Security Council, Arab League to Discuss Rafah Demolitions

The United Nations Security Council was due to meet Tuesday afternoon to discuss a request by Arab nations to hold an immediate meeting to consider Israel's widespread destruction of Palestinian homes in the Rafah refugee camp in the southern Gaza Strip.

The Arab countries filed the request Monday following international condemnation of last week's demolition of houses in the camp.

The army has said hundreds more houses may be torn down, as Israel wants to widen the Philadelphi route between Rafah and the Egyptian border.

The Arab League was also due to convene on Tuesday to discuss the Israel Defense Forces' operation.

Yemen's United Nations Ambassador Abdullah Alsaidi, the current chairman of the Arab Group, sent a letter Monday to Pakistan's UN Ambassador Munir Akram, the current council president, calling on members to take "necessary measures" against Israel for violating international law.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged Israel on Monday to stop bulldozing homes in Rafah, saying the demolitions violate international law and inhibit UN refugee workers from doing their jobs.

European Union foreign ministers on Monday also condemned the demolition of Palestinian homes in Gaza, demanding an immediate halt to the action, which they said in a statement was "disproportionate and in conflict with international law." The EU sought to balance its statement by condemning calls for violence and deploring the inhuman treatment of the remains of Israeli soldiers by Palestinians in Gaza.

U.S. National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice said Monday, after a meeting in Berlin with Palestinian Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia, that the United States had told Israel "that some of their actions don't create the best atmosphere." A senior Palestinian official told Reuters that Qureia appealed to Rice to stop Israel's mass demolition.

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell has also joined international criticism of the plan, saying on a weekend visit to Jordan that Washington opposed "wholesale bulldozing of houses" in Rafah.

"We don't think that is productive," Powell said at the World Economic Forum in Jordan. "We know Israel has a right for self-defense, but the kind of actions that they're taking in Rafah with the destruction of Palestinian homes, we oppose."

Amnesty International released a report Tuesday saying Israel has destroyed more than 3,000 Palestinian houses since the second intifada began three-and-a-half years ago, and demanded the army stop razing civilian homes.