UNITED NATIONS -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Saturday called for an immediate end to attacks between the Israelis and Palestinians, condemning Palestinian rocket attacks and Israel's "disproportionate and excessive use of force."
Ban made the appeal at an emergency session of the UN Security Council called at the request of Palestinian President Mahmud Abbas after Israeli forces killed dozens of Palestinians, including many women and children in the Gaza Strip.
Mo'aweya Hassanein, chief of emergency and ambulance services in the Palestinian health ministry, told reporters that the Israeli army on Saturday killed 68 Palestinians and wounded 200 others, "the highest ever (daily) deaths and casualties toll in the Gaza Strip."
"I condemn Palestinian rocket attacks, and call for the immediate cessation of such acts of terrorism, which serve no purpose, endanger Israeli civilians, and bring misery to the Palestinian people," the UN chief said. "I call for an end to these attacks."
"While recognizing Israel's right to defend itself, I condemn the disproportionate and excessive use of force that has killed and injured so many civilians, including children," Ban said.
"I call on Israel to cease such attacks. Israel must fully comply with international humanitarian law and exercise the utmost restraint. Incidents in which civilians have been killed or injured must be investigated and accountability must be ensured."
Ban expressed his deep concerns at the possibility of the escalation of violence, offering "strong support for all efforts to bring about an end to the violence and a period of calm."
"I call on all parties to step back from the brink of even deeper and more deadly clashes," he said.
He urged all members of the international community, important stakeholders and Security Council members to exercise their influence on the parties to stop the violence and to allow humanitarian relief.
All parties should re-dedicate their commitment to the peace process, he said.
Representatives of the 15-member Security Council are holding consultations on the matter following a closed discussion and an open debate.
During the open debate, Permanent Observer of Palestine Riyad Mansour urged the Security Council to condemn Israel's military actions against innocent civilians and to work for an immediate ceasefire in the occupied territory.
"The Security Council must be a player to help the parties break this deadly cycle of violence and help them advance the new strategy that has been called for to bring an immediate halt to the violence and resolve the current crisis, ameliorate the terrible situation on the ground and create calm and an environment conducive for the advancement of serious peace negotiations in good faith," Mansour said.
"Continued silence will only bring more death and destruction and the further dangerous destabilization of the situation to the detriment of all concerned, which must be avoided at all costs," he said.
Mansour said Israel, in a month's time, killed more than 126 Palestinians, including 19 children and several women.
"When the slaughter of innocent children has become acceptable or is somehow justified under the pretext of promoting security or 'counter-terror,' we know that we have completely sunken into the dark abyss, where there is a total absence of the law, absence of logic or reason, absence of morality, absence of conscience and absence of humanity.
"When we reach this point, we bitterly begin to realize that the standards of the law and human rights are not equally applicable to all humans, not even to children and women or to the elderly or disabled," Mansour said.
Daniel Carmon, Israel's representative to the United Nations, defended the Israeli military actions as a response to rocket attacks by Palestinian militants.
"The government of Israel should thus not apologize for protecting its citizens," he said.