UN chief says ‘political will’ the main obstacle to ending Gaza conflict

“In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in plea to Israel and Hamas to stop the violence in Gaza

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 July, 2014, 11:03pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 July, 2014, 11:47am

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday urged Israel and Hamas to stop the violence in Gaza, stressing they must “honour” world appeals for a ceasefire.

Ban spoke a few hours after the UN Security Council called for an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza during the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of Ramadan.

“In the name of humanity, the violence must stop,” Ban told reporters.

The UN chief said he had “long talks” with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Monday, urging him to “stop the violence and to honour the international community’s joint common effort and common call for a humanitarian ceasefire.”

The suspension of fighting should be prolonged for an extra 24 hours to allow urgent deliveries of aid to civilians trapped in the fighting, said Ban who returned at the weekend from a regional tour to push for a ceasefire.

Ban has repeatedly called for a humanitarian truce over the past days, but he noted that “since Sunday a relative and very fragile calm on the ground has been established.”

The Israeli army said only one rocket had struck its territory since midnight, hitting the southern port city of Ashkelon, while in Gaza an AFP correspondent confirmed there had been no Israeli air strikes during the night.

Ban said an Israeli attack on a UN-run school in Gaza that left 15 Palestinians dead last week should be investigated and that those responsible face justice.

Palestinian and Israeli leaders “have to show humanity as leaders” and stop the violence as a first step toward peace talks, he added, stressing that it was a “matter of their political will.”

The United Nations is backing a bid by Egypt to broker a peace deal to end the latest flare-up in the Gaza Strip that has left more than 1,000 Palestinians and 43 Israeli soldiers dead.

The death toll raises “serious issues of proportionality”, said Ban. Israel and “all the parties” must do “vastly more” to protect civilians, he added.

The Palestinian envoy expressed disappointment with the statement issued by the UN Security Council and called for a full-scale resolution calling for an Israeli withdrawal from Gaza.

Jordan has been circulating a draft resolution with such wording but diplomats do not expect the measure to come up for a vote in the near future.