UNITED NATIONS, August 13 (RIA Novosti) - With the current 72-hour ceasefire in Gaza appearing to be holding, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said “we must use this cessation of hostilities to address urgent humanitarian needs.”
The UN chief vowed that his organization would continue working with regional and international actors to rebuild the Gaza Strip, but “unless we address the underlying causes of the conflict, another round of violence and vengeance is almost guaranteed,” he warned.
Nearly 2,000 Palestinians have been killed, almost 75 percent of them civilians, including 459 children, according to the UN chief.
Ban admitted that Israel had been right to defend its citizens against militant rocket strikes, but stressed it must exercise restraint and respect the principle of proportionality.
“Israel’s duty to protect its citizens from rocket attacks by Hamas and other threats is beyond question. At the same time, the fighting has raised serious questions about Israel’s respect for the principles of distinction and proportionality. I have called for an investigation into the repeated shelling of UN facilities harboring civilians. I expect accountability for the innocent lives lost and the damage incurred,” he said.
In terms of the UN Relief and Works Agency's work in Gaza, the UN Secretary General said that “more than 300,000 people are still sheltering in UNRWA schools, government and private schools and other public facilities, or with host families.”
Childhood and education suffer. “The new school year was scheduled to start in less than two weeks, but a great number of the buildings will not be ready or are totally unusable in their current state,” Ban noted.
Earlier on, Israel and Hamas had already agreed on a three-day ceasefire, but the latter resumed attacks and Israel responded with renewed Gaza shelling and withdrew from the ceasefire negotiations in Egypt’s Cairo.
On July 8, Israel launched an offensive against the Hamas movements in response to their attacks. On July 17, after several days of air and naval attacks, the Israeli switched to a ground offensive to destroy the network of Hamas tunnels around the border area.