UN chief Ban Ki-moon on Monday pushed for an immediate halt to the Israeli bombardment of Gaza, saying the Palestinian territory is in a “critical condition”.
“In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” he told reporters. Shortly after he spoke, news agencies reported that the compound housing Gaza’s main hospital had been hit by an Israeli air strike.
Parties to the conflict in Gaza have “expressed serious interest” in the UN request for a further 24-hour humanitarian ceasefire, Ban said. However, they have not yet agreed on the timing of its implementation.
“The secretary general calls on the parties to renew a humanitarian pause in Gaza and reiterates his demand for a durable ceasefire that could set the ground for the start of comprehensive negotiations,” his spokesman said in a statement.
The UN Security Council appealed to both sides to accept an “immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire to permit the urgent delivery of aid.
The statement came after Obama phoned Netanyahu to emphasise “the strategic imperative” of implementing an immediate humanitarian truce.
The secretary general added that the obstacle to ending fighting between Israel, Hamas militants and Palestinians in Gaza Strip was political will.
“It is a matter of their political will. They have to show their humanity as leaders, both Israeli and Palestinian,” Ban told journalists. “Why these leaders are allowing their people to be killed by others? It is irresponsible and morally wrong.”
Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu criticised a UN Security Council call for an immediate truce in Gaza, saying it had addressed needs of the territory’s Hamas militants while neglecting Israeli security.
Sunday’s statement by the council “relates to the needs of a murderous terrorist group that attacks Israeli civilians and has no answer for Israel’s security needs”, Netanyahu said.
Following urgent calls by the UN and the US for an “immediate ceasefire”, a senior source in the West Bank said Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas was visiting Cairo along with Hamas representatives for fresh talks on ending the violence in Gaza.
“Abbas is forming a Palestinian delegation to meet Egyptian leaders and discuss a halt to Israel’s aggression against Gaza,” a source said, without saying when the talks would take place.
“The aim is to examine with Egyptian leaders how to meet Palestinian demands and put an end to the aggression,” he added. As diplomatic efforts intensified to broker an end to the bloodletting which has claimed over a thousand lives, both sides appeared to have settled into an undeclared ceasefire arrangement.
Military spokesman General Moti Almoz described the calm as “an unlimited lull” but warned that the army was ready to resume its activity at any time.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 29th, 2014.