The United States is determined to thwart any Arab initiative aimed at forcing the UN Security Council to assume a direct role in the Gaza crisis.

Reliable sources at the UN say that the U.S. ambassador to the UN, Zalmay Khalilzad, has received explicit instructions from his superiors at the State Department to torpedo any initiative proposed by the Arab bloc which is designed to grant the Security Council the status of an official arbiter that will have direct involvement with disentangling the Gaza crisis.

This directive can explain Washington's persistent opposition to even a non-binding declarative statement issued by the Council, as it did during an emergency meeting late Saturday night.

The U.S. policy means that the Arab foreign ministers who arrived in New York on Sunday in an effort to advance a Libyan cease-fire initiative can expect a diplomatic confrontation with Washington.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Riyad al-Malki said on Monday Arab countries were drafting a Security Council resolution demanding an immediate end to "Israeli aggression" in Gaza.

He said Arab foreign ministers were meeting at the United Nations on Monday to discuss the draft as Israeli forces continued to pound Gaza in an offensive to halt rocket fire against its cities from the Palestinian territory.

Malki told reporters that Arab League chief Amr Moussa along with ministers from Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Saudi Arabia and other Arab states would discuss the crisis with representatives of the five permanent Security Council members and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

"Then we will continue our deliberations in order to prepare for a draft resolution that hopefully will be ... passed in the Security Council tomorrow," Malki said.

He said Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas would be first to address Tuesday's council meeting. Foreign ministers of some of the 15 council members might also attend, diplomats said.

Malki said the Arabs wanted "a resolution that will permit first of all ending the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people in Gaza and calling for an immediate and permanent cease-fire, lifting the siege, opening the crossings between Gaza and Israel, and also between Gaza and Egypt."

"I regret that the Security Council has not been able to reach a consensus, including during its emergency session held [Saturday] evening, in order to bring about an end to the violence," said Ban.

Ban expressed concern over the humanitarian conditions in the strip and demanded that Israel open the border crossings, including the Nahal Oz and Karni terminals, so that shipments of food, fuel, and other necessities could resume.

Ban said on Sunday he had recalled his special Mideast peace envoy to New York for briefings and convened a meeting of senior advisers on the Gaza crisis.

In a statement from his press office, Ban also said he believed the UN Security Council had "a central role to play in bringing a speedy end to the conflict," and that he planned further talks with Council members and Arab leaders to try to end the fighting.

He also said he was concerned about the humanitarian situation in Gaza and had asked Israeli authorities to open three border crossings to allow in grain, power plant fuel and other essential supplies.

Ban said he wants the special envoy, Robert Serry, to "brief me in New York on the situation on the ground as well as diplomatic efforts underway."