UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - The Palestinian Authority on Wednesday urged the U.N. Security Council to take a stand on Israel's latest offensive in the Gaza Strip, which it said in a letter to the council amounted to "illegal criminal actions.""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 fuelling by Israel of yet another deadly cycle of violence and bloodshed," said Palestinian envoy Riyad Mansour.
In a letter to Indian U.N. Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, president of the 15-nation council this month, Mansour added that "a direct message must be sent to Israel to cease its military campaign against the Palestinian people under its occupation, including the cessation of extrajudicial killing."
Israel launched a major offensive against Palestinian militants in Gaza on Wednesday, killing the military commander of Hamas in an air strike and threatening an invasion of the enclave that the Islamist group vowed would "open the gates of hell".
The militant group Hamas, not the Palestinian Authority, controls Gaza.
Egypt, whose new Islamist government is still honouring the 1979 peace agreement with Israel, condemned the raids on Gaza as a threat to regional security and withdrew its ambassador from Israel. It also called for an emergency meeting of the United Nations Security Council.
A spokesman for the Indian U.N. mission did not respond immediately to a query about whether the council planned to meet soon about Gaza.
The Security Council has difficulty reaching consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, council diplomats say, since the United States works hard to prevent it from taking action that would annoy its close ally Israel.
(Reporting By Louis Charbonneau; Editing by Doina Chiacu)