UN chief calls for Gaza truce to be upheld

Ban commended the parties for stepping "back from the brink," but added that risks still remain in achieving peace between the parties.

New York: UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council on Thursday asked Israel and Hamas to uphold their ceasefire and praised Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi for brokering the truce after a week of devastating violence that claimed nearly 150 lives.

Ban, who addressed the 15-nation Council here yesterday via video link from Tel Aviv said, the focus of Israel and Hamas should now be to stick to the ceasefire and provide immediate humanitarian assistance to those in need in Gaza.

"I warmly welcome today`s ceasefire announcement. I commend the parties for stepping back from the brink, and I commend President Mursi of Egypt for his exceptional leadership," Ban said.

"It is a huge relief for the people of Gaza and Israel, and for the international community, that the violence is stopping," Ban said.

Later in a press statement read by India`s Permanent Representative to the UN Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, who is the current President of the Security Council, the UN body said the parties should uphold the ceasefire agreement and act seriously to implement its provisions in "good faith".

"The members of the Security Council welcomed the ceasefire agreement reached in relation to the Gaza Strip in order to bring about a sustainable and durable cessation of hostilities that had been affecting the Gaza Strip and Israel," the statement said.

The Council stressed the urgency for restoring full calm and reiterated the importance of achieving a comprehensive peace "based on the vision of a region where two democratic States, Israel and Palestine, live side by side in peace with secure and recognised borders."

The violence during the conflict claimed the lives of 139 Palestinians, more than 70 of them civilians, and wounded more than 900, according to the UN team in Gaza.
It also displaced 10,000 people in the territory, which is home to 1.7 million Palestinians.

Since November 14, rocket fire has resulted in the death of four Israeli civilians, while 219 are reported injured, most of whom are civilians, Ban said.
An Israeli soldier was killed yesterday, while 16 others have been wounded, one critically.

Ban commended the parties for stepping "back from the brink," but added that risks still remain in achieving peace between the parties.
"We are all aware of the risk," he added.

"And we are all aware that there are many details that must be solidified for a broad, durable ceasefire to take firm hold over the longer term," Ban said.
The Council deplored the loss of civilian lives resulting
from this situation and strongly commended the efforts of Mursi to achieve the ceasefire.

"The members of the Council affirmed the need for the people of Israel and the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip to live without fear," the Council said in the statement.

"They called on the international community to contribute to improving the living conditions of the people in the Gaza Strip, notably through providing additional emergency aid through appropriate established channels to the Palestinian people in the Gaza Strip," the statement said.

The Council also called on the international community to work with Israel, the Palestinian Authority, and Egypt for the expeditious and unimpeded delivery of such humanitarian assistance, including of food, fuel and medical treatment.

The ceasefire between Israel and the Palestinian group Hamas, which controls Gaza, was announced yesterday in the Egyptian capital Cairo, just over a week after the latest wave of violence, which includes rocket attacks against Israel from Gaza, and Israeli airstrikes on Gaza began.

"My paramount concern throughout has been for the safety and well-being of all civilians, no matter where they are," the Secretary-General said.

"Innocent people, including children, have been killed and injured on both sides. Families on both sides were forced to hover in fear as the violence raged around them," he said.

He added that the current crisis underscores that the status quo is unsustainable, and that long-term solutions must be found to the problems of Gaza, and for the Palestinians as a whole.

"A negotiated two-State solution ending a prolonged occupation and ending the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians is more urgent than ever," he said.
"Achieving this vision, which has been affirmed by this Council repeatedly is long overdue and paramount to the stability of the region. Only a just and comprehensive peace can bring lasting security to all," Ban said.

During his three-day visit to the Middle east that began on Monday, Ban met with Mursi, League of Arab States Secretary-General Nabil ElAraby, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, and Jordan`s King Abdullah.