(Recasts with Security Council statement)
UNITED NATIONS, July 20 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council expressed concern at the escalation of violence in the Gaza conflict after meeting on Sunday to discuss almost two weeks of fighting between Israel and the Islamist Hamas group that has cost more than 400 lives.
"The members of the Security Council expressed serious concern about the growing number of casualties. The members of the Security Council called for an immediate cessation of hostilities," Rwandan U.N. Ambassador Eugene Gasana told reporters after an emergency meeting of the 15-member council.
Jordan had requested the meeting after more than 60 Palestinians and 13 Israeli soldiers were killed as Israel shelled Gaza's Shejaia neighborhood and battled militants in the bloodiest fighting in the 13-day offensive.
"The members of the Security Council called for respect of international humanitarian law including protection of civilians," Gasana said. "The members of the Security Council emphasized the need to improve the humanitarian situation, including through humanitarian pauses."
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, who is in the Middle East in a bid to help broker a ceasefire, condemned the killings in Shejaia as an "atrocious action" and called for an immediate end to the fighting.
Ban was in Qatar on Sunday and is due to visit Cairo, Jerusalem and Ramallah in the West Bank.
On July 12 the Security Council called for a ceasefire between Palestinians and Israelis and expressed serious concern about the welfare and protection of civilians on both sides. The United States, a close ally of Israel, agreed to the statement after the Arab Group threatened to push for a resolution.
Reporting by Michelle Nichols; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Alan Raybould