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US ups pressure on Israel as UN demands Gaza truce
Published Monday 28/07/2014 (updated) 29/07/2014 11:08
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A Palestinian looks at people collecting items and belongings from a
destroyed building on July 27, 2014 in the Shejaiya residential district
of Gaza City as families returned to find their homes ground into rubble
(AFP Marco Longari)
JERUSALEM (AFP) -- The UN Security Council Monday joined US President Barack Obama in calling for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza, after Israel and Hamas ignored calls for a truce despite mounting civilian casualties.

The Security Council resolution came during a lull in fighting in Gaza early Monday, the beginning of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr festival, after a day of strikes and counter-strikes.

The 15-member Council released a statement urging a truce during Eid al-Fitr, which marks the end of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.

It expressed "strong support" for an "immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire."

It also voiced "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."

At least 1,032 Palestinians have died in the fighting as well as 43 Israeli soldiers and three civilians.

Obama, too, voiced concern at the civilian toll, in a call with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday in which he urged an immediate ceasefire.

Violence continued in Gaza on Monday morning, although overall the Strip was experiencing relative calm.

A rocket from Gaza fell in an open area in Ashkelon, according to an Israeli army statement.

The army said it "retaliated towards Beit Lahiya area."

Israeli media said later that an Israeli soldier was lightly to moderately injured in a gun battle in northern Gaza.

Additionally, Israeli warplanes targeted al-Nuseirat refugee camp in central Gaza, a Ma'an reporter in Gaza said.

Two Israeli artillery shells also hit the Tal al-Hawa area in southern Gaza City.

There were no immediate reports of injuries.

An Israeli army statement said that forces targeted "2 concealed rocket launchers and a weapon manufacturing site in the northern and central Gaza Strip."

Obama: Immediately end hostilities

According to a White House statement, the US president "made clear the strategic imperative of instituting an immediate, unconditional humanitarian ceasefire that ends hostilities now and leads to a permanent cessation of hostilities based on the November 2012 ceasefire agreement" brokered by Egypt.

He also stressed the need to "ensure the disarmament of terrorist groups and the demilitarization of Gaza," while reiterating "serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives."

The two sides had observed a 12-hour humanitarian pause on Saturday, giving Gaza medics a chance to pull bodies from rubble they had not been able to reach under fire.

But Hamas rocket fire prompted Israel to abandon an extension of that truce Sunday, and subsequent Hamas calls for another ceasefire were ignored by both sides.

During Sunday, fighting renewed apace, as Israel pounded Gaza with aerial, naval and artillery bombardments and Hamas rained more rockets down on Israeli territory.

A controversial incident on Thursday when a UN school acting as a shelter was shelled, killing 15 people, drew fierce condemnation from Palestinian refugee agency UNRWA.

The Israeli army confirmed on Sunday it had hit the school, but said it was a "single errant mortar" round, denying that people were killed "as a result of (army) operational activity."

There was no immediate response from UNRWA, which sent a team to conduct its own investigation on Friday, but was impeded from doing so due to "gunfire around the school."

"The Israeli army had been notified in advance about the composition of the team, the time and purpose of the visit," UNRWA spokesman Chris Gunness said on Twitter.

"We again underline our call for an immediate and comprehensive investigation," Gunness said.

Meanwhile Obama's Secretary of State John Kerry was still working for Israel and Hamas to agree to further halts in the bloodshed ahead of hoped for Egypt-led peace talks, a US official said.

Israel rejected a Kerry-proposed ceasefire last week and Hamas has resisted truce efforts by Cairo after the army ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and banned the Muslim Brotherhood, a Hamas ally.

Crippling blockade

Israeli officials insist that they will continue the mission to destroy Hamas tunnels they say are used to launch attacks on Israel, and Hamas wants a lifting of the crippling Gaza blockade that has been in place for eight years.

A military spokeswoman told AFP that since the July 8 start of its military operation, over 2,000 rockets and mortar shells fired from Gaza hit Israel, with another 492 intercepted.

Exiled Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal said his group could not coexist with Israel as long as it occupied Palestinian land.

"We are not actually fighting the Jews because they are Jews," he said in remarks broadcast Sunday. "We fight the occupiers."

"I'm ready to coexist with the Jews, with the Christians and the Arabs and non-Arabs," he said. "However, I do not coexist with the occupiers."

Palestinian representative to the United Nations, Riyad Mansour, expressed disappointment with Monday's Security Council statement, saying it fell short of a formal resolution demanding that Israel withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip.

"They should have adopted a resolution a long time ago to condemn this aggression and to call for this aggression to be stopped immediately," said Mansour following the emergency meeting.

"We are disappointed in that sense," he said,

Rights groups say the vast majority, some 80 percent of Palestinians killed, have been civilians.

Ma'an staff contributed to this report.
1 ) Hamas is teaching the world / how to use women and
28/07/2014 10:05
children to protect soldiers and rocket launchers How many around the world will implement the lessons?

2 ) AKeenReader / UK
28/07/2014 10:12
A bit late for Obama to come up with this statement. IF US really wanted justice they would have given Bibi the marching orders a long time ago. US only steps in when it is in their own interest or in Israel's.

3 ) Bemused / New Zealand
28/07/2014 10:19
Which bit of LIFT THE ILLEGAL SIEGE OF GAZA does Obama not understand? The 2012 ceasefire was a joke - it was breached by israel 840 times in the first 3 months, with only 2 breaches by Palestinian groups in the same period - & that was mortars, not rockets. The 2012 ceasefire terms will not enable the rebuilding of all of the destroyed houses, the re-establishment of the Gaza economy, or the enjoyment of full human rights for Palestinians in Gaza. LIFT THE ILLEGAL SIEGE & give peace a chance.

4 ) Brian Cohen / Israel
28/07/2014 11:36
Ethnic cleansing of Christians and genocide in Mosul - silence. Tens of thousands of Muslims massacred this year in Iraq and Syria - silence. Tens of thousands massacred this year in Sudan, Darfur, DR Congo. But Hamas shoots rockets at Israel and Israel defends its citizens - UN gets involved and Arab world upset. In other words, nobody cares about dead Muslims unless they have the massive Palestinian propaganda machine behind them.

5 ) Outlier / USA
28/07/2014 17:11
Since the pressure is not evenhanded, it is pressure Israel can and will resist in the short-term.

6 ) Nate / usa
28/07/2014 17:36
@ # 4 Brian Cohen.....What silence are you talking about? Multiple UN RESOLUTIONS dealing with those situations you mention, all have led to crippling sanctions on all of those countries you mention. You are truly a liar. You guys really have mastered the art of lying.....how many times have your Zionists propaganda scientists now calculate that you need to repeat your lies so that people begin to believe them? Truly evil people!

7 ) David / USA
28/07/2014 17:37
Bemused, are you serious? The blockade of Gaza was ONLY due to Hamas's constant delivery of heavy weapons. Had they NOT been more intent on inflicting damage on Israel than taking care of their population, THERE WOULD BE NO BLOCKADE! (You blockhead!!) Arafat brought heavy weapons into Gaza, Hamas is no different. All the sh-t that's happening in Gaza is directly attributable to Hamas. Wake up and be honest. When Sharon emptied Gaza of Jews, Hamas COULD have made a country, but chose jihad.

8 ) Maureen / Australia
28/07/2014 18:48
#4 Brian Cohen Been following "the wars Israel had to have," eh? Read The White Paper written for Netanyahu, 1996, by Zio neoncons : "A New Strategy -Securing the Realm."

9 ) Mel / USA
28/07/2014 19:36
Obama is such a wuss!He's more concerned re:missing his Aug.Congressional break &missing the surfing waves?If Obama really CARED about international laws,he'd nail WAR-CRIMINAL Zionist-Israel's butt to the ICJ wall!But he colludes with Zionist war-crimes,as every POTUS does.And don't say "At least 1,032 Palestinians have died in the fighting...".They were CIVILIANS WHO WERE NOT fighting.MANY WERE IN THEIR BEDS,OR PRAYING,&CHILDREN,ELDERLY,HOSPITAL PATIENTS,when MURDERED by Israel's MISSILES!!!

10 ) Tobias / USA
28/07/2014 20:43
The USA also "Ups Pressure on Hamas" , and Finally Says Something Useful with "any Gaza truce, Without a Hamas disarmament" Leads To War !!

11 ) Arnold / Canada
28/07/2014 21:44
Maureen / Australia # *. I will not bother to read the white paper you mention. the fact that you read it proves it is anti-israel. So I will say this. Could it be the Palestinians through Hamas are following the script very well !

12 ) J. Gold / USA
29/07/2014 08:25
Do you folks have a problem with reporting ALL the facts in their ENTIRETY? The school was hit by a Palestinian rocket. The IDF rocket landed in an EMPTY parking lot. Sheesh. Videos and pictures are available world-wide. Leaving out crucial points is criminal and biased. I won't be reading your news any more.
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