Israel said Friday it will press ahead in an offensive against Hamas militants in Gaza, despite a U.N. Security Council resolution calling for an immediate cease-fire.
The office of Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert called the U.N. resolution "not practical" and said the military "will continue acting to protect Israeli citizens and will carry out the missions it was given."
Israel's words were accompanied by military action on the ground, as its warplanes and helicopters bombarded Gaza Friday and Hamas responded with a barrage of rockets.
The U.N. resolution, passed by a vote of 14-0, with the United States abstaining, stresses "the urgency of and calls for an immediate, durable and fully respected cease-fire, leading to the full withdrawal of Israeli forces from Gaza."
It gave impetus to a joint Egyptian-French push for cease-fire talks, proposed earlier this week.
That plan calls for an immediate cease-fire, followed by the opening of Gaza's borders to humanitarian aid, and then longer-term talks aimed at a broader peace between Israel and all Palestinian factions. The Egyptians have said a full opening of the Gaza border could come once European observers and Palestinian Authority representatives were in place to monitor the crossings.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice praised the resolution but said Washington had abstained from the vote because it was important to first see the outcome of Egypt's mediation efforts.
"We decided that this resolution, the text of which we support, the goals of which we support and the objectives that we fully support, should indeed be allowed to go forward," Rice said. "I believe [that] in doing so, the council has developed a road map for a sustainable, durable peace in Gaza.
"We require principled resolution of the situation in Gaza, and the Security Council resolution we are passing tonight in fact gives us a basis with which to do this," she added.
British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said he still thinks the Security Council's resolution spoke loudly and clearly. He said the job now is to turn the "good words" in the resolution into desperately needed changes on the ground.
However, Arab critics, especially those in Syria, have attacked the Egyptian plan as handing Israel an end to Palestinian rocket fire but denying Hamas an immediate full opening of Gaza's borders.
For its part, Hamas showed little interest in the U.N. resolution. Mousa Abu Marzook, one of Hamas' top figures in Damascus, told Al Jazeera English satellite television that Hamas would cease its rocket attacks only after Israel stopped its offensive.
"If the Israelis stopped the fire and their aggression against the Palestinians in Gaza Strip, Hamas should answer directly about the United Nations resolution," Marzook said.
Hamas is sending a delegation to Cairo Saturday to participate in talks with Egypt. But Hamas, which is the effective government of Gaza, seems to be in no hurry to sign onto a cease-fire because, Marzook suggested, it is winning just by continuing the rocket attacks.
More than 800 Palestinians have lost their lives in the fighting, with 3,300 wounded. At least 14 Israelis, mostly soldiers, have died.
Over the past 24 hours, information has emerged about a deadly incident in the town of Zeitoun, south of Gaza City. Several days ago, the Israeli Defense Force ordered more than a 100 people into a single building there, according to Allegra Pacheco of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The house was shelled the next day and about 30 people, including several children, were killed, Pacheco said, citing eyewitness accounts.
Several other buildings were demolished in Zeitoun with up to 40 people killed. Scores were trapped in the rubble. Rescuers finally got to them Thursday, according to Iyad Nasr, of the Gaza Red Cross.
"We managed to rescue 105 civilians — women, children, men — who were trapped in a house for more than a week with hardly sufficient amounts of water and food," Nasr said.
The Red Cross was not permitted to drive its vehicles into Zeitoun, where it says its trucks have come under Israeli fire. Two contractors delivering aid for the U.N. were killed Thursday and the driver of a Red Cross truck was injured.
The Israeli military said it is closely cooperating with international aid groups to assist civilians caught in the crossfire.
"The Israel Defense Forces are engaged in a battle with the Hamas terrorist organization that has deliberately used Palestinian civilians as human shields," a military statement said. "The IDF in no way intentionally targets civilians and has demonstrated its willingness to abort operations to save civilian lives and to risk injury in order to assist innocent civilians."
Across the Arab and Muslim worlds, hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Friday in anger at Israel, the United States and pro-American Arab governments. Record crowds turned out in Egypt and Libya, but there were also protests in Europe. In Amman, Jordan, riot police used tear gas and water cannons to disperse stone-throwing protesters marching on the Israeli Embassy.