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UN calls for Gaza ceasefire

The UN Security Council is calling for a ceasefire in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict centred on the Gaza Strip.

A council statement approved by all 15 members calls for de-escalation of the violence, restoration of calm and a resumption of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians aimed at achieving a comprehensive peace agreement based on a two-state solution.

The press statement expresses "serious concern regarding the crisis related to Gaza and the protection and welfare of civilians on both sides". It calls for respect for international humanitarian law, including the protection of civilians.

The press statement, which is not legally binding but reflects international opinion, is the first response by the UN's most powerful body, which has been deeply divided on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The council statement calls for "the reinstitution of the November 2012 ceasefire" brokered by Egypt, but gives no time frame for when it should take effect.

Palestinian UN envoy Riyad Mansour said the Palestinians' understanding is that the ceasefire should go into effect immediately.

He said the Palestinians will be watching closely to see if the Israelis respond to the council's call, stressing that if they do not "we have a lot of tools in our arsenal".

The United States, Israel's most important ally, has defended the Israeli attacks in response to the barrage of rockets fired into Israel from Gaza, which is controlled by the militant group Hamas. But other council members have decried the Israeli attacks which Mr Mansour said have killed or injured more than 1,000 Palestinians. There have been no fatalities in Israel from the continued rocket fire.

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