UN calls for ceasefire in Gaza, condemns civilian killings

A medic helps a Palestinian in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting, in Gaza City July 20, 2014.

A medic helps a Palestinian in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which was heavily shelled by Israel during fighting, in Gaza City July 20, 2014.

The United Nations Security Council called for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza on Sunday, as Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon travelled to the region to “express solidarity with Palestinians and Israelis and help bring about a ceasefire” (“Security Council holds emergency meeting on Gaza; Ban meets with Abbas in Qatar,” UN News Centre, 20 July 2014).

The 15-member Security Council, currently headed by Ambassador Eugene Richard Gasana of Rwanda, called for an immediate ceasefire and for all sides to respect international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.

At the same time, Ban Ki-moon met with Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Doha, on the first stop of his Middle East peace-tour, in an effort to stop the fighting.

“As I travel the region, I will continue to press for an [immediate] ceasefire – an immediate end to the Israeli military operation in Gaza and the rocket fire by Hamas and Islamic Jihad,” Mr. Ban said earlier in the day at a press conference…

He underlined his demand that both sides follow international humanitarian law and end the current hostilities.

“While I was en route to Doha, dozens more civilians, including children, have been killed in Israeli military strikes in the Shejaiyah neighborhood in Gaza,” Mr. Ban said. “I condemn this atrocious action. Israel must exercise maximum restraint and do far more to protect civilians.”

The UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNWRA) indicates that 81,000 displaced people have taken refuge in 61 UNRWA shelters inside Gaza. “This figure far exceeds the number seeking refuge with us in the 2008/9 conflict and it is continuing to rise,” UNRWA spokesperson Chris Gunness said.

Mr. Ban and other senior UN officials have repeatedly said that the only way to end the cycle of violence and continuous insecurity in the region can be to resolve the root causes of the conflict.

They have also urged a return to the negotiating table and talks for a two-State solution.

“Israelis, but also Palestinians, need to feel a sense of security,” Mr. Ban said at [Sunday’s] press conference. “Palestinians, but also Israelis, need to see a horizon of hope.”

Meanwhile, the UN’s top political officer, Jeffrey Feltman, indicated that the UN is studying a request by Mr. Abbas that would place Palestine under an international protection system administered by the UN.

Mr. Ban’s peace tour moves next to Kuwait City, followed by Cairo, Jerusalem, Ramallah, and Amman before returning to New York by the end of the week, according to his spokesperson.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Finbarr O’Reilly

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