UNITED NATIONS: The UN Security Council on Monday called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to allow for urgent aid to reach civilians.
The 15-member Council released a statement shortly after midnight Sunday calling for the truce between Israel and Hamas.
It is the second time in as many weeks that the top world body has convened a late Sunday meeting to appeal for a ceasefire in Gaza, where fighting has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians as well as 43 Israeli soldiers.
A draft of the statement obtained by AFP expressed “strong support” for an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire,” and urged all sides to accept and fully implement the truce during the Muslim Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan.
The statement stressed that a humanitarian ceasefire would allow for the delivery of urgently needed assistance as the death toll continues to climb in the fighting, which enters its third week on Monday.
The Security Council expressed “grave concern regarding the deterioration in the situation as a result of the crisis related to Gaza and the loss of civilian lives and casualties.”
It said “civilian and humanitarian facilities, including those of the UN, must be respected and protected” following outrage over the Israeli attack on a UN-run school in Gaza this week that left 15 dead.
The Council called on Israel and the Palestinian Hamas to try to reach a ceasefire based on the Egyptian initiative, and applauded US Secretary John Kerry´s efforts to broker a deal.
The emergency session comes after Israel and Hamas ignored calls for a truce, with Israel pounding Gaza with artillery on Sunday after a night of rocket fire from Hamas.
US President Barack Obama spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday and “made clear” the need for a humanitarian ceasefire.
The two sides observed a 12-hour pause on Saturday, allowing Gaza medics to pull bodies from rubble. Netanyahu´s security cabinet was holding a meeting extending from Sunday into Monday to discuss the next steps in Gaza, Israeli media reported.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon returned from a regional tour to push for a ceasefire over the weekend, and continued to press for a break in the fighting. The violence, said Ban Sunday, has “killed too many, marred so many lives, and caused such destruction.
“The Council also called on all sides to achieve a peace deal “based on the vision of a region where two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace.”