U.N. chief warns Israel against Gaza incursion

CAIRO Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:12am EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday called for an immediate ceasefire in the Gaza conflict, saying an Israeli ground operation in the Palestinian enclave would be a "dangerous escalation" that must be avoided.

Speaking at a news conference in Cairo after talks with Arab League chief Nabil Elaraby, Ban said he supported Egyptian-led efforts to bring an end to the fighting between Israel and Palestinian militant groups in the Hamas-run territory.

"Immediate steps are needed by all to avoid a further escalation, including a ground operation which will only result in further tragedy," he said.

"My message is clear: all sides must halt fire immediately. Further escalating the situation will put the entire region at risk," said Ban, who will go to Israel later on Tuesday. "I will urge the Israeli leadership to end the violence," he said.

"We all must recognize that Israel has legitimate security concerns that must be respected in accordance with international law, but a ground operation would be a dangerous escalation," he said.

(Reporting by Tom Perry and Edmund Blair; Editing by Andrew Osborn)

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