UN head says Gaza ceasefire is 'very close'

UN head Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that a ceasefire agreement over the Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip was "very close" after holding talks with the Palestinian prime minister, Salam Fayyad.


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AFP - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said on Friday that a ceasefire in the war in the Gaza Strip was "very close."

"We're very close... (to) an agreement on a ceasefire. I sincerely hope that over the next couple of days we'll be able to agree a ceasefire," he said in the West Bank city of Ramallah after holding talks with Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad.

Ban held talks with Israeli leaders on Thursday and was due to leave later on Friday for Turkey as part of a regional tour aimed at brokering a ceasefire in Israel's deadly 21-day-old war on Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Palestinian premier called for an immediate halt to the combat that has killed more than 1,100 people, including an estimated 600 civilians.

"We have to put an end to this unprecedented catastrophe in the Gaza Strip," he said. "Each passing hour means more people die."

Fayyad also called for the deployment of international troops in the Palestinian territories "to protect our people and avoid a repeat of what is happening."

Hamas, which ousted forces loyal to Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas from Gaza in June 2007, categorically opposes the deployment of foreign troops in Gaza and has said it would consider them as an occupation force.

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