UK & World News

  • 28 July 2014, 14:06

Gaza Strikes Resume As UN Calls For Ceasefire

The Israeli military says it has carried out three airstrikes on Gaza, ending a brief lull in fighting at the start of a major Muslim holiday.

Fighter jets reportedly hit two missile launchers and a rocket factory, in what a defence spokesman said was a response to earlier Hamas rockets fired into Israel.

It came as the UN Security Council called for "an immediate and unconditional humanitarian ceasefire" in Gaza following an emergency session in New York.

The council adopted a presidential statement - one step below a legally-binding resolution - urging Israel and Hamas "to accept and fully implement the humanitarian ceasefire".

A 24-hour temporary truce, agreed ahead of the Muslim festival of Eid, expired at 2pm local time (12pm BST).

Israel's chief military spokesman, Brigadier General Motti Almoz, said the Israeli Defence Forces were observing an "unlimited truce" but warned: "We're free to attack after any fire."

Several pauses in the fighting were observed and broken on a weekend when the Palestinian death toll topped 1,000.

Some 43 Israeli soldiers have also been killed since their military operation began on July 8, while three civilians have died from rocket fire into Israel.

As well as calling for an immediate truce, the Security Council statement sets out a longer-term aim of two democratic states, Israel and Palestine, "with secure and recognised borders".

Riyad Mansour, the Palestinian representative to the UN, said he was "disappointed" a formal resolution demanding Israel withdraw its forces from the Gaza Strip had not been agreed.

"They should have adopted a resolution a long time ago to condemn this aggression and to call for this aggression to be stopped immediately," he said.

Israeli ambassador Ron Prosor added: "Miraculously (the statement) doesn't mention Hamas. It doesn't mention the firing of rockets.

"You don't have to have the IQ of a rocket scientist to understand that if rockets are falling on you, you are allowed to defend yourself."

Sir Jeremy Greenstock, the former British ambassador to the UN, denied the organisation was "toothless", telling Sky News it had "set the principles for a solution".

But he said: "The Israelis and Palestinians have to meet at some point ... and at the moment, I can't see that happening."

"The UN hasn't been able to get through the awful distrust between the two enemies," he added.

Sky's Sherine Tadros, in Gaza City, said there was an "almost constant thud" of artillery fire in an area of Gaza that had been pounded in recent days.

"There certainly isn't a ceasefire here," she said. "At best, what we've seen is a lull in the violence."

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said the situation in Gaza remained "critical", adding the territory is in a state of "fragile calm".

He likened the conflict to a "manmade hurricane", saying "whole neighbourhoods have been reduced to rubble".

More than 160,000 civilians have sought refuge in dozens of temporary shelters and those who have fled are suffering from major food and water shortages, Tadros added.

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