By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council will hold a closed emergency meeting on Wednesday night to discuss Israeli strikes against the Gaza Strip as Israel threatened a wider offensive in the Palestinian enclave to stem rocket salvoes by Hamas militants.
The French U.N. mission said on its Twitter feed that the meeting would be a "closed private debate" beginning at 9 p.m. EST. Council diplomats said Israeli and Palestinians envoys would speak at the meeting.
Separately, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office said in two separate statements that he spoke on the telephone with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Mohamed Mursi of Egypt.
"(Ban) expressed his concern (to Netanyahu) about the deteriorating situation in southern Israel and the Gaza Strip, which includes an alarming escalation of indiscriminate rocket fire from Gaza into Israel and the targeted killing by Israel of a Hamas military operative in Gaza," the U.N. said.
Ban also voiced his expectation that "Israeli reactions are measured so as not to provoke a new cycle of bloodshed."
He also discussed with Mursi "the need to prevent any further deterioration," the U.N. said in a second statement.
The emergency council meeting comes after the Palestinian Authority's U.N. envoy Riyad Mansour urged the Security Council to take a stand on Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza, which he said amounted to "illegal criminal actions."
Israel's U.N. Ambassador Ron Prosor responded by calling on the international community to condemn "indiscriminate rocket fire against Israeli citizens - children, women." He was referring to five days of escalating Palestinian rocket attacks from Gaza.
The militant group Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, controls Gaza.
Israel launched a new major offensive against Palestinian Hamas militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing Hamas' military commander in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group said would "open the gates of hell.
In a letter to Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the 15-nation council this month, Mansour said a "message must be sent to Israel to cease its military campaign against the Palestinian people under its occupation, including the cessation of extrajudicial killing."
"This escalation, which continues at this moment, demands the attention of the international community, including the Security Council, with the aim of averting the further deterioration and destabilization of the situation on the ground and the fueling by Israel of yet another deadly cycle of violence and bloodshed," Mansour said.
Speaking to reporters, Prosor described the Hamas military commander Israel killed, Ahmed Al-Jaabari, as a "mass murderer" who had been planning fresh attacks against Israeli citizens.
It was unclear what a Security Council meeting would achieve since the 15-nation body is generally deadlocked on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which envoys say is due to the U.S. determination to protect Israeli.
"We want the Security Council to act in accordance with its responsibilities to stop this aggression against our people," Mansour said, without offering details of what action he wanted.
A new Gaza war has loomed for months as waves of Palestinian rocket attacks and Israeli strikes have grown more intense and frequent.
Mansour said the Israeli action was intended to draw attention away from the Palestinians' plan to seek an upgrade of its observer status at the United Nations from that of an "entity" to a "non-member state," implicitly recognizing Palestinian statehood.
Israel and the United States have made clear they would oppose the Palestinian upgrade, which would give it the right to join international bodies like the International Criminal Court, where it could file legal complaints against Israel.
U.N. diplomats said a vote on the Palestinian request was tentatively scheduled for November 29. A senior Western diplomat said the Palestinians would easily secure 120 to 130 votes out of the 193-nation General Assembly, which would ensure the success of their upgraded status at the United Nations.
(Reporting by Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Christopher Wilson and Lisa Shumaker)
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