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UN's Ban chides world leaders over Gaza violence
December 29, 2008 / 9:04 PM / 9 years ago

UN's Ban chides world leaders over Gaza violence

5 Min Read

(Adds comments by Arab envoys, U.N. aid officials)

By Patrick Worsnip

UNITED NATIONS, Dec 29 (Reuters) - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon chided world leaders on Monday for not doing enough to halt what he called an unacceptable level of violence in Gaza and press for a long-term political solution.

In his third statement in three days on Gaza, where Israeli air strikes aimed at stopping rocket fire from the territory against southern Israel have killed more than 325 Palestinians, Ban again called for an immediate ceasefire by both sides.

At a news conference, he repeated earlier statements that while he recognized Israel's right to self-defense he regarded Israeli use of force as "excessive." Two Israelis have been killed by rocket fire by Gaza militants.

"I think regional and international partners have not done enough. They should do more," Ban said. "They should use all possible means to end the violence and encourage political dialogue, emphasizing peaceful ways of resolving differences."

Arab League foreign ministers are due to meet on Wednesday in Egypt to try to agree a common position on Gaza.

"I urge them to act swiftly and decisively to bring an early end to this impasse," Ban said. "At the same time, other world leaders must also step up efforts to support a longer term resolution of the issue."

The U.N. chief said he was "deeply alarmed" by the rising violence between Israel and the Hamas Islamist group that controls Gaza, adding, "This is unacceptable."

"All this must stop. Both Israel and Hamas must halt their acts of violence and take all necessary measures to avoid civilian casualties. A ceasefire must be declared immediately. They must also curb their inflammatory rhetoric.

"Only then can dialogue start."

"PRACTICAL THINGS"

Egyptian Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz rejected suggestions that Arab states had been inactive, saying he did not know what kind of action Ban had in mind.

"I am sure that there will be swift and decisive actions from the part of the Arab League," which would "do whatever it takes" to implement any agreement that was reached after a ceasefire, he told reporters.

Abdelaziz and three other Arab ambassadors told journalists they had just met Ban and Security Council president Neven Jurica, Croatia's ambassador, to press for implementation of a council statement on Sunday demanding a ceasefire.

Palestinian Ambassador Riyad Mansour said the Arab envoys had been promised that "certain practical things" would be done. He gave no details but said he hoped Israel would be "brought into compliance" within 24 hours. Israeli military leaders have said their offensive may go on for some time.

U.N. humanitarian chief John Holmes said while Israel had been letting some relief supplies into Gaza, with 60 truckloads entering on Monday, that was "wholly inadequate," as about 100 truckloads a day of flour or grain alone were needed.

Stocks of fuel were "more or less zero," meaning Gaza's power plant might have to shut down at any time, while medical supplies were "just about enough to cope," Holmes said.

Speaking to reporters by videolink from Gaza, Karen AbuZayd, head of the U.N. agency for Palestinian refugees (UNRWA), said she did not think Gazans believed a 6-month-old truce was violated first by Hamas, which ended it on Dec. 19.

AbuZayd, an American, said they believed Hamas had observed the truce "quite strictly ... and that they got nothing in return, because there was supposed to be a kind of a deal -- if there were no rockets the crossings would be opened. The crossings weren't opened at all."

Israel had also launched an incursion to kill Palestinian militants, "so then the rockets went out and that was sort of the breakdown of the truce," she said.

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)




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