UN Secretary-General calls for immediate cease fire in Gaza as Clinton is dispatched to “de-escalate” crisis in Middle East

Damages in Gaza. SOURCE: United Nations / Shareef Sarhan

United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon today called for an immediate cease fire in Gaza as the civilian death toll continue to climb in the latest bout of violence between Hamas and Israel. 

“All sides must stop fire. Further escalation of the situation will only result in more tragedy, and puts the entire region at risk,” Moon told reporters after his meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Hesham Mohamed Qandil.

Moon said, “I reiterate my call for an immediate cessation of indiscriminate rocket attacks by Palestinian militants targeting Israeli population centers. This is unacceptable.  I strongly condemn these actions. Israel has legitimate security concerns that must be respected in accordance with the relevant international laws. But this does not make it right to conduct strikes that kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructures in Gaza.  I also condemn excessive and disproportionate use of force.”

Since Sept. 14, Israel has carried out intensive air strikes in Gaza in response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants linked to Hamas. The strikes have killed many civilians, including children. An United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) teacher, identified as Marwan Abu El Qumsan, was killed in an air strike in northern Gaza on Thursday.

Injured Palestinian child in Gaza. SOURCE: United Nations


Meeting with Israeli President Shimon Peres and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Moon urged Israel to “exercise maximum restraint” and avoid launching a ground offensive in Gaza.

“I know how difficult the situation is here, but Israel must exercise maximum restraint.  I strongly caution against a ground operation, which will only result in further tragedy,” said Moon. “I have also stressed that while Israeli rockets may be aimed at military targets inside Gaza, they kill and injure civilians and damage civilian infrastructures.  The loss of civilian lives is unacceptable under any circumstances.  The excessive use of force is unlawful and must be rejected.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton broke away from the President’s trip to Asia today and will meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem late tonight before holding talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in Ramallah and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Wednesday.

“We will work with the Israelis, we will work with President Abbas, and we will work with President Morsi, and others have more direct influence than we do with Hamas,” said Victoria Nuland, spokeswoman for the State Department.

Clinton is expected to press Morsi, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, to exert his influence on Hamas to “de-escalate” the conflict by ending rocket fire into Israel and agree to a “period of calm” or “cease fire” or “truce.”

Hamas – classified as a terrorist organization by the U.S. and its European allies – controls the Gaza strip, providing security and operating public infrastructure and other essential government services for the 1.7 million Palestinians living there. More than half of the population in Gaza is under the age of 18.

The Islamist militant group won the 2006 parliamentary elections, defeating the Fatah party affiliated with the Palestinian Liberation Organization (PLO).

A joint government formed by Hamas and Fatah didn’t last long; Hamas ousted Fatah government officials and took over control of Gaza in 2007.

Although the Fatah government – led by Abbas – retained control of the Palestinian territories in the West Bank, Fatah’s power has been seriously eroded as a result of the split with Hamas.

Since 2007, Israel has imposed blockade to prevent goods and other supplies from entering Gaza in response to rocket attacks against Israel.

 

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2 Comments on “UN Secretary-General calls for immediate cease fire in Gaza as Clinton is dispatched to “de-escalate” crisis in Middle East

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