Arab envoys to the United Nations requested an urgent Security Council session on the situation in Gaza during a meeting Wednesday with the peace and security body's president.
Kuwaiti ambassador Mansour al-Otaibi urged the council to "stop the Israeli aggression and collective punishment of the Palestinian people," amid an escalation of the fighting between Israel and the Islamist movement Hamas, which runs the Gaza Strip.
"I think it is about time the Council issue a statement or resolution" on this issue, he told reporters, speaking on behalf of the Arab bloc.
Rwandan envoy Eugene-Richard Gasana, who holds the council's rotating presidency for July, "promised to convey this, and we expect a meeting in the near future," al-Otaibi said.
The Israeli army's "disproportionate use of force is unjustifiable," charged Saudi ambassador Abdullah Al-Muallimi, urging the council to "intervene immediately and take measures to protect the population."
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And Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour accused the council of "dragging its feet while aggression and collective punishment are taking place."
Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor retorted that "Hamas started this and has left us no choice," emphasizing that the Israeli army "uses precision strikes to avoid killing civilians."
Increased Israeli air raids on Gaza have killed at least 59 people in two days of conflict that have also seen a rise in rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at Israel's cities and a nuclear reactor.
This latest cycle of violence is the worst since an Israeli offensive against Gaza in 2012 that also aimed to stop Palestinian rocket attacks.
The council could meet before the end of the week with the goal of adopting a declaration condemning the rocket attacks while also "asking restraint on both sides," a Western diplomat said.
He said it was "difficult, but not impossible," to get an agreement on such a proposal among the body's 15 members.