are defending ourselves against the aggression against our people."
Israel's Prosor countered that Hamas is a terrorist organization that doesn't recognize Israel's right to exist and "is trying to do everything to derail anything that we are trying to achieve peace with the Palestinian Authority."
Those in the Palestinian Authority supporting the unity government with Hamas "are doing everything they can in order not to achieve peace," he said.