The UN Security Council on Monday called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza to allow for urgent aid to reach civilians as the conflict between Israel and Hamas entered its third week.
The 15-member Council released a unanimous statement shortly after midnight on Sunday calling for the truce during the Muslim Eid festival marking the end of Ramadan.
Israel and Hamas launched new attacks on Sunday despite earlier proposals for a temporary halt to nearly three weeks of fighting.
The failure to reach even a brief humanitarian lull in the fighting illustrated the difficulties in securing a more permanent truce as the sides remain far apart on their terms.
After initially rejecting an Israeli offer on Saturday for a 24-hour truce, Hamas said on Sunday that it had agreed to hold fire ahead of the Eid al-Fitr holiday marking the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan. But as Israel’s Cabinet met to discuss the offer and the ongoing war, rockets rained down on southern Israel and Israeli strikes could be heard in Gaza.
Each side blamed the other for scuttling the ceasefire efforts.
Hamas said that “due to the lack of commitment” by Israel, it resumed its fire. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that Hamas showed it could not be trusted after it violated other cease-fire attempts.
“Israel is not obliged and is not going to let a terrorist organisation decide when it’s convenient to fire at our cities, at our people, and when it’s not,” Netanyahu said in satellite interviews from Israel carried on US network Sunday news programs.
According to a White House statement, in a phone call to Netanyahu later on Sunday Obama "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.
Obama expresses concern for civilian casualties
FRANCE 24’s Washington correspondent Philip Crowther said, “Obama insisted, as is always the case with public statements from the American president, on Israel’s right to defend itself, but there is a serious and growing concern about civilian deaths and the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza.”
UN Security Council calls for unconditional ceasefire
International diplomats had hoped a temporary lull could be expanded into a more sustainable truce to end the bloodshed, and on Sunday UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged both sides to accept a 24-hour break in fighting.
The UN Security Council met in emergency session just after midnight Monday morning to call for “an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire”. The statement, agreed to by all 15 council members, urged Israel and Hamas “to accept and fully implement the humanitarian cease-fire into the Eid period and beyond.”
However, both sides were holding out for bigger gains in the Gaza conflict.
Hamas wants to break the seven-year blockade of Gaza and believes the only way to force serious negotiations is to keep fighting. Israel, which launched attacks on July 8 to halt relentless Hamas rocket fire on its cities, wants more time to destroy Hamas’ rocket arsenal and the military tunnels the Islamic militants use to infiltrate Israel and smuggle weapons.
The 20-day war has killed more than 1,030 Palestinians, mainly civilians, according to the Palestinian health ministry. Israel has lost 43 soldiers, as well as two Israeli civilians and a Thai worker killed by rocket and mortar attacks from Gaza, the Israeli military said.
Following Hamas’ call for a break in fighting, an Israeli airstrike killed one person in Gaza when it hit a vehicle carrying municipal workers on their way to fix water pipes, the Palestinian Red Crescent said.
Police said Israeli tanks fired shells on densely populated areas south of Gaza City. The Israeli military said it hit some 40 sites on Sunday.
In southern Israel, one person was injured and a house was damaged by a rocket launched from Gaza, Israeli police said. The Israeli military said more than 50 rockets were fired on Sunday.
Before the three-day Eid al-Fitr holiday, which begins on Monday, families in Gaza ordinarily would be preparing, with children getting new clothes, shoes and haircuts, and families visiting each other.
But business was slow in the outdoor market of the Jebaliya refugee camp, where vendors set up stands with clothes and shoes. Hamed Abul Atta, 22, a shoe salesman, said he hadn’t made a single sale in the first three hours after opening.
Abul Atta said he and his family were staying with relatives after fleeing the Shejaiya district of Gaza City, which has seen heavy fighting. He said a cousin and three other relatives were among dozens of people killed there last week.
“We can’t feel any joy right now,” he said, when asked if he would mark the holiday.
“How can the people who lost their homes and children celebrate Eid? How can we be in the mood to celebrate?” another shop owner, Eyad, told FRANCE 24. “Our shop is not open because of Eid, we're open because we can be out for a change.”
A Jerusalem resident told FRANCE 24, “Due to the current situation, tonight is a sad night because of what is happening in Gaza...people are out shopping but it’s mainly for children.”
Israeli military admits “errant mortar”
Meanwhile, the Israeli military acknowledged firing a mortar shell that hit the courtyard of a UN school in Gaza last week, but said the yard was empty at the time and that the shell could not have killed anyone.
Palestinian officials have said three Israeli tank shells hit the school in the town of Beit Hanoun on Thursday, killing 16 people and wounding scores.
More than 160,000 displaced Palestinians have sought shelter at dozens of UN schools, an eight-fold increase since the start of Israel’s ground operation more than a week ago, the UN said.
Israel’s “scorched earth” practice
Israeli airstrikes have destroyed hundreds of homes, including close to 500 in direct hits, according to Palestinian rights groups. Entire Gaza neighbourhoods near the border have been reduced to rubble.
“We’re starting to see a complete policy of scorched earth by Israel"
“What we’re starting to see is a complete policy and practice of scorched earth by Israel,” said FRANCE 24’s Jesse Rosenfeld in Gaza. “We’ve seen complete destruction in parts of the north of Gaza. In Beit Hanoun, in block after block, apartment buildings and shops have been turned into rubble. Hospitals have been abandoned and shelled. There are dead animals all across the roads and, beneath the rubble, many more bodies.”
Hamas and other militants in Gaza have fired more than 2,400 rockets at Israel since hostilities began on July 8, many deep into the Israeli heartland and toward most of the country’s major cities.
(FRANCE 24 with AP)
Date created : 2014-07-28