WATCH ABOVE: In Rafah this morning, five members of one family were killed by an Israeli air strike. Even as they searched for survivors, more missiles pounded the Gaza strip.
OTTAWA – Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s government is taking aim at the United Nations once again, this time over comments a senior official made about Israel’s attacks on Gaza.
VIDEO GALLERY: Israel-Gaza Conflict
Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird says the UN High Commissioner’s criticism of Israel’s response to rocket attacks from Gaza are uncalled for.
Navi Pillay said this week that there should be an immediate ceasefire, citing reports of many civilian casualties.
A council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.
The statement calls for “the reinstitution of the November 2012 cease-fire” brokered by Egypt, but gives no time frame for when it should take effect.
Palestinian U.N. envoy, Riyad Mansour, said the Palestinians’ understanding is that the cease-fire should go into effect immediately.
He said the Palestinians will be watching closely to see if the Israelis respond to the council’s call, stressing that if they don’t “we have a lot of tools in our arsenal.”
The press statement, which is not legally binding but reflects international opinion, is the first response by the U.N.’s most powerful body, which has been deeply divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
The council statement does not directly mention either the Hamas rocketing or the Israeli response.
Instead, it expresses “serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides” and calls for “respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.”
In a statement issued Saturday, Baird accused Pillay of focusing her comments on Israel and said that is neither “helpful nor reflective of the reality of this crisis.”
Baird says there can’t be any “moral equivalence” between a democratic state like Israel and Hamas, which he calls a listed terrorist organization with a blatant disregard for human life.
He says Israel’s military has taken extraordinary steps to reduce civilian casualties.
The United States, Israel’s most important ally, has defended the Israeli attacks in response to the barrage of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. But other council members have decried the Israeli attacks which Mansour said have killed or injured more than 1,000 Palestinians. There have been no fatalities in Israel from the continued rocket fire.
© The Canadian Press, 2014