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UN chief: Gaza violence 'shocked, shamed' world

Updated: 2014-08-08 08:18
By Associated Press in United Nations and Jerusalem ( China Daily)

Ban calls on Hamas to honor PLO commitment to recognize Israel

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon demanded an end to what he called the senseless cycle of suffering in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on Wednesday, telling the General Assembly that "the massive deaths and destruction in the Gaza Strip have shocked and shamed the world".

Ban urged the international community to support the enormous task of rebuilding Gaza, providing humanitarian aid to thousands in need and treating the wounded.

"We will build again, but this must be the last time to rebuild," the UN chief told the 193-member world body. "This must stop now. They must go back to the negotiating table. We must spare no effort to turn the current calm into a durable cease-fire that addresses the underlying issues of the conflict."

Ban said that means ending weapons smuggling into Gaza and rocket fire from it. It means opening its crossings, lifting Israel's blockade and placing the Hamas-ruled strip under a unified Palestinian government.

He also called on Hamas to honor past commitments made by the Palestine Liberation Organization, including respecting the right of the state of Israel to exist.

Meanwhile, an Israeli Cabinet minister said Israel will respond if Hamas resumes fire after a temporary three-day truce expires. The statement, along with Hamas' earlier threats, signals that both sides are digging in to their positions as negotiations continue in Cairo on a lasting truce and reconstruction for the war-battered coastal area.

Minister Gilad Erdan told Israel Radio on Thursday that if Hamas renews hostilities, the Israeli military will "resume operations".

The three-day truce, which helped launch talks in Cairo on new arrangements for blockaded Gaza, expires on Friday morning.

Both sides are under heavy international pressure to agree to an extension of the cease-fire to allow more time for negotiations.

Hamas demands that a blockade imposed by Israel and Egypt be lifted. Israel wants Gaza to be demilitarized.

Humanitarian appeal

The UN's deputy humanitarian chief, Kyung-wha Kang, said the United Nations and its partners have appealed for $367 million to address the immediate needs of more than 500,000 people - more than one-quarter of Gaza's 1.8 million population - who "fled for their lives with nothing".

She said 65,000 people have lost everything because their homes were reduced to rubble.

Kang painted a grim picture of what she called the "utter devastation" in Gaza: 144 schools and other facilities damaged; a public health system "on the verge of collapse", with one-third of hospitals, 14 primary healthcare clinics and 29 ambulances damaged; more than 1 million people without access to water and very limited electricity; and the prevalence of unexploded ammunition.

Kang said the lack of electricity means hospitals can't power critical machinery, food production will decrease and water and sewage can't be pumped. Sewage backups could contaminate water, making the outbreak of diseas "a very serious risk", she said.

Ban said the United Nations understands Israel's right to defend itself from Hamas rockets, but "the horror that was unleashed on the people of Gaza" raises serious questions about international law, distinguishing between civilians and combatants and proportionality in attacks.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay told the assembly that "any attacks in violation of these principles on civilians, homes, schools and hospitals must be condemned, and may amount to war crimes".


UN chief: Gaza violence 'shocked, shamed' world

A Palestinian sits amid the ruins of destroyed homes in the Shejaia neighbourhood, which witnesses said was heavily hit by Israeli shelling and air strikes during an Israeli offensive, in Gaza City on Wednesday. Finbarr O'Reilly / Reuters


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