UK & World News

  • 28 July 2014, 4:05

Obama Calls For 'Immediate' Ceasefire In Gaza

US President Barack Obama has called Israel's Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to urge an "immediate, unconditional" ceasefire in Gaza.

The call came as Hamas fired more rockets at Israel, despite claims it had accepted a UN request for a 24-hour extension of a humanitarian truce in Gaza.

Mr 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," the White House said in a statement.

The President will be joined in his plea by the United Nations Security Council when it releases a statement calling for a "durable and fully respected ceasefire" on Monday morning.

The temporary truce, which comes ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid marking the end of Ramadan, started at 2pm local time (noon UK time).

Sky News correspondents in Gaza and Israel say fighting has since calmed on both sides, although Israel has not formally agreed to the ceasefire.

In the call, Mr Obama "underscored the United States' strong condemnation of Hamas' rocket and tunnel attacks against Israel and reaffirmed Israel's right to defend itself."

But he also "reiterated the United States' serious and growing concern about the rising number of Palestinian civilian deaths and the loss of Israeli lives, as well as the worsening humanitarian situation in Gaza," according to the White House.

Immediately after the ceasefire was due to take effect, Mr Netanyahu said there had been continued rocket fire into Israel.

In a series of interviews with US media, he said Hamas was "violating its own ceasefire".

He told CBS Israel he would not allow a "ruthless terror organisation... to decide when it's convenient for them to stop for a moment, rearm, and continue firing on our citizens and our people."

Earlier on Sunday, the sound of Israeli shelling could be heard in Gaza, where Palestinian medics said at least 11 people were killed in airstrikes.

Sky News' Sherine Tadros, at a UN school in Gaza City, said more than 160,000 civilians have sought refuge in dozens of temporary shelters and are suffering from major food and water shortages.

Some civilians say they have not been able to shower or wash their children in over a week.

The Israeli army confirmed it did fire the mortar round that hit a UN school in Gaza on Thursday where 15 people died.

A spokesman said it was a stray round meant for Hamas militants in the area who had been attacking Israeli forces.

But he said the schoolyard was empty at the time, and the shell could not have killed anyone.                 

In total, more than 1,030 Palestinians have died since Israel launched a military operation more than two weeks ago.

The number of Israeli troops killed has risen to 43. Three civilians have also been killed in Israel, including a Thai national.

International efforts are continuing to try and thrash out a more permanent ceasefire.

And the Pope made an emotional plea for peace in his weekly address in St Peter's Square.

In unscripted remarks, Pope Francis said: "Please stop, I ask you with all my heart, it's time to stop. Stop, please."

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